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Fredericksburg park will be site of "We the People" rally, but city says it is not a partner
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Fredericksburg park will be site of "We the People" rally, but city says it is not a partner

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The City of Fredericksburg has asked to be removed as a listed partner with an event being held Saturday at Old Mill Park.

The “We the People” rally is scheduled to take place 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A website for the event, thepeoplesrally.com, says the government is “completely out of control and unprecedented overreach is occurring.” It says the rally will inform citizens of a “peaceful and lawful way to reign in a tyrannical government.”

Eleven speakers are scheduled to address the crowd, including several who have expressed distrust of COVID-19 safety measures and one who spoke in 2019 at an annual conference for an organization described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

The Facebook page for the event states it is expecting attendees from 10 different states, including California and New Mexico. It says there will be a “VIP” event on Friday at an undisclosed “historical” location.

“We are aware of this event,” Fredericksburg Public Information Officer Sonja Cantu said. “They filed for an event permit through the city. They’re legit. But the city does not partner with any expression of speech events.”

The City of Fredericksburg, along with local businesses Greens and Grains Café, Billiken’s Smokehouse and Hyatt Place Fredericksburg–Mary Washington were listed as partners for the rally as of Tuesday evening, but were removed by Wednesday morning. 

Cantu sent an email to rally organizers requesting the city’s name be taken off. She said city officials had been unaware the city was listed as a partner.

Andrew Stoude, general manager of the Hyatt Place, said Tuesday that he was also unaware the hotel was listed as a partner and would be reaching out to organizers to be removed. Calls to Greens and Grains Café and Billiken’s Smokehouse went unanswered.

“I was not aware we were listed as a partner. I do know we were listed on their website as a hotel option for them,” Stoude said. “We do not discriminate as long as they follow the protocol when they are here. Like anyone else, we cannot judge a person by their political, religious or any other beliefs. But we are absolutely not a partner. We are simply a place for them to stay.”

Cantu said the Fredericksburg government’s only involvement is renting the park to the group and issuing an event permit to the Spotsylvania County resident that applied for it. She said organizers have been asked to follow masking and social distancing guidelines put forth by Gov. Ralph Northam.

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Sarah Morris, the Fredericksburg Police Department’s public information officer, said police will be on hand for public safety and to monitor and encourage COVID-19 safety guidelines, but not to enforce them. Morris noted the rally’s permit is for 250 people and Northam’s guidelines call for a maximum of 1,000 at outdoor events.

One of the speakers Saturday is David Martin, whose biography on Thepeoplesrally.com states his most recent, notable achievement is his work on “Plandemic II,” a documentary that purports to reveal the truth “about the current situation we find ourselves in with the global assertion of a public health emergency for a virus that holds a 99.74 percent recovery rate.”

The initial “Plandemic” documentary featured biochemist Judy Mikovits and was removed from Facebook because it suggested wearing a mask can make one sick and lead to imminent harm, a spokesperson for the social media platform told USA Today.

Katherine O’Neal Duran is another rally speaker. Her bio states she’s fought against Common Core in public schools and “she currently helps businesses fight unconstitutional draconian COVID legalities.”

The master of ceremony is Jarome Bell of Virginia Beach, who calls himself an “America first conservative Republican.” Bell was defeated in the Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives 2nd District in June. He had his Twitter account suspended earlier this year for a controversial stance on immigration.

“Our government has been infected at every level with dangerous, anti-American ideas and policies,” Bell wrote on his bio. “It’s time we put a stop to it.”

Bell has also stated he disagrees with Northam’s coronavirus measures that included reopening the state in phases. “You can’t quarantine healthy people,” he told The Virginian–Pilot.

KrisAnne Hall, a former prosecutor and self-described “constitutional attorney,” is also on the program. In 2019, Hall delivered an address to the League of the South’s Florida Chapter, which is designated as a neo-Confederate Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Hall later told the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights that she speaks to any group interested in liberty, adding, “I condemn any and all forms of racism, violence, or racial supremacy.”

Other speakers include Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and former Arizona Sheriff and political activist Richard Mack. The Citizens Defense League works to preserve gun rights and stop restrictions on owning weapons and Van Cleave was involved in the effort that led to more than 100 localities in Virginia declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”

Mack helped bring a successful lawsuit against the federal government over the constitutionality of parts of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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