“Just to remind our viewers” — of what? Today’s gun-rights rally does have the FBI on alert for trouble in Richmond, Virginia, but despite CNN’s characterization of the event, it’s not a white-supremacist rally. The rally in Charlottesville three years ago was explicitly staged by neo-Nazi anti-Semites focused on an effort to remove statues of Confederacy members. Today’s demonstration will protest efforts to pass gun-control legislation in this session of the Virginia legislature, an issue that has nothing to do with race.
And yet, here’s New Day on CNN laying out the narrative they plan to use in covering this event, which is that it’s Charlottesville II, Racist Boogaloo:
Federal authorities arrested a number of suspected neo-Nazis around the country out of concern that they were planning violent acts at a gun rights rally in Richmond, a senior FBI official said. @elspethreeve reports.https://t.co/gCDJWxC3v9 pic.twitter.com/xveHFBajtq
— New Day (@NewDay) January 20, 2020
The Associated Press offers only slightly more subtlety in framing its narrative:
Gun-rights activists — some making deliberate displays of their military-style rifles — began to descend on Virginia’s capital city Monday to protest plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation.
Several thousand activists — mostly white and male, many clothed in camouflage and waving flags with messages of support for President Donald Trump — appeared hours before the 11 a.m. rally was set to begin.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a temporary state of emergency days ahead of the rally, banning all weapons, including guns, from the event on Capitol Square. The expected arrival of thousands of gun-rights activists — along with members of militia groups and white supremacists — raised fears the state could again see the type of violence that exploded in Charlottesville in 2017.
The Virginia State Police, the Virginia Capitol Police and the Richmond Police planned a huge police presence with both uniformed and plainclothes officers. Police limited access to Capitol Square to only one entrance and have warned rally-goers they may have to wait hours to get past security screening. Authorities started letting people in at the sole public entrance just before 7:30 a.m.
CBS This Morning offered a somewhat more balanced look at the protest, which is a low bar to clear. David Begnaud actually talked with the organizers of the event, which they stage every year at the capital. They wait until two minutes into the report to mention Charlottesville, and Begnaud gets supporters of the rally on camera to decry the attempt by outsiders to disrupt the rally for their own racist purposes:
Members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which organized the annual gun rights rally, insist their message is solely to protect the Second Amendment.
“We’re against any more gun control that affects everyday law-abiding citizens. We don’t need any more gun control, we’re not the problem,” Philip Van Cleave, president of the organization, told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud.
Ahead of Monday’s event, seven members of the white nationalist group “The Base,” which calls for a “race war” to create a “white ethno-state,” were arrested across the country. Authorities said some of them were expected to attend the rally.
State officials said they want to avoid what happened at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, when a white supremacist drove a car into a counter protester, killing her.
“Our fears are that the skinheads, and the neo-Nazi groups or white supremacists are going to come in here,” said Michelle Wharton, who traveled from New York to show support for the Second Amendment.
So this is a regular rally by gun owners, which has previously not borne any resemblance to the anti-Semitic riot that took place in Charlottesville three years ago? Thanks to CBS for making at least that much clear. The only thing different this year is that they have a specific legislative agenda that they oppose — and that seems to be why the media wants to paint it as the second coming of Charlottesville, even though that specific rally was organized by the neo-Nazis who participated in it.
This is nothing more than media narrative framing, a way to discredit the views of law-abiding gun owners exercising their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble in protest of government action. It’s an extended form of a heckler’s veto, using the threats from unrelated fringe groups — apparently legitimate, according to the FBI — to smear tens of thousands of people who do not in any way ascribe to those views. It’s a cheap way to demean supporters of a position that the media dislikes.
Hopefully, today’s protest will unfold peacefully. Law enforcement appears to be taking all the correct precautions to ensure that, but any criminal behavior will be the responsibility of the individuals who perpetrate it. Begnaud notes, “Everything is very peaceful at the moment,” which might allow everyone to breathe a sigh of relief. Except for some of the media covering it, that is.
Update: Either NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez got his video clips mixed up, or he’s very concerned about the defiance inherent in [checks notes] … the Pledge of Allegiance? Er, this is the most “we will comply” statement one can make, no?
Chants of “we will not comply” from gun rights protesters in Richmond. pic.twitter.com/BjEfniwMKP
— Gabe Gutierrez (@gabegutierrez) January 20, 2020
Twitchy has a lot of fun with this, so be sure to check out all of the reactions. In fairness, “we will not comply” is probably a chant that would take place in a rally against gun-control legislation in Virginia, so it might just be a mix-up of clips. But shouldn’t reporters get their facts straight before reporting? Or is the narrative everything these days?