The scene before our eyes resembled something from a disaster film. Roadblocks, fencing, sanitized police checkpoints, sniper’s nests, vehicles loaded with heavy-duty surveillance equipment darting through the streets as an armored vehicle called The Rook lurched onto the field. An armored track vehicle built on a Caterpillar chassis, The Rook is armed with a hydraulic breaching ram and gun portholes.
All these siege engines revolved around a Damoclean centerpiece: a great iron cage in which unarmed protesters would be contained. This scene was not lifted from the silver screen, however, but was the Virginia State Capitol on the eve of Lobby Day, an event in late January in which tens of thousands of law-abiding gun owners would rally for their right to keep and bear arms.
Even before the nationwide government crackdown in the wake of the COVID-19 virus, the unprecedented reaction of Virginia’s government against civilian protesters showcased the potential for authoritarianism to rear its head in America, a trend later confirmed by the repressive measures against coronavirus quarantine protesters taken by state governors such as Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer. The actions of Virginia, the Mother of Presidents, against its own disobedient citizens has told us something of what lies beneath the surface of our nation’s political future.
Read the rest in Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.