US officials say white supremacists hoped Virginia rally would start civil war
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US officials say white supremacists hoped Virginia rally would start civil war

Federal charges say The Base member Patrik Mathews caught on tape urging killing people, poisoning water supplies, derailing trains; Monday rally ended peacefully

Demonstrators stand outside a security zone before a pro-gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Demonstrators stand outside a security zone before a pro-gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland (AP) — A hidden camera captured members of a violent white supremacist group expressing hope that violence at a gun rights rally in Virginia this week could start a civil war, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday.

Former Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Jordan Mathews also videotaped himself advocating for killing people, poisoning water supplies and derailing trains, a prosecutor wrote in urging a judge in Maryland to keep Mathews and two other members of The Base detained in federal custody.

The Canadian national didn’t know investigators were watching and listening when he and two other group members talked about attending the Richmond rally in the days leading up to Monday’s event, which attracted tens of thousands of people and ended peacefully.

Last month, a camera installed by investigators captured Mathews talking about the Virginia rally as a “boundless” opportunity.

This undated photo provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shows Patrik Mathews, a former Canadian Armed Forces reservist arrested by FBI agents with two other men linked to a violent white supremacist group, The Base, on January 16, 2020. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police via AP)

“And the thing is 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 (expletive) full blown civil war,” he said.

FBI agents arrested Mathews and two others — Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, of Elkton, Maryland; and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, of Denton, Maryland — last Thursday as part of a broader investigation of The Base. Authorities in Georgia and Wisconsin also arrested four other men linked to the group.

Detention hearings for Mathews and Bilbrough are scheduled Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Tens of thousands of gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol on Monday to protest plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation — a move that has become a key flash point in the national debate over gun violence.

The size of the crowd and the expected participation of white supremacists and fringe militia groups raised fears that the state could see a repeat of the violence that exploded in 2017 in Charlottesville. But the rally concluded uneventfully around noon, and the mood was largely festive, with rally-goers chanting “USA!” and waving signs denouncing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

Many protesters chose not to enter the designated rally zone, where Northam had imposed a temporary weapons ban, and instead packed surrounding streets, many dressed in tactical gear and camouflage and carrying military-style rifles as they cheered on the speakers.

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