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RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - The top Republican in Virginia’s lower house said that any group planning to incite violence at a large gun rights rally on Monday in Richmond should stay home, while far-right leaders of militias planning to attend swore they were coming in peace.
Richmond was braced on Sunday for the rally, aimed at showing gun enthusiasts’ disdain for swift moves the newly Democrat-controlled legislature is making to pass stiffer gun laws - and many residents feared a repeat of violence seen at a white supremacist rally in nearby Charlottesville in 2017.
But several militia leaders with large followings on social media who attended that Charlottesville rally said they were coming purely to show their support for those opposed to new, more restrictive gun laws in the state.
“If you think that we’re a threat coming into your city, then you don’t know who we are, you don’t understand what we’re about,” said Joshua Shoaff, who has over 542,000 Facebook followers and goes by the pseudonym Ace Baker. “We’re not anarchists - we believe in government.”
Other leaders of well-known militias also vowed they were not seeking confrontations in Richmond. But police warned that among those they know to be attending are known neo-Nazis and other groups who may seek to hijack the gun-rights gathering.
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