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Peaceful pro-gun rallies: A firsthand account

April 20, 10:26 AMGun Rights ExaminerDavid Codrea
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I'm back from a rather exhausting past couple of days. I'll have time over the next few days to catch up on what the media is saying about the Second Amendment March and the Restore the Constitution rally, but for now I just wanted to share some of what I experienced.

After a seven-hour drive, my son and I checked into the Sheraton National in Arlington. Nice digs. From our 8th-floor window we could see the Pentagon, and then across the river the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol Dome...most impressive. Once settled we decided to explore the hotel, check out their gym, their roof-top pool, and an accompanying open-air balcony from where we could see Arlington National Cemetery.

We then went down to the lobby to explore other hotel amenities and found a Second Amendment March press conference already underway in one of the ballrooms. We went in and Skip Coryell was explaining to a roomful of reporters and attendees, with several cameras running, what the event was about, and then taking questions. He then introduced some of the speakers in the room, and I soon found myself disheveled and disoriented in front of a microphone. Mercifully, I was allowed to keep things brief, because I really was unprepared--the real powerful impromptu presentation (and I certainly don't mean to ignore or dismiss anyone else by saying this) came from Stewart Rhodes of Oath Keepers--some of the reporters seemed surprised that he was talking about the importance of all civil rights and not sparing Republican failures in the process, and you could tell for some of them it was a revelation that they weren't covering party puppets.

That evening, most of the Second Amendment March speakers went off to a group dinner, but I had other plans, a meeting with the Restore the Constitution rally speakers, so that we could go over the logistics and details of the open carry rally in Virginia. Included in that group was a freelance writer who contributes to The New York Times magazine, among others.

I got back to the room late, read over my speech one more time and then got a few hours sleep. My son and I shared a cab to the march area by the Washington Monument with Cleveland GRE Daniel White and lady friend. It was a beautiful sunny day, and there looked to be about a thousand folks already there when we arrived, and more coming in by the minute.

I found it very cool to meet people in person who I've only read about, or at most, corresponded by email with. Skip Coryell, Sheriff Richard Mack, Larry Pratt, Suzanna Hupp, Philip Van Cleave, Kenn Blanchard, Nicki Stallard, Jeff Knox, Paul Valone...

They had to shift the speaking schedule around a bit, so I went on earlier than planned, probably around 11:00 or so. By that time the crowd looked like it had grown to about twice the size from an hour earlier. They were receptive, enthusiastic and supportive, a real pleasure to address, which was a relief, as I've never considered myself an accomplished public speaker and to do so on a stage in front of a couple thousand sets of eyes in front of the Washington Monument is surreal, to say the least.

I was interviewed by a TV reporter, I don't recall who or what station she represented, and got the expected question about doing the event on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing--it seems the media has either never heard of Patriots' Day or they just don't want to let a "good" meme go. I told her if they'd have held the rally on the 15th,like the Tea Partiers, we'd be accused of celebrating the sinking of the Titanic.

I had an encounter with another reporter, a self-absorbed and rather stiff personality who figured I must be safe since I was wearing a suit. She announced who she was, Channel X News, I truly don't recall, but her attitude told me she must be a DC fixture, and she wanted to know who was in charge. I walked her over to Skip and didn't get so much as a nod for a dismissal, let alone a thank you. My usefulness was evidently over and services no longer needed. I just thought that was telling in a way, and indicative of character.

There were many people I met and spoke with. It was gratifying to find some folks who had a kind word for what I'd said on stage, or for the stuff I write, and it was nice to shake hands with some people I've corresponded with, or who have given me story tips, or left comments here or at my WarOnGuns blog, and put a face to the screen name.

It was now about 1:00PM, and our ride to the Restore the Constitution rally at Gravelly Point had arrived.

It was a much different set-up, a smaller gathering in numbers but not in spirit. I did not make it to the "main event" at Fort Hunt Park--this was the caravan of attendees who wanted to open carry in sight of the Capitol, and it was both surreal and encouraging to see slung rifles and holstered sidearms with identifiable monuments in the background across the river. Larry Pratt was just finishing up his talk.

"These aren't patriots, these are terrorist" read a sign carried by one of the few protesters. Methinks the gentle person has no experience with real terrorists.

It was a different setup entirely--instead of a stage, there was a mike standing on the tailgate of a truck, and when I climbed up I felt like an old-time rural politician--again kind of a surreal experience, and I had to pause several times as jets taking off roared overhead.

I mingled for a few minutes afterward. That's when the Park Police helicopter showed up, flying probably 200 feet up, it circled us slowly at least three times, one of their guys seated legs hanging out of the open side door, my impression being they were taking surveillance photos. It seemed a totally unnecessary show of force and intentionally disruptive, as everything at the event had been carefully coordinated with them and they had a watchful ground presence.

But I had a long drive ahead of me to get home and it was time to leave. As we were pulling out I saw a group of people leaving, and one of them looked familiar--I'd seen that face somewhere before. Just as we passed them it hit me--that's Paul Helmke from the Brady Campaign...and he looked pretty humorless and grim. For some reason, the "Wicked Witch" theme from The Wizard of Oz popped into my head, and it seemed to keep perfect time with their steps.

Here's the thing I left with--I had just placed myself in the middle of a group of armed Americans, prone-to violence "militia extremists" if you believe what most "Authorized Journalists" will tell you. I was not threatened by them in the least. Of course, those of us who have spent time with other gun owners accept others being armed as a matter of course. Which tells me all I need to know--the ones filled with mistrust, fear, hatred and loathing are operating out of ignorance and bigotry. At least the ones who don't know any better. There are others who are counting on that as something to exploit.

I'll have more on the rallies coming up through the week and will be talking about it tomorrow on "Trigger Sports LIVE!"  For now I need to get my bearings and find what's out there in the media, including videos--I have literally not had a moment to check. 


UPDATE: Paul Valone shares his impressions (with a slide show).

UPDATE: Dave Workman comments.

UPDATE: Anthony Martin provides media coverage links.

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