Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claimed were “almost no police officers” at Monday’s Second Amendment rally outside the Virginia Capitol and suggested this proves America is racist.
Ocasio-Cortez made the inaccurate observation on stage at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Harlem. The New York Democrat spoke protesters gathered in Richmond in opposition to sweeping gun control measures that could be enacted next week by Virginia’s Democratic-controlled government.
While discussing what she said was America’s founding in “tenants” of “racism,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “There’s this gun rights protest happening down in Richmond.”
“On MLK Day,” noted the host of Human Rights: MLK Now 2020, antiracism guru Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“On MLK day!” Ocasio-Cortez agreed.
She then unfavorably contrasted the pro-gun rally with the 2015 riots in Baltimore, Maryland, following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
“But here’s the image that has struck with me the most about that,” she said. “When we go out and march for the dignity and the recognition of the lives of people like Freddie Gray and Eric Garner, the whole place is surrounded by police in riot gear without a gun in sight. And here are all of these people flying Confederate flags, with semi-automatic weapons and there’s almost no police officers at that protest.”
“Who or what are our institutions protecting from whom?” she added. “That image conveys it all.”
AOC, gun rights and “racist” America
In reality, Virginia, Richmond and Capitol police had a “heavy presence” at Monday’s rally, “with officers deploying on rooftops, others patrolling in cars and on bicycles,” Politico reported.
Beforehand, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and a temporary ban on guns on Capitol grounds, saying he feared a repeat of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Local law enforcement worked with the FBI to beef up security measures, erecting temporary barricades and fencing and screening attendees.
The FBI last week arrested three members of a small neo-Nazi group who allegedly hoped to ignite a race war through violence at the gathering. And the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly instituted a ban on airspace over the Capitol out of concern for aerial threats, including weaponized drones.
In the end, authorities reported a single arrest at the rally, and news outlets were forced to cap days of foreboding reporting with an admission that the gathering was peaceful.
Northam declared victory in an afternoon statement.
We are all thankful that today passed without incident. The teams successfully de-escalated what could have been a volatile situation. I will continue to listen to the voices of Virginians, and will do everything in my power to keep our Commonwealth safe. https://t.co/xrHxhOczvv
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) January 20, 2020
By comparison, the 2015 Baltimore riots, which were explicitly anti-police and organized in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, also drew a large law enforcement presence, including a temporary deployment of police from across Maryland and the state’s National Guard.
Nonetheless, violence and looting were widespread on the streets of the city. About 486 people were arrested and 113 officers were injured, according to police. More than 280 businesses were damaged, and nearly 150 vehicles were set on fire, amounting to over $9 million in damages, the Washington Examiner reported.