Armed protesters gather in Richmond, support 2nd Amendment rights on 'Lobby Day'

Black Lives Matter protesters also appeared but kept their distance

Armed protesters and counterprotesters gathered in Richmond on Monday for an "annual protest" that took on a more tense air following the U.S. Capitol riot.

Some two dozen armed protesters, variously identifying themselves as either the Last Sons of Liberty, Boogaloo Bois or Proud Boys,  gathered in Virginia’s capital to "express their rights."

The protesters gathered for "Lobby Day," during which citizens petition legislators on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, according to the Washington Post. However, the protest took on a tense atmosphere as images of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol linger, and the FBI warned of armed protests in every state capital in the days before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. 

Boogaloo Bois stand on the sidewalk on 9th Street in support of lobby day on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Richmond, Va. The day is a chance for citizens to use a day off work to meet with their legislators. (AP Photo/John C. Clark)

Boogaloo Bois stand on the sidewalk on 9th Street in support of lobby day on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Richmond, Va. The day is a chance for citizens to use a day off work to meet with their legislators. (AP Photo/John C. Clark) (AP)

The protesters wore masks and flak jackets, and they carried rifles. One of them mentioned having a radio in his helmet as he spoke to the press.

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Richmond last year passed an ordinance that banned firearms at or near permitted events, but no authorities appeared to enforce the ordinance as the dozens of protesters walked through the city.

Armed second amendment supporters a carry mock-up of Gov. Ralph Northam on 9th Street near Capitol Square on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Richmond, Va. Gov. Northam's administration supported an assault weapons ban bill that failed to pass during the 2020 Legislative term. (AP Photo/John C. Clark)

Armed second amendment supporters a carry mock-up of Gov. Ralph Northam on 9th Street near Capitol Square on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Richmond, Va. Gov. Northam's administration supported an assault weapons ban bill that failed to pass during the 2020 Legislative term. (AP Photo/John C. Clark) (AP)

Photos on social media even showed some of the protesters waiting to enter convenience stores.

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Dozens of members of the press – both official and otherwise – trailed the group and spoke with them. Some of the event was live-streamed on Twitter and Periscope, making the protest more like a press conference.

Mike Dunn, of the Last Sons of Liberty, a Boogaloo Bois group based in Virginia, joins others in support of lobby day on Monday Jan. 18, 2021. The day is a chance for citizens to use a day off work to meet with their legislators. Dunn, a former member of the Marine Corps, has been a prominent face in the boogaloo movement that started last year on lobby day. (AP Photo/John C. Clark)

Mike Dunn, of the Last Sons of Liberty, a Boogaloo Bois group based in Virginia, joins others in support of lobby day on Monday Jan. 18, 2021. The day is a chance for citizens to use a day off work to meet with their legislators. Dunn, a former member of the Marine Corps, has been a prominent face in the boogaloo movement that started last year on lobby day. (AP Photo/John C. Clark) (AP)

Speaking to the media, the protesters said they did not seek violence but merely wanted to stand up for their rights to own firearms. One photo on social media showed the protesters carrying a dummy with a sign around its neck that read "Northam the Infringer." 

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"We’re showing up to remind them that we’re still here," a gun-rights activist, who identified himself only as Trevor, told Reuters the day before the protest as he helped organize it.

A member of the Last Sons of Liberty, a Boogaloo Bois group, stands in formation near Capitol Square on lobby day Monday Jan. 18, 2021, in Richmond, Va. The day is a chance for citizens to use a day off work to meet with their legislators. (AP Photo/John C. Clark)

A member of the Last Sons of Liberty, a Boogaloo Bois group, stands in formation near Capitol Square on lobby day Monday Jan. 18, 2021, in Richmond, Va. The day is a chance for citizens to use a day off work to meet with their legislators. (AP Photo/John C. Clark) (AP)

At the protest itself, one of the demonstrators said the group did not identify as far-right, but was "center" and Libertarian. He blamed the media for mislabeling the group, claiming they did so simply because the group consisted of White members.

When asked what would happen if the group did end up engaging with the police, the demonstrator said, "You’re looking at the group we choose to let you see."

A Black Lives Matter counterprotest of some dozen or two dozen members also appeared, though by midday the groups had not interacted. Police worked to keep the groups separate and moving when possible.

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The counterprotesters wore facemasks with "Black Lives Matter" emblazoned on them, and a few members even carried their own firearms.

This is a developing story.