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Ahead of planned protests against Virginia Democrats’ four new gun control bills, the FBI has arrested three people who are allegedly members of a racist and anti-Semitic group “preparing for a race war.”
The charges against the alleged members of the white ethno-nationalist group include federal gun charges as well as alien-harboring charges related to helping one of the suspects, a Canadian citizen, get into the country illegally.
“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,” The Washington Post reports. “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,” the Post reports. “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 Post reports that Mathews is a former member of the Canadian army reserve who went missing in August, having allegedly crossed illegally into the U.S., meeting Lemley and Bilbrough in Michigan before they traveled back to Maryland and Delaware. Lemley also served in the military, as a U.S. Army scout.
“Lemley, Mathews, and Bilbrough are members of a white supremacist organization named ‘The Base,'” the complaint against the suspects reads. “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.”
The complaint states that an FBI agent witnessed Lemley firing a “machine gun” he and Mathews constructed at a gun range in Maryland on Jan. 2.
The arrests come ahead of protests planned to begin Monday at the state’s capital, protests which will reportedly include pro-Second Amendment protesters from both the left and the right.
While Second Amendment protesters are frequently assumed to be from the right, as Vice reports, members of the far-left Antifa say they also are planning to attend the rally next week in Richmond — but not because they intend to harass the “right-wingers.”
“Antifa Seven Hills, based in Richmond, are opposing the slew of gun bills introduced by the newly Democratic Legislature since November, because they say those types of laws are used primarily to criminalize poor people, minorities, and leftists — and to bolster law enforcement’s power,” Vice reports.
A spokesperson for the group, who requested anonymity, told Vice, “I think it’s been pretty important for us to focus on the fact that gun control in America has a legacy of racist enforcement. Like taking guns away from black people, because black people were perceived as a threat to property and the sanctity of the state.”
“The local antifa chapter’s engagement in this issue is another example of the resurgence of pro-gun leftists in America and yet more evidence that the gun-rights debate is growing increasingly politically diffuse and nuanced beyond simply being a GOP issue,” Vice notes.