Anti-racist activists say that a massive grassroots movement rising up in opposition to proposed restrictions on gun ownership in Virginia may be rooted in white supremacist sentiment.
Nine out of 10 Virginia counties have declared themselves “Second Amendment” sanctuaries in response to Democrat-backed gun control bills.
The Guardian became one of the first non-conservative news outlets to cover the state’s growing pro-gun movement when it published a wide-ranging feature on the topic on Friday.
The piece, written by senior reporter Lois Beckett, framed the issue around fears that Virginia gun owners’ concerns are being co-opted by extremists.
“The backlash to gun control in Virginia is being fueled by conspiracy theories and misinformation, and some observers worry that the escalating rhetoric may spark violence,” Beckett, who often expresses left-leaning views on Twitter, wrote.
According to The Guardian, Richmond residents fear that a gun rights rally scheduled at Virginia’s state capitol on January 20 will turn violent, like the 2017 Unite the Rally in Charlottesville.
Beckett spoke with anti-racism activists who endorsed the view that opportunistic white supremacists were seeking to capitalize on the moment.
Matthew Christensen, a Charlottesville-area activist who has expressed sympathy for antifa on Twitter, told The Guardian he believes the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement in Virginia is “rooted in white resentment.”
We have a gun problem in the USA but even more than that we have a domestic terrorism problem. White supremacists are regularly carrying out terrorist attacks. Last week it was a garlic fest in CA, yesterday it was a Wal-mart in TX. Where will it be next? They aren’t stopping.
— Matthew Christensen (@mchri5ten5en) August 4, 2019
“As white people, taking away privilege can feel like an attack, when it’s just a leveling of the playing field. And I think that’s where a lot of people are right now: they’re feeling attacked, and this is a way they can lash out,” Christensen said. “It almost seems like people are looking for a reason to pull a Bundy and attack the government.”
He also told the outlet he was “shocked” by the number of gun owners who showed up to a recent local government meeting in Albemarle county.
Christensen described the pro-gun crowd as “overwhelmingly white” and said the atmosphere was “tense.”
Alex Friedfeld, a researcher at the Anti-Defamation League, said white supremacist groups see the conflict in Virginia as having the potential to kick off a civil war that will bring them to power.
“The story they’re telling is that the Jews and immigrants are responsible for turning Virginia blue, and they’re coming to take your guns,” Friedfeld told The Guardian.
“You’ve got white replacement. You’ve got what they’re calling Jewish gun grabbers, and the people rising up, saying the government is illegitimate,” he added.
Friedfeld said he’d been monitoring the growing use of the term “boogaloo,” a reference to civil war, by “extremist groups” on the internet.