Richmond police seized at least two firearms from a group of Black men present at a gun rights rally in Virginia on Monday, Jan. 18, while white gun rights activists were not confronted by authorities.
During the annual “Lobby Day” demonstration in Richmond, Black protesters expressed frustration about law enforcement’s disparate treatment of Black and white activists.
The event, which takes place at the capitol each year, gives citizens the chance to petition lawmakers on issues of public interest. However, “Lobby Day” is attended primarily by gun rights activists.
Reuters witnessed police confront a vehicle carrying a group of Black men in a sea of hundreds of white gun rights activists demonstrating on foot and in cars near the capitol.
“Everybody in the city is carrying today, and you’re only pulling us over,” yelled a Black woman among a group of angry bystanders. “Shoutout to Martin Luther King Day!”
One of the Black men whose gun was confiscated called the situation a double standard and said it’s an example of why Black Americans resent police. At least one other weapon was taken by officers.
In a statement posted to the department’s Twitter account, Richmond police said officers confiscated a firearm from someone who was carrying a concealed weapon without a concealed carry permit.
“Virginia is and remains an open carry state,” the tweet said.
Just an hour before the group of Black men was stopped, the white leader of the Boogaloo Boys shared via megaphone that his group of anti-government, far-right extremists was violating gun and ammunition laws.
The group of all white men called themselves the “Last Sons of Liberty.”
Leader Mike Dunn, 20, shared with reporters and police alike that his group was openly carrying semiautomatic rifles “in pure defiance” of local laws, and “rocking mags (ammunition magazines) with double the legal limit.”
Dunn told Reuters that the group did not face any issues. “We are here openly defying these laws, these unconstitutional city ordinances,” he said.
On Twitter, the Richmond Police Department said firearms are not allowed at permitted public events. However, Reuters reported that authorities did not impede a majority of demonstrators on Monday.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the only person charged with a weapons violation at the rally was a Black man.
The Lobby Day events come less than two weeks after law enforcement in Washington, D.C., was criticized for its handling of the Pro-Trump mob that infiltrated the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Political leaders, journalists and members of the public asserted that the rioters would have been treated far more harshly if they had been Black, and drew comparisons to police treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters who demonstrated last summer.
Kalia Harris, co-director of the racial justice organization Virginia Student Power, said she believes police showed favoritism to some groups at the rally Monday.
“They are taking to the streets using the open carry and basically breaking these laws and what they’re getting is a police entourage,” Harris said. “We had students that were tear gassed, arrested and are still facing repercussions for charges from this summer. It is just such a difference from what we’re seeing today.”