Despite the presence of numerous armed men who were covering their faces, the only person arrested near Monday’s pro-gun rally was a 21-year-old Richmond woman who police said refused repeated instructions to take a bandanna off her face.
Police said Mikaela E. Beschler was arrested around 1:30 p.m. in the 800 block of East Broad Street near Capitol Square, where thousands of gun-rights activists had gathered. Law enforcement initially said no arrests had been made, then issued a statement saying Beschler had been arrested by an officer “who was working Lobby Day.” The police statement said the officer had given Beschler two warnings to uncover her face.
On a frigid day, many attendees at the rally were wearing some type of face covering, but police didn’t appear to be actively enforcing a state law banning wearing masks in public. It wasn’t immediately clear why Beschler was charged with a felony for allegedly violating the law. Several police officers working the rally were wearing face coverings to keep warm.
Richmond police did not immediately respond to questions Monday evening, nor did the joint public information office set up for the rally.
In response to several questions, a Richmond Police spokesman, Gene Lepley. said the department would not add to “the narrative regarding the arrest.”
A roughly six-minute video uploaded to Instagram by an account matching Beschler’s name appears to show some of her interaction with police. In that video, Richmond police officers tell Beschler to remove her bandanna, noting she’d already been asked once.
Beschler told the officers she was trying to keep her face warm.
A man with her then appears to mock the police for focusing on Beschler’s bandanna in light of the rally happening nearby.
“Way to keep our city safe guys while there’s fuckin’ Nazis and terrorists around here,” the man says. “Way to fuckin’ keep our city safe. We’re from Richmond.”
In a brief phone interview Monday night, Beschler said she only went to the rally area to check it out and didn’t intend to cause any trouble.
“I was just trying to keep my face warm,” she said. “That’s all it was.”