Virginia declares state of emergency due to threats ahead of gun control rally

Jan. 15 (UPI) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Wednesday due to threats of violence during a gun control rally in the state early next week.

Northam’s declaration prohibits all weapons including firearms, sticks, bats, chains and projectiles from Capitol grounds from 5 p.m. on Friday until 5 p.m. on Tuesday after receiving a tip about potential violence during Monday’s Lobby Day against gun control legislation.

“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,” Northam’s office said.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Northam said law enforcement analysts found discussions online and other venues that were similar to those observed ahead of the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in the state during which three people died and 30 more were injured.

“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,” he said. “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here.”

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, or VDCL, plans to hold a rally to bring attention to what it describes as the “Second Amendment Sanctuary” movement in the state.

VDCL President Philip Van Cleave on Wednesday said he doesn’t believe Northam has the right to ban weapons.

Northam said he respects the right of VDCL and other groups to protest gun control legislation in the state but called on them to keep the demonstrations peaceful.

“I call on them to disavow anyone who wishes to use Monday’s rally to advance a violent agenda,” said Northam. “HAte, intimidation and violence have no place here.”