A metro Atlanta real estate agent was at the center of today's "Restore the Constitution" rally in Virginia, whose goal was to bring armed demonstrators "as close to D.C. as possible."
Daniel Almond, 31, a three-tour veteran of Iraq, told the Washington Post he planned to bring a loaded pistol, an unloaded rifle and a bandoleer of magazines containing ammunition to the so-called open-carry rally. Participants gathered at Fort Hunt National Park, 12 miles south of the Capital, then traveled in convoys to Gravelly Point Park on the Potomac River, about a mile from the National Mall.
At the same time, hundreds of like-minded but unarmed counterparts converged in the nation's capital. Signs reading "Which part of 'shall not be infringed' confuses you?" and bright orange stickers saying "Guns save lives" dotted the crowd at the Washington Monument.
Across the Potomac River in Alexandria, former Alabama Minutemen leader Mike Vanderboegh told the crowd armed confrontation should be reserved only for instances of the government threatening people's lives.
However, he said it might be justified if people face arrest for refusing to buy insurance under the health care reform package recently passed by Congress.
"If I know I'm not going to get a fair trial in federal court ... I at least have the right to an unfair gunfight," Vanderboegh said.
As the group made its way from a staging area to Gravelly Point Park, gun control advocate Martina Leinz dismissed Vanderboegh as a bully.
"If they wanted to have dialogue, they don't need to bring a big weapon with them," she said of the protesters.
According to the Post, Almond organized the rally because he's upset about health care reform, climate control, bank bailouts, drug laws "and what he sees as President Obama's insistence on and the Democratic Congress's capitulation to a ‘totalitarian socialism' that tramples individual rights."
"The founders knew that it is the tendency of government to expand itself and embrace its own power, and they knew the citizenry had to be reminded of that," Almond told the Post.
The rally, with militia movement leaders as featured speakers, drew harsh criticism.
"What I think is important to note is that many of the speakers have really threatened violence, and it's a real threat to the rule of law," Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told the Post. "They are calling health care and taxes that have been duly enacted by a democratically elected Congress tyrannical, and they feel they have a right to confront that individually."
The demonstrators chose Gravelly Point because it is as close to Washington, D.C., as they could get while carrying guns, the Post reported.
While April 19 is the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the government's 1993 confrontation with Branch Davidian cult members in Waco, Texas, Almond told the Post that he chose the date to honor a different anniversary: that of the 1775 battles at Lexington and Concord that started the Revolutionary War.
"And that is the only reason," he told the Post.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com