Virginia governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Wednesday afternoon, citing the potential for violence at an upcoming pro-gun rally at the state capitol. On Twitter, the governor wrote:
We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies of threats of violence surrounding the demonstration planned for Monday, January 20. This includes extremist rhetoric similar to what has been seen before major incidents, such as Charlottesville in 2017. This intelligence suggests militia groups and hate groups, some from out of state, plan to come to the Capitol to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.
In addition to warning residents to avoid Richmond that day, Northam has also declared that no weapons of any kind will be allowed at the capitol from Friday, January 17 at 5 PM through Tuesday, January 21 at 5 PM.
The rally in question, dubbed "Lobby Day," is being organized for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, by the anti-gun control Virginia Citizens Defense League in response to new legislation introduced by state Democrats. This comes after Democrats took back Virginia's state legislature for the first time in 20 years, and the specter of even modest reforms have turned Virginia into a flashpoint for national right-wing and white-nationalist groups.
At a press conference, Northam made it clear that he wasn't accusing the organizers of planning violence themselves, saying, "I believe them when they say this is a peaceful event—that’s what democracy is. Unfortunately, they have unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control."
According to Vice, 5,000 people have said on the event's Facebook page that they plant to attend, and some have commented that they don't plan to abide by the weapons ban. Organizers have told the state to expect as many as 100,000 people, and their website says that 60 buses have been arranged to provide transportation. 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.
As part of the state of emergency, Northam also ordered a unified command of both local and state police as well as emergency services. In 2017, an independent review faulted police for a lack of coordination and planning before and during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, some 70 miles from Richmond. The breakdown in communication and delays in declaring the rally an unlawful assembly led to a failure to protect the public—and the murder of counter-protester Heather Heyer.
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Originally Appeared on GQ