November 24, 2020: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Richmond Police Department.
A squad of armed militiamen marched in Richmond Saturday morning in defiance of new local gun ordinances passed in Virginia’s capital city.
The group marched in laps around the Virginia State Capitol, often passing by signs describing a prohibition of firearms in those areas.
The march was led by “Boogaloo Boy” and Virginia militia leader Mike Dunn. In August, Dunn held a similar march in Richmond drawing a coalition of about 100 armed activists as a special legislative session took place. At the time, such an event was legal.
In September, Richmond’s City Council unanimously passed the new ordinance that would “prohibit the possession, carrying or transportation of any firearms in any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way or any open public space when it is being used by, or is adjacent to, an event that requires a city permit.”
Virginia law also bans the public carry of magazines holding more than twenty rounds in several cities including Richmond. Both magazine limit and firearm-at-demonstration violations are class 1 misdemeanors.
“It’s not meant to be a big day,” said Dunn Saturday morning to his group. “It’s meant to be a meaningful day, where the cops stand down and listen to us, and they don’t enforce the unconstitutional orders.”
“And the city council gets pissed off,” he added.
Throughout the event, the activists largely stayed tight-lipped to the media. When asked for comment, Dunn would simply say “Liberty shall not be infringed.”
While passing a “no firearms beyond this point” sign, the group smacked it and held up their middle fingers.
“This is how we feel about this sign right here,” said “Pops,” a boogaloo-adjacent Black Lives Matter activist who carried four guns and held his middle finger to the sign.
Dunn concluded the event by climbing onto the barrier around the Capitol and hanging a “big igloo” (boogaloo) flag before telling the group to get to their cars and vacate the city immediately.
Militia Activists Hold Armed Rally In Richmond, Where Guns At Protests Are Illegal https://t.co/D4GOCrRjIj
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) November 21, 2020
The local firearm restrictions has previously been disallowed under Virginia law, which was changed in March to allow individual localities to restrict gun rights tighter than the state itself.
Dunn previously challenged a local law that had been newly passed in October in Newport News Virginia. Ahead of a speech given by 2020 Libertarian vice presidential candidate Spike Cohen, Dunn was confronted by local officers who ordered him to put away a handgun on his belt. When he refused, he was arrested.
One week later, he brought about a dozen armed men to the Newport News Police station where Police Chief Steve R. Drew allowed the activists – violating the same ordinance Dunn had been arrested for a week later – to hold their rally. Drew also confirmed he had returned Dunn’s firearm earlier in the day, although he was still criminally charged in the incident.
Statement by Richmond Police:
Reached for comment, Richmond Police’s Public Affairs Department sent the following statement to News2Share:
On Saturday, no arrests were made by officers during a demonstration where citizens were in possession of firearms. This is because conduct of the gathering did not meet the threshold for a violation of the city ordinance prohibiting firearms during permitted events, or events that would otherwise require a permit.
Signs prohibiting firearms were posted by the Department in in the following areas in anticipation of the event:
• 9th Street from Marshall to Main Streets
• Marshall Street from 9th to 10th Streets
• 10th Street from Marshall to Broad Streets
• Broad Street from 9th to 14th Streets
• 14th Street from Broad to Main Street
• Main Street from 9th to 14th Streets
This was to inform those who may gather that firearms are prohibited at permitted events and events that would otherwise require a permit, as well as areas adjacent to such events.
The city ordinance only pertains to gatherings that are permitted or would require a permit and adjacent areas to the event. On Saturday, the stationary portion of the event gathered on Bank Street, which is controlled by the state and does not currently require a permit.
When the group left Bank Street, they walked through parts of the city, observed all applicable traffic ordinances and did not obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic. As such, the group’s conduct did not rise to the level of requiring a permit, so the city ordinance was not applicable to the event on Saturday.
Please see city codes 27-416, 27-417, and 19-334.1 for further details. Richmond City Code 19-334.1 is attached.
As a reminder, Virginia is and remains an open carry state and a locality’s ability to limit the open carry of weapons is very narrow and limited to the limited ordinances that are in place.