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Militia movement will be packing heat at gun rally on the Potomac

Where demonstrations were once solely about the Second Amendment, speakers now quickly link protecting gun rights to safeguarding all other liberties and decry the new health-care legislation as unconstitutional in its mandate that individuals must buy coverage.

On April 12 in Richmond, more than a hundred people, dozens sporting pistols, cheered when Philip Van Cleve of the Virginia Citizens Defense League called for replacing the "anti-Constitution, anti-freedom, anti-gun" leadership of the state Senate and when Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II reaffirmed his vow to be "aggressive in protecting the Constitution, as it was written."

There have been no accidental discharges or arrests at the open-carry rallies, according to a review of news accounts. The Fort Hunt rally, however, has caused particular consternation and alarm in the online world where gun-rights advocates plan, recruit and discuss strategy.

Oath Keepers, which in a year has grown to 20,000 online members, signed on early as an event sponsor but abruptly pulled out on April 12. "It had gotten to the point that it would be dangerous to attend," said board member Rex McTyeire, citing an escalation of threatening rhetoric online from some participants. "There are people out there willing to do anything to create chaos in an uncontrolled situation, and [the event] is wide open for disaster."

Organizers of another April 19 rally, the Second Amendment March at the Washington Monument, want it known that they have nothing to do with the Restore the Constitution muster. "We are a peaceful, law-abiding group that will follow all local and federal laws," the march organizers' Web site says. "That group is a separate entity entirely and is not at all associated," but at least two speakers are appearing at both rallies, including Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, a key force behind the D.C. rally.

"It is our own fault that we are in this situation," Vanderboegh intends to tell those assembled, according to a draft of his remarks. "Each time these revolutionists of gradualism against the Founders' Republic took another bite out of the Constitution and shoved us back from the natural exercise of our God-given and inalienable rights, we have backed up, grumbling. We have not shoved back."

Gravelly Point, where the demonstrators will take turns going to from Fort Hunt, was chosen because it is as close to the District as they could get while carrying guns and also comply with local and Interior Department regulations.

When they stand on the river banks Monday and preach an activism that sounds to some like sedition, the armed demonstrators will have the full support of the federal government they fear, carefully detailed in the 26-page event permit, complete with the gun regulations of both Virginia and the Interior Department and a commitment to provide fencing, barricades and bike racks for the event.

"We handle tens of thousands of demonstrations of a First Amendment nature annually," said Dave Schlosser, spokesmen for the U.S. Park Police, "and we are handling this event no differently than any of the others. We assess what their needs are to allow us to facilitate a safe and successful demonstration so they can exercise their rights to free speech and free assembly without interference."

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