Virginia declares state of emergency after police detect threats from white supremacists ahead of MLK Day march

Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in the state capital of Richmond in advance of a scheduled pro-gun rights rally on next Monday after “Law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend,” according to a report by WCYB News.

After Northam’s emergency decree takes effect beginning this Friday afternoon, the organizers of the gun rights demonstration — as well as anyone else not belonging to law enforcement organizations — will be barred from bringing any type of weapon onto the grounds of Capitol Square where the rally is planned on taking place.

The governor was careful in the preface of his emergency declaration to explain the reasons he decided to impose the ban.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia is a welcoming state. Virginians understand that diversity of opinion keeps our democracy strong. The more voices involved in our political dialogue, the stronger we are. Civil discourse, even and especially, amongst those who disagree, is critical to our democracy’s evolution and success. When the civility of that political discourse breaks down, the Commonwealth suffers. Three years ago, Virginia and the nation, watched horrified as civil protest was marred by violence and hate. The events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrated what can happen when peaceful demonstrations are hijacked by those who come into the Commonwealth and do not value the importance of peaceful assembly. We lost three Virginians. We must take all precautions to prevent that from ever happening again,” Northam wrote.

“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 weapons ban will end the day after the rally, Tuesday, January 21 at 5 p.m.

Virginians — and the rest of the nation’s advocates for non-violent solutions to political differences — should be grateful for the Virginia Governor’s actions to prevent a repeat of the types of unrestrained right-wing hostilities that marred the Charlottesville protests and counterprotests in the past.

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Original reporting by WCYB News.

Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.