March 5, 2021

Governor bans weapons at Virginia Capitol ahead of gun rights rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Over two years since violence erupted in Charlottesville, the Governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency ahead of a gun rights rally.

In August 2017, there was deadly unrest in the state of Virginia when white nationalists marched on Charlottesville. It seems like just yesterday, as it was burned into the nation’s psyche when Heather Heyer was killed by a white nationalist. Two state troopers died, and dozens were injured in the clash between neo-nazis and counterprotesters.

The Governor at the time, Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, and the Virginia National Guard arrived on the scene. Now more than two years later, Virginia is in a state of emergency once more.

This time, Governor Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, is taking action before its too late, declaring a temporary state of emergency and declaring a weapons ban in the state Capitol of Richmond at Capitol Square. No weapons of any kind will be allowed at the Capitol from Friday, January 17, at 5 pm through Tuesday, January 21.

The Governor announced, “credible threats,” including storming the Capitol building and flying weaponized drones above it. A day before, the state’s Democratic leaders banned guns inside the Capitol and a legislative office building.

“Let me be clear,” Northam said. “These are considered credible threats by law enforcement agencies.”

“No weapons will be allowed on capitol grounds,” the Governor continued. “This includes everything from sticks and bats to chains and projectiles.”

The Governor said there appeared to be “surveillance operations” on the Capitol Square.

“There have been individuals who have been on Capitol Square that had surveillance operations looking at our entry and exits points,” the Governor told reporters.

Virginia State Police Chief Gary Settle said that one person had shared a picture of an AR-15 with the comment that there are “great sight angles from certain buildings” near Capitol Square.

The gun-rights rally is scheduled to take place on the Capitol grounds on Monday, the 20th, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The rally has been dubbed, “Lobby Day.”

The anti-gun control group, Virginia Citizens Defense League, which organized the rally, say that as many as 100,000 people could arrive to protest proposed gun control legislation, however moderate those reforms may be.

Vice reported that the event’s Facebook page shows comments from people who say they refuse to abide by a weapons ban.

Since Democrats took back the state legislature for the first time in 20 years, Virginia has become a “flashpoint for national right-wing and white nationalist groups,” reports GQ.

“Armed militia groups are also reportedly planning to attend, including anti-government groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Since 9/11, right-wing violence has accounted for the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the U.S,” reported GQ.

The Governor says he hopes to avoid violence like that which erupted in Charlottesville.

“Please know that we have been preparing extensively to protect public safety at Monday’s rally. But no one wants another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville in 2017,” Northam said.

Northam thanked the NRA for its recent peaceful annual Lobby Day event earlier in the week. He hopes the demonstration on Monday will be similarly peaceful.

“Hundreds of Virginians participated, and the day passed without incident,” said Northam. “That is what peaceful events look like. I thank the NRA for hosting a peaceful event. Now I call on the Virginia Citizens Defense League and its members to follow the NRA’s example.”

On Thursday, the New York Times reported, “the F.B.I. has arrested three men suspected of being members of a neo-Nazi hate group, including a former reservist in the Canadian Army, who had weapons and discussed traveling to a pro-gun rally next week in Richmond, Va., in anticipation of a possible race war.”

Northern Virginia Bureau chief for NBC, Julie Carey, tweeted that GOP leadership is asking the Governor for a secure briefing on the threats while gun groups plan to challenge the executive order in court.

See Governor Northam on the state of emergency below:

Featured image: Richmond Capitol building via Wikimedia Commons

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