The Virginia attorney general was pushing for a bill in the state legislature that would give law enforcement newfound powers to classify alleged members of the Alt-Right as domestic terrorists.
But Big League Politics has learned that the bill died in committee, at least for now, clearly thanks in part to behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Constitution-minded activists.
“That bill was left in committee without a hearing and is effectively dead for the year,” Michael Kelly, a spokesman for the Virginia Attorney General, told Big League Politics.
Even though the bill is “effectively dead for the year,” it still exists in committee and could be brought back.
The bill would crack down on assemblies by accused domestic terrorist groups, and would establish Class 5 felony punishments for accused domestic terrorists carrying firearms at assemblies, meetings, or protests.
House Bill No. 1601, introduced by Democratic delegate Marcia Price, is designed to regulate groups of “three of more persons, whether formal or informal,” who allegedly have as “one of its primary objectives or activities an act of domestic terrorism.”
The bill is a direct response to the incident in Charlottesville in 2017 when an alleged white supremacist named James Fields allegedly drove a car into a crowd of left-wing protesters, killing one.
“This has been something I have been working on for a couple of years now,” stated Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat who has held the office since 2014. Herring is an ally of Democratic governor Ralph Northam.
“This is a real threat. We’re continuing to see a rise in white supremacists, neo-Nazi violence, we’re also seeing a rise in hate crimes,” Herring stated. “A lot of communities are deeply concerned and what happened in Charlottesville needs to be a wake-up call that these threats are real.”
The bill puts the Superintendent of the Department of State Police in charge of presiding over the roster of domestic terrorist groups. In December, the month before the bill was introduced, new Democratic Governor-elect Ralph Northam accepted the retirement of Superintendent Steve Flaherty, and appointed Lieutenant Colonel Gary Settle to replace him in this position.
Upon taking the job, Settle immediately weighed in on Charlottesville, stating, “We’re aware that there will be future protests, we certainly can count on that and its just the environment we live in today. And, our role is to support the locals across the Commonwealth of Virginia sheriff’s offices, local police departments and we want to do that at the highest level whether it’s a protest or a natural disaster or any other kind of significant event that impacts Virginians.”
The language in the bill is key, because it does not define the process by which law enforcement will determine a group’s “primary objectives.”
Here is one section of the bill:
“Domestic terrorist organization” means any organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, which has an identifiable name or identifying sign or symbol and either (i) has as one of its primary objectives or activities an act of domestic terrorism; or (ii) whose members individually or collectively have engaged in the commission of, attempt to commit, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation of two or more acts of domestic terrorism, provided such acts were not part of a common act or transaction.”
The bill also holds people responsible for allegedly providing “material support or resources” for acts of domestic terrorism.
What constitutes an act of domestic terrorism under current Virginia law? Any major violent crime is included, but the code also includes “Mob-related felonies under Article 2,” which include: “Any collection of people, assembled for the purpose and with the intention of committing an assault or a battery upon any person or an act of violence as defined in § 19.2-297.1, without authority of law, shall be deemed a ‘mob.'”
Any protest group of at least three people deemed to be conspiring to commit “mob-related felonies,” therefore, could be labelled a domestic terrorism organization if the new bill passes into law.
So what are the punishments the bill seeks to impose on accused domestic terrorists? Here is just one of the punishments the bill lays out (emphasis added):
“It shall be unlawful for three or more members of a domestic terrorist organization to assemble together with the intent of advancing some unlawful goal, mission, or purpose of the domestic terrorist organization. Every person who participates in such an unlawful assembly shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. If any member of a domestic terrorist organization carried, at the time of his participation in the unlawful assembly, any firearm or other deadly or dangerous weapon, he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony,” according to the bill.
As Big League Politics reported, University of North Carolina cultural anthropology professor Dwanye Dixon, a left-wing leader of the Redneck Revolt group, admitted to chasing Charlottesville driver James Fields with a rifle shortly before Fields crashed into a group of protesters assembled on Fourth Street.
Dixon refused to answer our questions when asked about the incident, instead attacking our cameraman and calling the police:
Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead is not happy with the bill. As head of a pro-Constitution organization in Charlottesville, Whitehead sees dangerous implications.
“If you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government), that could be enough to land you on the federal government’s terrorism watch list. Now, under this proposed Virginia law, just associating with someone labeled a ‘domestic terrorist’ is enough to get an organization blacklisted,” Whitehead stated.
“People have forgotten that in his day, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was viewed as a domestic terrorist for his acts of civil disobedience. Under this law, which aims to demonize and criminalize organizations based on their social or political associations with individuals whose unpopular beliefs or anti-government sentiments may be construed as ‘terrorist,’ organizations associated with King would be labeled as domestic terrorists and blacklisted. This is about as McCarthyist and un-American as it gets,” Whitehead added.
The offices of Delegate Price did not provide comment for this report as of press time.