Several hundred protesters, led by the organizers of January's Women's March, rallied in front of the National Rifle Association's Virginia headquarters Friday, before beginning a two-day 18-mile march to the Department of Justice for a 10am vigil Saturday.
Undeterred by the hot weather—D.C. has declared a "heat emergency" in response to scorching temperatures and intense humidity—demonstrators carried American flags and signs with messages including "We Will Not Be Silenced."
Women's March organizers announced the #NRA2DOJ actions last week, in response to a set of highly publicized NRA videos that cast the anti-Trump resistance and other recent social justice protests as violent, and pushed a clear "us against them" narrative. Organizers have called on the NRA to remove and apologize for the initial video which they say, "suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives, and anyone who does not agree with this Administration's policies."
The NRA has responded with more videos that feature African-Americans condeming the Women's March as "fake feminism," and the Black Lives Matter movement as "a weaponized race-baiting machine pushing the extreme liberal Democratic agenda." (Black Lives Matter Los Angeles responded to the NRA's videos last week.) Conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch—the star of the initial video—verbally attacks the Women's March organizers themsevles.
Demonstrators also protested the NRA for its silence following the acquittal of a Minnesota police officer in the killing of Philando Castile, a black man and legal gun owner who was shot in his car after he told the officer he was carrying a licensed firearm. Critics accused the NRA of only standing up for white gun owners.
When many of us called on the NRA to take action in response to the Philando Castile trial verdict—in line with their stated mission and purpose—the response was not only silence but the resurfacing of an NRA ad featuring right wing propagandists and deeply divisive, "us versus them" language, appearing to be a direct endorsement of violence against women, our families, and our communities for exercising our constitutional right to protest.
This morning's rally outside NRA headquarters included the reading of a statement from Philando Castile's mother, and a speech by Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Brandon Wolf.
In addition to the D.C. march, there are more than a dozen solidarity actions taking place across the country Friday and Saturday. Organizers have also encouraged gun violence survivors to share their stories on social media, using the hashtag #NRA2DOJ. There has been an outpouring of support from political and women's groups nationwide.