Right-wing outsiders stirring up trouble in Virginia

When AR-toting protesters show up in Richmond or other state capitals around the country, they too often are out-of-staters sent in to stir up the locals.
Protesters carrying rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing Wednesday. (Paul Sancya/AP)

A so-called “grassroots” activity to protest restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in Richmond and other state capitals are a nationwide program run not by Virginians but coordinated by a far-right-wing gun rights outfit operated by out-of-state conservative activist Ben Door and his sons on Facebook.

Dorr and his siblings deploy AR-15 carrying activists who show up in places like Richmond to claim they are locals trying to work in a state’s best interest when they are spreading propaganda for the questionable actions of Donald Trump and his “base.”

Reports The Washington Post:

The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety. Minnesota Gun Rights, for instance, describes itself as the state’s “no-compromise gun rights organization.”

The online activity instigated by the brothers helps cement the impression that opposition to the restrictions is more widespread than polling suggests. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they supported a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats backed such a measure in the survey.

Still, the Facebook groups have become digital hubs for the same sort of misinformation spouted in recent days at state capitol buildings — from comparing the virus to the flu to questioning the intentions of scientists working on a vaccine.

Public health experts say stay-at-home orders are necessary to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which has already killed more than 40,000 in the United States. The Trump administration last week outlined three phases for states to reopen safely — guidelines contradicted by the president when he urged citizens to rise up against the rules that heed the recommendations of his own public health advisers.

–The Washington Post

So much for “grassroots” activities. We’ve seen these stunts before employed by Trump and his so-called “base.” With his much-ballyhooed rallies, where buses bring in outsiders posing as locals, now stilled by stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, he must turn to other stunts for attention.

In the “second amendment sanctuary” protests that brought throngs to Richmond back in January, many of them were from out-of-state and came in with their assault-style weapons and camo outfits on buses and cars with out-of -state plates.

As the Post reported before that January protest:

Gun rights advocates and militia members from around the country are urging thousands of armed protesters to descend on Virginia’s capital later this month to stop newly empowered Democrats from passing gun-control bills.

What began as a handful of rural Virginia counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” has jumped the state’s borders and become an Internet phenomenon. Far-right websites and commenters are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights.

–The Washington Post

Polls show the vast majority of Americans support the lockdown efforts and restrictions put in place to control a runaway virus that threatens all of us. That includes 70 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats.

Polls in Virginia show the same levels of support.

I own a couple of small businesses that are shut down right now because of the lockdown and stay-at-home rules. I’m also a contract worker for the company that owns The Floyd Press and my work for them is curtailed because two primary items I cover — the courts and high school athletics — are shut down.

Does it hurt financially? Of course. My income is down at least 85 percent and I’m having to delay paying some bills, but I’d rather be alive to work another day than dead from a virus because the rules were relaxed too soon. At my age, I can live with a low credit score.

The protests in recent days have been loud in volume and small in size.

Adds the Post:

The online coordination offered additional clues about how the protest activity is spreading nationwide, capturing the imagination of the president and of Fox News even though it represents the views of a small minority of Americans. Trump himself tied the protests to gun rights — a primary cause for the Dorr brothers — in telling Virginians that the Second Amendment was “under siege” as he urged them to liberate the state.

On the ground, pro-Trump figures — including some who act as surrogates for his campaign — as well as groups affiliated with prominent conservative donors have helped organize and promote the demonstrations.

Some of the most vehement protest activity, in Michigan, has been organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition. Its founders are a Republican state lawmaker and his wife, Meshawn Maddock, who sits on the Trump campaign’s advisory board and is a prominent figure in the “Women for Trump” coalition.

–The Washington Post

The Dorr brothers ignore rules that require them to register as lobbyists, which they are, and their actions brought efforts by a retired Republican state legislator in Iowa to close the loopholes that let them skirt the laws.

“The brothers will do anything to fan the flames of a controversial issue and maybe make a quick nickel,” Clel Baudler, the retired legislator, told the Post.

Some governors note that the action of the Dorr brothers and their father advocate protests against the very president they admire with cult-like devotion.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president’s own policy,” says Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Making sense has never been a goal of such protests.

1 thought on “Right-wing outsiders stirring up trouble in Virginia”

  1. Mr. Thompson:

    As one who flew 6,000 miles round trip to be in Richmond on January 20th, I question your spurious claims that Trump had a hand in organizing “his supporters” (you mean some Americans?) to come there from out-of-state and that many of us “came in on buses” organized by Trump. The vast majority of people there were VIRGINIANS. Others, like us, came there to support them, as I would WELCOME 2A supporters to come to MY state if the roles were reversed. At no time did I receive any suggestion from Donald Trump or others associated with his administration to attend Lobby Day in Richmond, Virginia. Believe it or not I managed to make the decision to do so ON MY OWN.
    Your article makes it sound like we are a fractured nation, and not a country unified by a common CONSTITUTION on which the laws of this nation are based. Among the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights is the right to bear arms, the right to free travel, the right to assemble PEACEFULLY, and the Lobby Day rally was EXACTLY that. I would suggest if you are opposed to any of these rights being exercised on a daily basis by your fellow Americans that you pick one of 200+ other countries on this globe to which to move.
    Yes, I AM suggesting that if you don’t like out way of life that YOU leave. We do not exist to make YOU comfortable by NOT exercising our natural rights. YOUR approval is not required.

    Mark Firestone

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