Virginia governor issues state of emergency ahead of a guns rights rally attracting hate groups, militia
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday said firearms and other weapons will be banned on state Capitol grounds in Richmond ahead of a gun rights rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
A temporary state of emergency is among several security precautions Northam said officials will take effect after law enforcement learned of "threats of violence" surrounding the rally that out-of-state militia groups and hate groups are expected to attend Monday.
"State intelligence analysts have identified threats and violent rhetoric similar to what has been seen before other major events such as Charlottesville," said Northam, referring to the deadly white supremacist rally in that Virginia city.
The threats, which are considered credible by law enforcement, come from mainstream channels and alternative dark web channels used by violent groups and white nationalists from outside of Virginia, the governor said. He added "the conversations are fueled by misinformation and conspiracy theories."
Northam said the state of emergency will be in place from Friday evening to Tuesday evening. The ban includes open and concealed firearms and other weapons like sticks, bats and chains, according to the emergency declaration order.
"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. "We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here."
The state of emergency comes as Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun group, is planning to use the rally in Richmond to bring attention to the "Second Amendment Sanctuary" movement sweeping across the state.
Philip Van Cleave, president of group, told CNN on Wednesday he "doesn't believe the governor has the right to ban weapons."
The group has been going to Lobby Day since 2003 to advocate for gun rights and haven't had any incidents of violence or issues, he said.
Since last year's elections, which brought Democratic control to Virginia's government, counties and cities have passed legally nonbinding resolutions that declare support for local citizens to exercise their right to carry weapons. According to VCDL, 130 counties, cities and towns have so far passed resolutions.
Van Cleave previously told CNN that the effort has been purely "grassroots" and is about protecting the right to gun ownership by "law abiding citizens."
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