American Life & Liberty, a political action committee, is hosting a “For the love of country” gathering at Crockett Park in Midland on Saturday, Feb. 29. It is being billed as a “constitutional rally.”
Gates will open at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m.; speakers are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All are invited, according to a news release from the PAC, and Fauquier County residents will be admitted free.
Organizers Chris and Debbie Cloud, of Marshall, said that Saturday’s rally is not just about gun rights. “2A is definitely a motivating factor … one of the major concerns,” said Chris Cloud.
His wife, Debbie Cloud, added that “people believe that guns protect your rights. … When people take guns, they take other protections as well.”
American Life & Liberty is a political action committee, incorporated last month by the Clouds. Fifteen individual donors, including two businesses, have donated to the PAC so far, said Debbie Cloud, along with additional in-kind donations.
The couple said that the push in late 2019 for a “second amendment sanctuary” resolution in Fauquier County was the immediate impetus for forming a PAC. They added, however, that the purpose of their organization and Saturday’s rally is “nowhere near exclusively” to promote gun rights.
Chris Cloud said that “we’ve been wanting to do something for a long time,” and that the December Board of Supervisors meeting, at which the board passed a resolution supporting the second amendment, “got us to start meeting with people.” Saturday’s event, he continued, is “hopefully the first of many outreaches.”
The rally, said Debbie Cloud, is more broadly a response to “the release of all these bills that have been so upsetting” in the current session of the Virginia General Assembly. “A lot of the legislation is concerning a lot of people right now.”
Saturday’s event, she said, will be an opportunity for attendees to “be aware and educated about what’s going on.” She added that she hopes the gathering will “get rid of any hyperbole and misinformation” surrounding the legislative session.
Chris Cloud said that some of the issues the couple are concerned about are proposed changes to the zoning authority for counties; same-day voter registration; changes to voter identification laws and redistricting. Regarding redistricting, he said, “the 50-cent word for that would be gerrymandering.”
Another issue of concern to them, said Debbie Cloud, are proposals that she said would give transgender children special protection in public schools. The couple advocates for “protection of all groups, not just transgender children,” she said.
Chris Cloud elaborated, “it’s not that we’re against any of that – hang on a minute – that should be a blanket protection.”
Debbie Cloud said that bullying and the community response to children’s experience of trauma are especially important to her. She said they have met with several lawmakers about ways to better “identify kids that are being traumatized one way or another.” She added that they formed an organization called Family Alliance Network to “deal with this crisis.”
The vast majority of the speakers at Saturday’s rally are openly associated with the Republican Party or conservative causes, but the Clouds said they invited public figures who do not share their political views to speak at the event. Few responded, they said.
Despite the conservative bent of the speakers, Chris Cloud said that “even our very, very liberal friends are intrigued and are looking forward to coming … We try to reach across the aisle – engagement is the objective.”
“We expect it to be just as peaceful as [the Jan. 20, 2020, gun rights rally in] Richmond,” said Debbie Cloud. “These are all good, loving Americans who just want to make sure their rights are protected.”
The rally will also include vendors, food and music. A flyer for the event reads, “No hate or violent protesting allowed.”
Jimmy Lyon, superintendent of Fauquier County Parks and Recreation, said that American Life & Liberty purchased a vendor permit and a special event permit, which is required for events of more than 75 people. Lyon said that the group estimated that the rally may attract 1,000 visitors to the Midland park.
American Life & Liberty also obtained an equipment permit because it will be bringing a generator and sound system and will be building a small platform for speakers. The group is providing portable toilets, since the park’s permanent facilities are “winterized,” said Lyon. Overflow traffic, if any, will be directed to a commuter lot on Va. 28 (Catlett Road); a shuttle bus will be available, said Lyon.
Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ray Prudhum said that the sheriff’s office is aware of the rally, but is not expecting an impact on traffic in the area.
Reach Coy Ferrell at firstname.lastname@example.org