This Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 image shows s white supremacist carrying a NAZI flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
The Washington Post reports that the FBI has arrested three alleged white-supremacists on federal gun and alien-harboring charges. There were concerns that these men were planning to engage in violence at a pro-gun rally scheduled for Monday in Richmond, VA. The annual rally called “Lobby Day” has been organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL).
The Post reports:
The charges announced Thursday grew from an investigation of a collection of online extremists who refer to themselves as “the Base,” which is the English translation of al-Qaeda. According to experts who track hate groups, its members promote racist views and seek to unite different hate groups in preparation for a race war.
Officials said Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, and William Bilbrough IV, 19, both of Maryland, were charged with transporting an alien and conspiring to harbor an alien. Lemley is also charged with transporting a machine gun. Also charged is Patrik Mathews, 27, who has been living in Newark, Del. He is accused of transporting a firearm and ammunition with the intent to commit a felony.
The three were expected to make an initial court appearance on Friday in Greenbelt, MD.
The complaint states:
Lemley, Mathews, and Bilbrough are members of a white supremacist organization named ‘The Base.” Within The Base’s encrypted chat rooms, members have discussed, among other things, recruitment, creating a white ethno-state, committing acts of violence against minority communities (including African-Americans and Jewish-Americans), the organization’s military-style training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices.
In August, Mathews “went missing in Canada” and U.S. officials say he crossed the border into Michigan where Lemley and Bilbrough were waiting to bring him to Maryland and Delaware.
The court papers charge that Lemley and Mathews used gun parts “to make a functioning assault rifle.”
On Jan. 2, an FBI agent watched as Lemley took the weapon to a gun range in Maryland “and heard what appeared to be more than one bullet being fired at a time.”
After returning from the gun range, Lemley allegedly told Mathews, “Oops, it looks like I accidentally made a machine gun” and noted that they would be in trouble if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found out about the weapon.
Yesterday, I posted here that Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam declared an official State of Emergency ahead of the “Lobby Day” protest “due to potential civil unrest at the Virginia State Capitol.”
Northam states in Executive Order #49 (EO) that the state of emergency will be effective from 5:00 p.m., Friday, January 17, until 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 21, 2020. The governor indicated he had received intelligence that “armed militias were planning to storm the rally.” He also cited the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA protests which resulted in one death and multiple injuries as the reason for his EO. The EO states:
Credible intelligence gathered by Virginia’s law enforcement agencies indicates that tens of thousands of advocates plan to converge on Capitol Square for events culminating on January 20, 2020. Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection. Assuring that Virginia’s Capitol Square and surrounding public areas are sheltered safe places for those who come to participate in the democratic process, as well as those who work on or near Capitol Square, is my greatest priority.
Northam told reporters on Wednesday that “No weapons will be allowed on Capitol grounds. Everything from sticks and bats to chains and projectiles…The list also includes firearms.” As a precaution, Northam has also asked nonessential state employees to stay home on Monday.
According to the Post, “Monday is the state’s traditional citizen lobbying day.”
In September, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray appeared before Congress and said that “American neo-Nazis seem increasingly to be communicating with like-minded violent racists overseas,” but that “those links so far appear more inspirational than organizational.”
Wray told lawmakers:
We are starting to see racially motivated violent extremists connecting with like-minded individuals online, certainly, and in some instances we have seen people travel overseas to train.
U.S. violent extremists still by and large lack organizational structure and direction but that there are now individual terrorism suspects who travel overseas to get training — behavior similar to that of Americans inspired by the Islamic State or other groups.
We have seen some connection between U.S.-based neo-Nazis and overseas analogues, Probably a more prevalent phenomenon that we see right now is racially motivated violent extremists who are inspired by what they see overseas.
Looks like Northam was telling the truth. Still, if there was the slightest possibility that these men might show up at the rally “to engage in violence,” why would Northam prevent the rally attendees from defending themselves?