Pro-gun and anti-government: Suspicion and fear on America's streets

January 19, 2021

Rival armed militia roamed the streets of Richmond in Virginia, a little more than 100 miles from the American capital, amid heightened security concerns in the last few days before the presidential inauguration.

We saw a variety of different armed groups which included the Boogaloo Bois, the Black Panthers and the Proud Boys who said they were demonstrating their second amendment right to bear arms.

One group tore down signs erected by the authorities declaring the area around the State Capitol building a gun-free zone.

Most of the militia ignored the signs, openly carrying a variety of guns and insisted they were not planning trouble, but dozens of police were positioned at all the routes leading to the Virginian General Assembly offices after the FBI said there was an ongoing threat of violent attack at any of the country's fifty State capitols.

Biden Inauguration: Watch and follow events on Sky News from 1pm on Wednesday, with the ceremony starting at 4pm

The annual Lobby Day gathering, in the city which was once the capital of the US confederacy during the nation's civil war, was a markedly smaller affair due to increased security measures in the lead up to the presidential ceremony.

Streets were blocked off and a police cordon erected around the State Capitol to curtail the event which has drawn tens of thousands of pro-gun lobbyists in past years.

The pro-gun demonstrators instead arrived in Richmond in a cavalcade of vehicles, many of them waving flags demonstrating support for Donald Trump.

"This is the only thing that keeps Americans safe," said one man waving a pistol at us out of his car window.

Many echoed the baseless claims of voter fraud espoused by President Trump and appeared to be still clinging on to the belief that somehow the election result could be overturned.

Many - if not all - of the groups appear to feel alienated and doubtful about the possibility of harmony anytime in the near future.

One of the Black Panther leaders told Sky News the dramatic storming of the Capitol in Washington on 6 January was the inevitable outcome of far-right extremism which had been allowed to fester and grow for years - and which they'd been the brunt of for decades. "Being a black man in America, there's no type of fear we haven't experienced every single day of our lives…this has been our reality our entire lives…so this is nothing new…they're not saying anything new to us."

The challenges facing the new administration in the White House are enormous - and drawing together these disparate armed groups is going to be one of the biggest.

The only emotions uniting them appears to be a deep suspicion of the authorities and a fear of one another.

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