After the speeches wrapped up, rallygoers began marching along the streets of downtown Richmond — including Joe Evans, who hoisted a sign bearing black and red Chinese characters. Evans’s poster stood out amid a flood of Trump paraphernalia and “Don’t Tread on Me” signs.
Also standing out in the crowd was his wife, a Chinese immigrant who recently obtained her U.S. citizenship. She held a sign that read: “Do I look like a white supremacist?”
The couple had met in Beijing while Evans, who is white, was studying abroad, and have been married for seven years. They drove down from Arlington, Va., with their signs to prove that not everyone attending the rally — or every gun owner — is a white supremacist, or even white.
“I’m an immigrant who’s a new U.S. citizen and I feel like the right to protect ourselves is important,” said Evans’s wife, who declined to give her name.
Evans, an immigration attorney, held a sign with a Chinese proverb that translated as “water can support a ship and water can overturn it.”
“It means that people put you in power, and people can remove you from power,” he said.
Evans described the couple as “gay friendly and immigration friendly” but also passionately pro-gun rights.
“There are more of us than you think in deep blue Arlington,” he said, adding that membership at their local gun range was diverse and included Asians, African Americans, Hispanics and members of the LGBTQ community.
“We believe in equality for everyone,” said Evans, who is an independent. “That’s only possible if we have guns — or responsible people at least.”
As they marched, they were approached by an African American man waving a giant Trump 2020 flag on a 20-foot pole.
“Good afternoon young lady,” said Derrick Gibson. “We are the white supremacists, if you believe the news.”
Gibson, 58, had driven down from Queens, N.Y. He, too, was at pains to point out that there was some diversity among the gun rights advocates in the primarily white crowd.
“How are you doing? I’m Governor Northam in blackface,” he told passersby, drawing laughs.
Northam was the target of much derision. Some signs showed him with a Hitler mustache and Nazi armband. Others showed a now-infamous photo from his medical school yearbook page which depicted one person in blackface and another under a Klan hood. “The man behind the sheet wants your guns,” one such sign said.
“Governor Northam, I think I found the white supremacist,” said one such sign. “Unfortunately it’s you!”
“This is not about race,” said Jonathan Austin, 46, from Chesterfield, Va. Austin, who is black, said he supports universal background checks but thought many of the other proposed gun-control bills went too far. “The government shouldn’t have the right to tell us what kind of guns we can have,” he said.
“Gun Rights Are Also Gay Rights” read a sign held by Brandon Brod, 44.
“My husband and I have collected guns for more than 20 years,” said Brod, who lives in Richmond and said he had attended Lobby Day since 2003. He was raised Quaker and still believes in pacifism, except when it comes to self-defense, he said. The country was a safer place now to be gay than in the mid-1990s, when he came out, he said.
“Northam is making it out like we’re all white supremacists,” Brod said. “But I’m a gay man and a Quaker.”
Brod, who said he’s a Libertarian, added that the response to his sign had been positive.
“I’ve been feeling the love,” he said. “At least 100 people have asked me for a photo, including the militia guys.”