An armed gun-rights advocate staged a protest outside Virginia Delegate Mark Levine‘s house in Alexandria on Saturday. Brandon Howard, the chair of the Hopewell, Virginia, Republican committee, posted a video beforehand on Facebook broadcasting Levine’s address and calling him a traitor and a tyrant. Levine tells Washingtonian he was home at the time.
Howard is no stranger to armed protests. He led a group of gun-rights activists on a tour of the Old Town Farmers’ Market last September. In 2018 he protested outside the city of Hopewell’s registrar’s office. He also intends to run for city council in Hopewell, and has made gun giveaways part of his platform.
Levine sponsored a bill that would have banned certain weapons, large capacity magazines, and other military-style gear. The bill passed the state House but did not clear a Senate committee, which this weekend voted to study it until next year. Other gun-control measures in the newly Democratic-controlled legislature have fared better, including a bill that limits handgun purchases to one per month and a “red flag” law.
In a ten-plus-minute, rambling video recorded in a car, Howard likens Levine to the dead “tyrant” on Virginia’s flag and misquotes Patrick Henry‘s famous speech at St. John’s Church as “Give me death or give me liberty.” He says one of his messages to Levine and other Democrats is “We know where you live,” that “we may see bloodshed on our soil,” and that Levine is “a traitor to this nation.” Toward the end of the video he imagines a scenario where Levine tries to confiscate his gun, then says that if he or anyone else tries to do so “I hope you kissed your wife, I hope you kissed your husband, I hope you kissed your children goodbye.”
Howard posted a photo of himself on Facebook in front of Levine’s house holding a Virginia flag, a rifle, and a sign that reads “Withdraw HB961,” the legislation he objects to.
Levine gave a speech on the floor of the House Monday and said he asked Alexandria police to approach Howard to set up a meeting or to encourage him to protest outside his office instead, but that Howard declined the overture. “What’s not appropriate is to come to my house with a loaded gun to coerce me to change my position on a bill,” he said. “That will not work, that will never work with me, and I suggest it will never work on any member of this body.” Levine told VPM he had referred the incident to Alexandria’s commonwealth’s attorney to consider charges. He tells Washingtonian he notified both Alexandria’s police department and the Virginia Division of Capitol Police about Howard’s protest.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson wrote about the incident on Twitter, saying “Intimidation and harassment is not the way we settle ideological differences in this country, in our Commonwealth, and in our City.”
Intimidation and harassment is not the way we settle ideological differences in this country, in our Commonwealth and in our City.
These tactics have no place in our public discourse and do not advance ANY cause.https://t.co/x2ya7he3a2
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) February 18, 2020