Three alleged white supremacists who, according to law enforcement, discussed attending Monday’s gun rights rally in Virginia on surveillance recordings, weren’t interested in agitating against Virginia’s new, heavily restrictive gun laws, it seems. They were interested in fomenting violence they hoped would lead to a “race war,” per a detention memo released late Tuesday.
The governor of Virginia, Ralph Northan, and others were stricken with panic when, just days ahead of the annual rally, which drew thousands of peaceful protesters to Virginia’s state capital to express their support for the Second Amendment, three alleged “white supremacists” were arrested in Maryland last Thursday, as part of an FBI investigation into the white nationalist group, The Base.
The trio had, law enforcement said, discussed attending the rally on surveillance footage.
Many, including most mainstream media networks, immediately took the arrest to mean that white supremacists and white nationalists were planning to show up to the rally en masse, and prominent leftists were left shocked when Monday’s rally was short on Confederate flags, white nationalist slogans, and racially motivated violence (though a few tried to portray the Second Amendment supporters as radically anti-government, regardless).
In detention documents released late Tuesday, they finally had an explanation: the alleged white supremacists who wanted to attend Monday’s rally weren’t part of a larger contingent. They saw the rally as an opportunity to foment violence, and were plotting to kill gun rights supporters and police officers as a way of starting a “race war.”
“[Alleged white supremacist Patrik Jordan] Mathews and fellow group member Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, of Elkton, Maryland, discussed the planning of violence at the Richmond rally, according to prosecutors. Lemley talked about using a thermal imaging scope affixed to his rifle to ambush unsuspecting civilians and police officers, prosecutors said,” per the Associated Press.
“I need to claim my first victim,” Lemley was recorded as saying, referring to any individual rally attendee.
“We could essentially like be literally hunting people,” Matthews responded on the recording, adding that Lemley could provide cover while he instigated violence in the crowd.
Lemley also proposed murdering police officers providing crowd control at the rally: “If there’s like a PoPo cruiser parked on the street and he doesn’t have backup, I can execute him at a whim and just take his stuff.”
The pair, along with 19-year-old William Garfield Bilbrough IV, didn’t appear familiar with the crowd that typically shows up to Virginia’s yearly “Lobby Day” for gun rights activists, and thought that high-profile deaths would move members of the crowd to engage in a “race war” that they hoped would eventually evolve into a “civil war.”
“And the thing is you’ve got tons of guys who … should be radicalized enough to know that all you gotta do is start making things go wrong and if Virginia can spiral out to (expletive) full blown civil war,” Mathew told the group.
The FBI managed to capture the three would-be murderers before they were able to do any damage, though they had gone so far as to pack supplies and discuss detailed plans, according to the Associated Press, including how to evade authorities by surviving in the woods for “three to five” months after the incident as the country devolved into civil war, and whether they could trust each other not to reveal the plot to authorities.
Members of the group also reportedly discussed traveling to Ukraine to fight alongside “separatists,” but that plot is less detailed.
The FBI was tracking the group as part of a larger investigation into “The Base,” a white nationalist group described by the AP as obsessed with accelerationism” — a “fringe philosophy” held by “far-right extremists” in which they “desire to hasten the collapse of society as we know it.”