Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, January 15, ahead of an upcoming rally in Richmond organized by gun rights activists. The demonstration is being hosted by the Virginia Citizens Defense League and is scheduled to begin at 08:00 (local time) outside of the state capitol building on Monday, January 20. According to Governor Northam, law enforcement agencies have received credible intelligence indicating that out-of-state militias and hate groups are planning to attend the event to “intimidate and to cause harm.” Northam said that the order is necessary to protect public safety due to the potential of violence from the out-of-state groups.
Under the state of emergency, all firearms and other weapons, as well as shields and helmets, will be banned from capitol grounds from Friday, January 17, through Tuesday, January 21. Roads around the capitol building will be closed and access to the area limited by security checkpoints with metal detectors. Thousands of people are expected to attend the rally to oppose efforts in the state legislature to pass gun control bills supported by Northam.
A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are anticipated around the capitol building and rally site on January 20. Counterprotests are also possible in the area.
In August 2017, one protester was killed and several wounded during a far-right march in Charlottesville. According to Northam, police have observed similar threats and rhetoric ahead of the January 20 rally that were picked up prior to the Charlottesville march.
Individuals in Richmond, and Virginia more generally, are advised to keep abreast of the situation, avoid all public demonstrations as a precaution, anticipate a heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions, and obey all instructions issued by the local authorities.