Update (1/19/20): Investigative reporter Robert Evans noted at Bellingcat that an anonymous user claiming to be a Richmond police officer posted in a 4chan “/vsg/” thread on January 18 offering to provide what appears to be inside information to others on what Evans notes is “one of the largest white nationalist gathering places on the Internet.”
The user posted a photo of a badge that could not be found in reverse image searches and wrote that he would be “taking questions” about the upcoming rally. Evans noted that the “purported officer’s posts show a familiarity with the lingo used on /pol, including its casual racism and homophobia,” and the user wrote he has been a user on 4chan since 2009. Evans also noted that while the supposed officer “is careful enough to not state his own beliefs directly” and does not “advocate any illegal behavior,” he “does provide potentially useful insight into how he believes Richmond PD will respond to the protests, and the limitations of his department’s capabilities.”
Users on a 4chan message board known for supporting white nationalism have been mobilizing against proposed gun safety bills in Virginia, starting more than 200 conversation threads in which they have promoted a January 20 pro-gun rally outside the Virginia Capitol in Richmond and made numerous calls for violence.
After Democrats won control of the Virginia state legislature in November, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he would support a broad package of gun safety bills for the upcoming legislative session. In response, multiple localities throughout the state have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” adopting largely symbolic resolutions against enforcing what they deem to be unconstitutional gun laws.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a pro-gun group that has in the past suggested that violence against the state is acceptable if it doesn’t achieve its agenda through legislative means, will be holding a rally on January 20 outside of the Virginia Capitol to oppose the gun safety bills. Multiple far-right groups and militias have said they would try to stop gun violence prevention legislation and attend the rally, including multiple participants of 2017’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has also indicated he will participate and has also invited white nationalist Richard Spencer, one of the organizers of “Unite the Right,” to attend.
In response to “credible intelligence” of threats of violence at the rally, Northam has declared a state of emergency and banned “weapons of any kind” from Capitol grounds through the evening of January 21.
Users on the 4chan message board “/pol/” -- a known hotspot for white nationalists -- have joined those pro-gun efforts: Since December, there have been more than 200 threads on the forum (at least 204 as of this posting) mobilizing against the proposed bills, according to a review by Media Matters. The threads are titled “/vsg/” (short for “Virginia Spring General” or “Virginian Spring General”) and collectively have received tens of thousands of comments. They show users how to get involved with the Second Amendment sanctuary proposals, VCDL’s lobbying activities, and VCDL’s January 20 rally, such as telling users the details of the rally, how to “organize offline,” and ideas for “action” (at the beginning of at least 74 of these threads there has been explicit encouragement for users to attend the rally).
In these threads, users have explicitly organized among themselves for the January 20 rally and have asked about “a meeting spot for anons that are showing up.” In one thread, users discussed which users would be “command[ing]” a “station” to “serve” at the rally and having an “alert for weapons free,” a term meaning permission to shoot at non-friendly targets. They have also discussed having users stationed on the roof of buildings, and one user posted a picture of a bayonet.
In another thread, one user posted an image of a gun and mentioned “attempting to get /k/ommamdos from VA and neighboring states to organize for a pseudo meetup on jan 20th to show our solidarity with our brothers in VA.“ In another thread, a user who said they were an “anon” from Maryland mentioned going to the rally and discussed “4-6 million hunters” fighting “350k National Guardsman.”
Users in the threads also repeatedly posted images doxxing (posting private information without consent) and threatening multiple Democratic elected officials in the state, including Northam (they also discussed tracking his movement), Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (and his family and associates), and new Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. They called for information about the officials for “minecraft” purposes, a term used by chan users to support violence, with one promising that Northam’s “minecraft server is going to get a hard reset.” (Media Matters is not linking to any posts that share the doxxed information.)
Multiple users in the threads were also explicit in their calls to violence, writing that they were “set to die at Richmond,” promising to “have a lot of fun with their children before killing them” or that the violence will “be dangerous, ugly, bloody and not much fun,” claiming “we are very, very overdue for bloodletting and heads rolling,” and threatening to kill law enforcement. One thread about the rally even began with a user calling for “a massive violent revolt” and for people to “prepare for bloodshed.” Another user wrote, “ITS TIME. NO TURNING BACK. FUCK ALL OPTICS,” using similar language to what an alleged gunman who committed a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, posted on Gab (another white nationalist hotspot) moments before the attack.