One day after Virginia governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency ahead of a pro-gun rally drawing potentially violent extremists, the FBI arrested three white supremacists reportedly heading to the state’s capital. Per the New York Times:
One of the men, Patrik Jordan Mathews, 27, a main recruiter for [the white nationalist group known as The Base], entered the United States illegally from Canada, according to the officials. He was arrested along with Brian M. Lemley Jr., 33, and William G. Bilbrough IV, 19. Mr. Mathews was trained as a combat engineer and considered an expert in explosives. He was dismissed from the Canadian Army after his ties to white supremacists surfaced. Mr. Lemley previously served as a cavalry soldier in the United States Army.
Mathews and Lemley were charged with transporting firearms and 1,500 rounds of ammunition with the intent to commit a felony. Bilbrough was charged with harboring an illegal alien, namely Mathews, who entered the country illegally.
The three men are reportedly members of the Base, an international neo-Nazi organization that, according to the Associated Press, discussed in encrypted chat rooms “committing acts of violence against blacks and Jews, ways to make improvised explosive devices, their military-style training camps and their desire to create a white ‘ethno-state.’” Heidi Beirich, director of Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told VICE that the Base poses a major threat to public safety, saying their propaganda “encourages individuals toward the terroristic so-called ‘lone wolf’ or terror cell-oriented mentality” and instructs followers to “prepare themselves to, in fact, become potential threats to public safety.” An 18-year-old in New Jersey was arrested late last year for using the Base to orchestrate vandalism of two midwestern mosques.
White nationalist terrorism has been on the rise internationally, including multiple attacks on U.S. synagogues, the bloody assault on two mosques in New Zealand, and the mass shooting at a Texas Walmart. Just last year, a Canadian man was sentenced for killing six people at an Islamic cultural center in Quebec.
Other white nationalist and militia groups are expected to arrive en masse in Richmond, Virginia, on Martin Luther King, Jr Day to protest gun control legislation going through the newly Democrat-led state legislature. Northam’s state of emergency has banned all weapons from the Capital Square from Friday through Tuesday, but, according to VICE, in the event’s Facebook group some attendees have announced that they don’t plan to abide by the order. In a press conference on Wednesday, Northam announced that he was coordinating Virginia’s state and local police to ensure public safety.