An organizer of Warren County Indivisible’s “Vigil and Protest for Victims of Gun Violence” scheduled for Saturday afternoon, March 10 in Front Royal say they will proceed despite the promise of an open-carry, pro gun-rights counter-demonstration. Multiple responses indicating a desire to participate in the suggested pro-gun counter-demonstration were posted online in recent days, some of a nature reported to raise safety concerns among some planned participants.
Heather Davis confirmed that some vigil against gun violence activities scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the Town Gazebo, including the bulk, if not all of the planned Selah Theater group presentations by local high school students have been cancelled out of fears of what might develop from the presence of armed, pro-gun rights advocates. However, as of Friday one student essay is still slated to be read as part of the program, Davis told Royal Examiner.
Davis said that she had spoken to Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis about FRPD’s planned handling of what has developed into dueling demonstration agendas revolving around gun violence. Davis said Chief Magalis told her FRPD planned to cordon off the Gazebo area where the vigil will be held, while placing gun-rights activists in the vicinity of the nearby train caboose.
Royal Examiner contacted Chief Magalis, who confirmed the plan to separate demonstrators while not infringing on anyone’s right to express their opinion.
“We will have extra personnel, security and guidance so that both sides can have a platform to express their beliefs in a manner that everyone is safe, secure and that the businesses downtown are not disrupted,” Magalis said. He noted that social media posts had indicated a potentially sizable turnout for both demonstrations, and that FRPD would assign personnel accordingly.
Vigil against gun violence organizer Davis noted that the event’s major focus is the acknowledgement and honoring of victims of gun violence and a move toward more sensible gun laws, not a call to strip American citizens of their right to own guns.
“I hope they won’t be disruptive,” Davis said of pro-gun rights activists, “The vigil is about honoring people who have died. Speakers will be reading the names of people who have died and I would hope they will be respectful of that.”
The March 6 Warren County Indivisible press release announcing the event noted that the names of two of the most recent, and worst mass shootings in U.S. history, the Las Vegas concert shooting of October 1, 2017 (58 dead) and the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school (17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS students and teachers dead) will be read aloud at the vigil.
Sixth District Congressional candidates Peter Volosin, Jennifer Lewis and Charlotte Moore are still slated to appear. Also invited but not indicating they will participate were Warren County’s three Republican state delegates, Michael J. Webert (18th), Chris Collins (29th) and Todd Gilbert (15th), as well as members of their staffs. Indivisible of Warren County, VA bills itself as “a non-partisan group of concerned citizen activists who put country before party, and stand against any erosion of our historic democratic principles of liberty, justice, and equality.”
On Thursday, this reporter spoke to one person expressing an interest in participating in the pro-gun rights demonstration. Told the other demonstration was “against gun violence” of the kind students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School experienced last month, rather than against the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, he replied, “Well, I think everyone is against gun violence.”
I guess at least on the local front here in Front Royal and Warren County, Virginia, we will find out tomorrow afternoon if he is right.