In Northern Virginia, just another militia Monday

Gun-toting right-wingers protest the tyranny of Obama -- at a park where guns are only legal because of Obama

Published April 19, 2010 7:20PM (EDT)

Remember when people used to peacefully march on Washington to show their support for a cause? Oh ho ho, only hippies want peace, America. Real patriots bring guns. And you're invited:

Mission: The mission of the "Restore the Constitution" rally is that it be held at a firearms carry-legal location as close to DC as possible and that it attracts as many participants as possible in order to underscore the seriousness and urgency of a simple message: Restore the Constitution!

What: "Restore the Constitution" rally/ Muster Outside D.C., held at a firearms carry location as close to DC as possible

When: 9AM-5PM, April 19th, 2010 (monday), to commemorate the 235th anniversary of the first battle of the American Revolution

Where: Ft. Hunt National Park, Northern VA

Why: Ask yourself: "Is the Constitution really being followed anymore?"

Details: Staging area will be Ft. Hunt National Park, located about 12 miles south of DC. Participants will gather there, and a speaking program will be provided. From there, starting at 11:30, the gathering will travel in convoys up to Gravelly Point Park so that participants, organizers, and speakers can "step up to the edge." Gravelly Point Park is right on the Potomac, about a mile from the National Mall in DC.

Yes, that's right. Your friendly neighborhood right-wing militia types will be gathering as close to the White House and Capitol as they legally can while toting armfuls of loaded weapons to protest, well, everything. Organizer Daniel Almond told the Washington Post he's angry about "healthcare reform, climate control, bank bailouts, drug laws and what he sees as President Obama's insistence on and the Democratic Congress's capitulation to a 'totalitarian socialism' that tramples individual rights."

Skip for a moment the head-splitting debate we could have about what, exactly, "totalitarian socialism" is: Let's focus instead on the irony of Almond and his friends using the shelter of an Obama-signed bill authorizing them to carry guns in a national park to, well, show up armed in a national park in order to protest the totalitarian crackdown of the Obama administration. That's right: Until last year, it was illegal to carry guns in a national park, meaning Almond's display of displeasure with the government would have been limited to misspelled posters, raucous rallies, and shout-outs to (and from) Glenn Beck. President Obama, though, being the big terrible tyrant that he is, signed a law saying guns were OK in national parks -- clearly a sneaky move meant to limit people's freedom by providing them with more freedom!


This irony is lost, though, on Almond and his friends, who are apparently quite serious, at least about getting media attention. Almond even held a pre-rally press conference on Saturday. He also advises participants that they're actually suggesting stricter rules than those enforced by the Department of the Interior at the rally because "Although the law does allow for carry of some types of loaded rifles and some types of shotguns in some circumstances, our guidelines are simpler and more strict due to the relative novelty of this event and the high level of attention it is likely to receive from law enforcement, government, and the media."

Totalitarian protest regime, anyone?

Just in case you're worried that this demonstration "sounds an awful lot like a militia insurrection to overthrow the government," Almond has included a helpful response in his Restore the Constitution FAQ:

Insurrection/overthrow: Did Martin Luther King call for an insurrection and overthrow of the government when he organized a peaceful march that brought millions to the Washington Monument? A march was organized, people came in vast numbers, and in simple and clear terms, he articulated a genuine grievance before his country. And his country listened. In that regard, how are we different?

Let me step in here: Because you're armed. Martin Luther King Jr. showed up on the National Mall and used compelling words to inspire a movement. Your plan seems to include showing up in a national park with the inventory of Rusty's Guns 'n' Ammo strapped to your back. What's going to speak louder than that? Continue, Mr. Almond:

The ones who are in the process of overthrowing our Constitutional system are all government employees in all three branches across the river. We're peacefully calling on each of them to change course and return to the Constitution. Nothing more is required, and nothing less is sufficient.

Because if we planned to overthrow the government, we wouldn't invite so many of them to join us here on the lawn, we wouldn't announce our intention beforehand, and we wouldn't meet up on the wrong side of the river.

Ah, well, that's reassuring. To think I was worried that you had a plan for that kind of thing or something. Ha ha, ha ha, where's my bulletproof vest?

Certainly, Almond has a right to express his displeasure with government actions. And, yes, thanks to President Obama and Congress, he can legally carry a weapon in a National Park while expressing that opinion. The problem here isn't the specific actions of Almond who, since he's apparently media-savvy enough to understand that there's an optimal camera-friendly position for rifles to be held ("slung to the rear or side, away from the hands"), probably will be exceptionally careful not to break any laws, facially. The problem is those who attend the rally, listen to the angry rhetoric, hear over and over again that the government just across that river is being right at this moment overthrown, and become convinced of the underlying message: The only way to take back the Republic from those who have stolen it (what most of us would call our "rightfully elected officials") is through the exercise of arms.

Don't believe that's the kind of rhetoric they'll hear? Well, look who's on the speaking menu:

On the lineup are several heroes of the militia movement, including Mike Vanderboegh, who advocated throwing bricks through the windows of Democrats who voted for the health-care bill; Tom Fernandez, who has established a nationwide call tree to mobilize an armed resistance to any government order to seize firearms; and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, who refused to enforce the Brady law and then won a Supreme Court verdict that weakened its background-check provisions.

So we have Exhibit A, Guy Advocating Vandalism; Exhibit B, Guy Advocating Violence; and Exhibit C, Guy Refusing to Do His Job. Sounds like a pack of patriots to me, if you believe that America runs on hooliganism. Add into the mix that the event is supported and promoted by the Oath Keepers, a group of current and former military members who have pledged to disobey any order that conflicts with the group's conception of the Constitution, and this sounds like the ultimate seminar in how not to succeed in government service.

I don't believe these rallies will result in violence today -- that would counter the optics. In fact, rallies seem like a good way for some people to blow off steam, and maybe that's mostly what will be accomplished at this place and at the (unarmed) Second Amendment March at the Washington Monument. I do, however, see the high possibility for violent consequences from the kind of riling rhetoric that will be the event's biggest feature.

Though organizers say that the rally is scheduled to celebrate the first shot of the Revolutionary War, that's not the anniversary it brings to mind. Today isn't just protest day -- it's also the 15th anniversary of the 15th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Pop quiz, media-savvy Constitutionalists: Can anyone think of a better way to pass a day that's been marred by right-wing violence than to bring guns as close as possible to the national Capitol?

Jenn Kepka writes as Saturn Smith on Open Salon. Her blog can be found here.

By Jenn Kepka

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