Three alleged neo-Nazis arrested by the FBI last week planned to commit acts of violence at Monday’s pro-gun rally in Virginia, according to court documents.
Federal prosecutors filed a motion Tuesday attempting to detain Brian Lemley Jr., Patrik Mathews and William Bilbrough IV as threats to public safety pending the outcome of their case. The men discussed showing up to the Jan. 20 pro-gun rally in Virginia to carry out violence with the hope of starting a race war, according to court documents.
The FBI arrested the three suspected neo-Nazis on Jan. 16 in Maryland and Delaware following the bureau’s investigation into The Base, a violent neo-Nazi organization the men belong to that describes itself as an “international survivalist and self-defense network” preparing for a civil war. Prosecutors said The Base recruits members online to meet to discuss strategy and train at paramilitary camps.
A court order last month allowed FBI investigators to plant a house Lemley rented in Delaware with microphones and cameras, according to prosecutors.
According to court documents, Lemley was recorded discussing the Richmond rally on Dec. 23, saying the “opportunity is boundless” and asserting that “you’ve got tons of guys who are just, in theory, should be radicalized enough to know that all you gotta do is start making things go wrong, and if Virginia can spiral out to a fucking full-blown civil war.”
Lemley also allegedly mentioned attacking civilians and police using a thermal imaging scope on his rifle, saying: “We could essentially be, like, literally hunting people.”
On Dec. 28, Lemley and Mathews discussed Bilbrough wanting to kill people with a machine gun and compared the approaching rally in Richmond to the violent 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a white supremacist drove a car into a group of counterprotesters.
“We can’t let Virginia go to waste,” said Mathews, who is a former Canadian Armed Forces reservist. “You know what, Virginia will be our day.”
Lemley and Mathews also talked about blocking highways, throwing fireworks into rally crowds and sniping at attendees trying to run away from the chaos that would ensue. They also made violent comments about Jewish and Black people, according to court documents.
Lemley said on Jan. 3 that the men should find a campground that was ideally a few counties away and practice at a shooting range the weekend before the rally. When Mathews asked whether they should load their truck for Virginia like they were going to carry out “operations,” Lemley replied, “Yeah, we’re loading the truck for the war.”
Lemley, Mathews and Bilbrough face a series of firearm and immigration-related charges and are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. The day after their arrest, three more suspected members of The Base were apprehended in Georgia. The next day, a seventh alleged neo-Nazi associated with The Base was arrested in Wisconsin.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a temporary state of emergency on Jan. 15, banning all guns from the state Capitol grounds amid threats of violence from the far-right ahead of the rally.
“We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies of threats of violence surrounding the demonstration planned for Monday, January 20. This includes extremist rhetoric similar to what has been seen before major incidents, such as Charlottesville in 2017,” Northam tweeted.
The rally drew tens of thousands of pro-gun protesters, including extremist factions from all corners of the country. While no physical violence ensued, the rally attracted armed members of far-right militants, conspiracy theorists and extremist organizations like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
The pro-gun rally has occurred for almost two decades on what’s considered Lobby Day, but it drew an especially large and dangerous crowd this year due to plans to pass gun control bills in Virginia’s now Democrat-controlled legislature.
Read the court documents below.
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