RPD Did Not Implement Gun Ban For Pro-Trump Protest
The Richmond Police Department says the city’s gun ban was not put into effect Thursday night as dozens of armed right-wing protesters gathered Downtown near the governor’s mansion. RPD says no arrests or incidents were reported.
Protesters gathered as part of a multi-state caravan, which began in Texas and culminated in a Washington, D.C. demonstration in support of President Donald Trump, who lost the 2020 presidential election. Trump continues to baselessly challenge the validity of the election, though officials say it was “the most secure in American history.”
Members from a wide range of right-leaning ideological groups, including both pro-police and anti-government activists, came to the Richmond protest. Eyewitnesses told VPM few wore face masks and many carried firearms.
RPD confirmed that signs prohibiting firearms were not posted ahead of the event, despite numerous online flyers and news reports that notified the public of the armed protest days in advance. RPD declined to answer why the ban was not enforced.
“I found it extremely disturbing that the new ordinance that we passed not only seemed to be going neglected, but it didn't seem to me that the folks who were on the front line were even making an attempt to enforce it,” said Richmond City Councilmember Stephanie Lynch.
City Council unanimously passed an ordinance in September to ban firearms during events -- including protests -- if they take place on public sidewalks, roads and parks. The ban was first proposed by Mayor Levar Stoney.
Richmond police are required to put up signs prohibiting firearms ahead of time. RPD uses flyers and social media posts that promote events to predict public gatherings. Police enforced the city’s gun ban ahead of a Black Lives Matter event in September.
Soon after the gun ban ordinance was passed, Councilman Mike Jones told VPM during a September interview that he expected the ban to be enforced regardless of what's being protested: “When it’s 2A Day at the General Assembly, we’re going to see how they go about doing it. If I see 10,000 people with guns, I’m gonna say, ‘what about your ban now?’”
Jones recently underwent surgery and was not available for comment. Lynch -- who did not attend the demonstration in person -- tells VPM she thinks “precautions were neglected” by RPD, and that the lack of a gun ban Thursday raises questions about individual police officers’ motivations
“Are there officers in our police force that don't support this ordinance? Did they have individual beliefs that caused them to have a different type of behavior or a different reaction to this protest than maybe a BLM protest?” she said.
Those found guilty of violating the city’s gun ban at public events face a Class One misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.