Anyone who remembers the mainstream media’s frenzied predictions of violence at showings of “The Joker” last year will find its coverage of the peaceful gun-rights rally in Richmond, VA on Jan. 20 strikingly similar.
Media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC agitated fears of violence ahead of the rally and anticipated a repeat of the tragic attacks in Charlottesville in 2017. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and banned firearms from capitol grounds, saying that state intelligence found “threats and rhetoric online.”
Despite these dire predictions, the rally was peaceful, the activists were polite, and the surrounding area was left even cleaner than it was before the protest.
The rally took place after the Virginia State Senate passed a host of new gun control bills, including the criminalization of private firearm transfers, the ability for local governments to ban guns in public spaces, and restricting handgun purchases to one per month. According to the New York Times, Democrats say these bills are just the beginning.
The most concerning piece of legislation is a red-flag law that allows officials, such as law enforcement and attorneys, to issue search warrants in order to confiscate firearms from people who are deemed dangerous to themselves or others. According to the Washington Post, the law allows police to confiscate weapons from someone based solely on a civil complaint — not for breaking the law.
Despite the media’s fears of violence, and despite the thousands of armed protesters, only one person was arrested at the rally: a woman who refused to take off the mask covering her face. She should have said she was part of Antifa.
Such pesky facts did not stop the media from calling the activists the usual names, from “white nationalists” and “white supremacists” to “white extremists,” whatever that means. This attempt by the media to smear peaceful protesters defending their civil rights is unsurprising, but sickening nonetheless. In fact, the Washington Post went so far as to call Republican Virginia State Sen. Amanda F. Chase, who attended the rally, a “gun-toting iconoclast” known for her “provocative style.” That sounds an awful lot like sexism.
Media outlets also failed to realize that white people aren’t the only ones who care about the Second Amendment. One African-American protester said that the media “would be mad because there’s no civil unrest, they’ll be mad because there’s no fighting, they’ll be mad that nobody got locked up, they’ll be mad that all the officers are at peace — but guess what, united we stand.”
Although it might seem that Virginia’s laws can’t reach us, the steady erosion of constitutional rights will have wide-reaching effects if left unchecked. For the apathetic among us, the massive turnout at the rally should be an encouraging sign. Despite fear-mongering and name-calling from the media, thousands of people were still willing to show up and stand up for what they know to be right.
Luckily, the protesters were able to find humor in the rank hypocrisy of the whole situation. The peaceful and multi-racial crowd of so-called “white supremacists” knew who the real racist was: Governor Ralph Northam himself. In fact, some of them decided to give him a taste of his own medicine. One protester, bearing the now-infamous yearbook photo of Northam in blackface, said it all:
“Governor Northam! I think I found the white supremacist. Unfortunately, it’s you!”
Ashley Kaitz is a sophomore studying the liberal arts. She is an assistant features editor for The Collegian.