Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency in preparation for expected demonstrations on Capitol Square on Monday, January 20. Law enforcement analysts have identified potential threats of violence near the event coupled with white nationalist rhetoric and reported plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.
"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," begins the executive order from Governor Northam.
Northam’s declaration will ban all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds.
The emergency declaration is temporary and is effective between Friday, January 17 at 5:00 PM and Tuesday, January 21 at 5:00 PM.
"When the civility of that political discourse breaks down, the Commonwealth suffers," the announcement further read. "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."
Northam’s apprehension and preparedness are owing to the notorious Unite the Right rally of 2017 when hundreds of self-identified neo-Nazis, klansmen, white nationalists and the extreme alt-right descended upon the college town and wreaked havoc. Three people were left dead and 35 injured in the rally's wake.
It was organized by a “pro-white” activist in retaliation for the city’s removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue from a park in Charlottesville, reported Vox.
Thirty-two-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer was killed when a car plowed into a group of pedestrians and counter-protesters, as Blavity previously reported. The driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr., intended to kill more people and was sentenced to life in prison, according to NBC News.
After the violence erupted, a police helicopter crashed, killing two Virginia State troopers. Police said the helicopter was assisting law enforcement officers monitoring the rally.
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency before noon on August 12, the day the rally was officially intended to start. But by then the violence had gotten out of control, reaching its peak at 1:42 p.m, according to ABC News.
McAuliffe called a press conference and relayed a message to the white nationalist protesters: "Go home."
"You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot," he added.
Many criticized government and police tactics during the melee, with McAuliffe defending himself by saying protesters had “better equipment than the police.”
“And yet not a shot was fired, zero property damage,” McAuliffe said.
Apparently, he did not consider the mangled bodies and loss of life as damage.
President Donald Trump also received wide-scale backlash for his response to the national crisis.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” the president said.
“You had some very bad people in that group," Trump said, referring to the white nationalist groups rallying against removal of a Confederate statue. "But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”