Virginia Governor Declares State of Emergency and Bans Guns and Weapons From Capitol Grounds for Major Gun Rights Demonstration
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and banned firearms and other weapons from the Capitol grounds on Wednesday, ahead of the gun rally protests scheduled for January 20th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Northam explained his decision was based on “credible intelligence” from “mainstream channels, both offline and online, such as alternative dark web channels used by violent groups and white nationalists from outside Virginia.”
“This includes out of state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence,” said Northam. “They’re not coming to peacefully protest. They’re coming to intimidate and cause harm.”
Northam noted the “violent rhetoric” is similar to what was seen before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 that resulted in one death and dozens injured.
“No one wants another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville. We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here,” said Northam.
Virgina Citizens Defense League, the sponsor of the Lobby Day Rally, is expecting 100,000 people to attend, some from other states, for a peaceful protest in opposition of the gun control bills passed by Virginia Democrats.
“I believe them when they say this is a peaceful event. That’s what democracy is,” Northam stated. “Unfortunately, they have unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control.”
Firearms, and “everything from sticks and bats to chains and projectiles” are prohibited on the Capital grounds. The state of emergency would be lifted after the rally.
Based on these threats, I am declaring a state of emergency in Richmond from Friday evening until Tuesday evening. This will include a ban on weapons of any kind in Capitol Square during that time. Learn more here: https://t.co/k8bxLj6odF— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) January 15, 2020
“Credible intelligence gathered by Virginia’s law enforcement agencies indicates that tens of thousands of advocates plan to converge on Capitol Square for events culminating on January 20, 2020. Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection. Assuring that Virginia’s Capitol Square and surrounding public areas are sheltered safe places for those who come to participate in the democratic process, as well as those who work on or near Capitol Square, is my greatest priority.
The anticipated effects of the potential convergence of tens of thousands of demonstrators on Capitol Square, some of whom may not come to assemble peacefully, constitutes an emergency as described in § 44-146.16 of the Code of Virginia (Code).
Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution of Virginia, by §§ 2.2-103 and 44-146.13 et seq. of the Code, as Governor and Director of Emergency Management and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth’s armed forces, I proclaim that a state of emergency will exist starting on January 17, 2020 through January 21, 2020. Accordingly, I direct state and local governments to render appropriate assistance to prepare for this event, to alleviate any conditions resulting from the situation, and to implement recovery and mitigation operations and activities so as to return impacted areas to pre-event conditions as much as possible. Emergency services shall be conducted in accordance with § 44-146.13 et seq. of the Code,” reads the Executive Order.
The event organizers were told by Northam to “disavow anyone who wishes to use Monday’s rally to advance a violent agenda.”