The FBI has reportedly arrested three men presumed of belonging to a neo-Nazi hate group ahead of a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, next week where militia groups, gun hardliners and far-right activists are set to converge.
Their arrests occur in anticipation of the groups traveling to the capitol for a Jan. 20 rally organized by an anti-gun control group called the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Organizers picked Jan. 20 to coincide with an annual event, called Lobby Day, at Virginia’s state capitol during which citizens make use of the Martin Luther King Day federal holiday to engage with state legislators and promote issues of importance to them.
According to a New York Times report, the men were taken into custody Thursday morning as part of an investigation into the group known as The Base. Law enforcement officials familiar with the case told the Times that the men were charged with various federal crimes in Maryland and are scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday afternoon.
The officials told the Times that the main recruiter for the group, Patrik Mathews, illegally came to the U.S. from Canada and was dismissed from the Canadian Army after his connections to white supremacists were discovered.
The Counter Extremism Project, which tracks far-right extremists, lists The Base as an “accelerationist group that encourages the onset on anarchy.” The FBI has grown more concerned with the group’s presence as it has focused on recruitment efforts.
On Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) announced that he was declaring a state of emergency in order to ban weaponry at the upcoming pro-gun rally. In his announcement, Northam also cited “credible intelligence” from law enforcement that groups, which include out-of-state militias and hate groups, had “malicious plans” for Monday’s rally.