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FBI arrests three suspected neo-Nazis who planned to protest Virginia gun control proposals

The FBI on Thursday arrested three suspected neo-Nazis who had planned to travel with firearms to Richmond, Va., to participate in a protest against gun control measures proposed by the state legislature’s newly-seated Democratic majority.

Federal officials took the three men into custody in connection with a probe into the white supremacist group The Base, charging them with several federal crimes in Maryland, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announced.

Officials said one of the three, Patrik Mathews, a former soldier in the Canadian army, entered the U.S. illegally. Mathews, a trained combat engineer, was discharged from the Canadian military after his white supremacist ties came to light, The New York Times reported.

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The others charged include Brian Mark Lemley of Elkton, Md., and Newark, Del., and William Garfield Bilbrough IV of Denton, Md., according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

The complaint accuses Lemley and Mathews of transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony and it charges Lemley and Bilbrough with allegedly transporting and harboring aliens and conspiring to do so.

The affidavit states that Lemley and Mathews bought about 1,650 rounds of 5.56mm and 6.5mm ammunition and later retrieved some of the ammunition as well as plate carriers to support body armor.

The white supremacist organization has been an increasing concern for federal investigators, who have linked its membership to active plans of racially motivated violence. Investigators arrested a New Jersey man in November for allegedly recruiting for the group and advocating for the killing of African Americans.

The gun control legislation being considered in Virginia’s capital and opposed by pro-gun rights organizations has already led Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to declare a state of emergency this week, with the governor’s office saying authorities have identified credible violent threats from out-of-state militant groups that echo the lead-up to the deadly 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Northam has also temporarily banned weapons from the state Capitol grounds ahead of Jan. 20, the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

The Hill has reached out to the FBI for comment.

Updated: 12:49 p.m.