UPDATE: Gun rights and 'General Assembly' protests scheduled for Wednesday

The "GMU General Assembly" will be holding a protest in the North Plaza area, outside of the Johnson Center, on Wednesday. (Jake McLernon)

UPDATE: Name of demonstration clarified

There are two protests scheduled to take place on the Fairfax campus Wednesday. The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) will be protesting the university’s weapons policy and the "GMU General Assembly" n will be protesting perceived social and economic injustices.

The VCDL protest is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Quad area between Fenwick Library and Student Union Building I. The GMU General Assembly's demonstration will take place in the North Plaza area, outside of the Johnson Center, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

The timing of the two protests is expected to overlap in the early afternoon and the protests will also be in close proximity to one another, separated only by the Robinson A and B buildings.

According to a message posted on the George Mason University Public Relations Facebook page, the protests will be monitored by Mason Police to make sure the demonstrations remain peaceful and behavior is not disruptive to members of the Mason community. 

President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League Philip Van Cleave posted a reponse to the same Public Relations message on the Mason Gazette website.

"We are certainly happy to have the Mason PD monitor our protest (I called the PD last week as a courtesy just to let them know we were coming), however the chances of our group being “disruptive, threatening, or not peaceful” is pretty much zero. I can’t say the same for some of the anti-gun protesters based on my experiences with them in the past… So, a watchful PD on the lookout for trouble from that quarter is a good idea," wrote Van Cleave.

Van Cleave said he has no reason to believe the concurrent protests will create an issue.

“They’ve got their reason [for protesting], we’ve got ours.” Said Van Cleave. “They are two unrelated issues so it doesn’t impact what we’re doing.”

George Mason University prohibits the possession or carrying of firearms within any university buildings, or while attending any entertainment or sporting events, but Van Cleave said protestors may carry concealed or openly carry firearms during the outdoor protest since they are legally allowed to do so.

“We leave it up to the volunteers [to carry guns],” said Van Cleave. “But it’s legal.”

At a recent protest at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, Van Cleave said several protestors did carry their guns with them and it did not create any problems.

“No one seemed to pay a lot of attention to that,” said Van Cleave.

Protestors with VCDL will also be carrying signs and passing out brochures advertising the slogan, “No guns? No funds!”

According to Van Cleave, the message the group is hoping to get across is that students and alumni should refuse to give financially to George Mason University or any college or university which “prohibits law abiding citizens from owning and carrying guns.”

“Right now in Virginia, universities are under no obligation to protect individuals, but they’re also not letting you protect yourself,” said Van Cleave. “Such policies are dangerous to everybody.”

Van Cleave mentioned Blue Ridge Community College as an example of a Virginia institution which has no gun ban and, according to Van Cleave, hasn’t experienced any problems.

Separately, Jason von Kundra is one of 19 individuals who signed an open invitatation to participate in what a group is calling a "General Assembly," where Mason students, faculty and staff will be able to voice concern about issues facing the Mason community and to “move forward in creating positive change."

"We expect to have a conversation in the format of a public forum where the students, faculty, staff, and all workers can discuss issues that affect our community and issues in general,” said von Kundra.

Von Kundra said police involvement gives him confidence the protests will occur peacefully.

“The police are well aware of safety concerns [with the VCDL] and are working with student organizers and prioritizing student safety," said von Kundra. "I have full confidence that both events will remain non-violent."

According to an email sent to C2M, one of the issues the group is hoping to address is perceived racial and gender preferences that exist for high-ranking administrative positions within the university.

“Discrepancies at Mason are something that needs to be addressed,” said Von Kundra. “Of the 42 top positions at the university, 98 percent are held by whites and 64 percent are held by men. That's unacceptable."

The group follows the Occupy Wall Street movement in its criticism of the top 1 percent most wealthy and privileged individuals. The message compares the annual earnings of President Merten ($633,631) and the top 0.1 percent of the Mason community, with the starting salary of Mason dining workers (2.79 percent of President Merten’s salary).

Another topic the group will look to discuss is the perceived lack of community involvement in the presidential search process to replace President Alan Merten, set to retire in June.

“Would it be possible to establish shared governance in which all stakeholders – students, faculty, and staff – can participate in decision making rather than concentrating power in the hands of the 0.1%?” asks the group in the email message.

C2M General Assignment Reporter Ethan Vaughan contributed to this story.


UPDATE: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 10:49 a.m.

Major George Ginovsky of the Mason Police Department said there will be "extra officers" working on campus during the protests Wednesday.

"There will be extra officers working at the site of the protests," said Ginovsky.

Ginovsky also said he has spoken with members of both protesting groups and doesn't expect there will be any problems.

"We don't expect any problems," Ginovsky said.

Ginovsky said he had asked George Mason University Public Relations to release a statement about the protests, which was the message posted on Facebook Monday morning.

Since there is a possibility the gun rights groups will be carrying weapons, Ginovsky said he wanted to make sure the people knew the individuals were a part of the protest and not a threat to the university community.

"I asked Media Relations [to post the statement] so people would know about the protests and not assume they were posing a threat to the campus," said Ginovsky.


UPDATE: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 1:33 p.m.

Original reports calling the demonstration by the GMU General Assembly an "Occupy George Mason" were inaccurate, according to the the group organizing the protest

The piece has been updated for clarity in language. 


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