Richmond under another state of emergency as law enforcement gears up for potential unrest

Capitol Connection

Virginia State Capitol (Photo taken by 8News’ Dean Mirshahi)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The river city is under another local state of emergency as law enforcement officials remain on high alert ahead of this year’s lobby day and presidential inauguration.

On Tuesday afternoon, the “Unified Command” released a statement regarding the days ahead. The joint group is made of Virginia State Police, Richmond Police, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and more.

“Any violation of law, non-peaceful demonstration, or attempts to intimidate fellow Virginians will not be tolerated. Those who engage in such behavior will be held accountable,” the statement read. “Through advance planning and multi-agency cooperation, the Unified Command is prepared and has the resources to protect those who live, work, and visit Richmond during the 2021 legislative session,” it said.

“Last week’s attack on the United States Capitol and recent credible threats of violence concerning capital cities in states nationwide underscore the importance of being prepared and vigilant to ensure public safety across the Virginia capital region,” the statement read.

This comes after an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building and threats of violence against all 50 state capitals, attributed to an internal memo at the FBI. This is the city of Richmond’s third local state of emergency in just months. It’s still currently under a separate state of emergency to deal with COVID-19.

“Stay at home, don’t come in to the city of Richmond,” City Councilman Mike Jones told 8News Tuesday. The resolution was approved by the city council on Monday night. It cites what happened at the capital last week, lobby day coming up on the 18th, and the presidential inauguration two days later.

“It’s precautionary. I’s better to be safe than sorry,” Jones said. He explained that the local declaration frees up any state and federal funds to respond if something were to happen. “With 2A Day and things of that nature, we could potentially have thousands of people here for that. Something else could happen and I want to make sure that police is in position, that fire is in position,” he said.

Lobby Day has been viewed as a peaceful gathering in years past. Last year, thousands of second amendment advocates gather to push back against any new gun control measures, calling it “2A Day.”

This year, despite other groups lobbying virtually, the Virginia Citizens Defense League will lead a caravan of gun rights advocates instead.

“We can not be shut up every time someone might make a threat,” said VCDL President Philip Van Cleave.

Van Cleave said VCDL’s permit request to be on capitol grounds was denied. 8News later learned that all permit requests were denied by the Department of General Services. DGS said law enforcement typically used for the events were instead committed to keeping the city safe.

Van Cleave said he’s calling for another peaceful demonstration this year. However, he said he can’t control what people end up doing.

“What they do if they get out of the car, that’s up to them. If they want to walk around, carry signs, whatever, we have no control over that,” Van Cleave said.

He added that VCDL does not condone lawlessness. “What happened up on the 6th, laws were broken and people were held accountable. That’s the way the system is supposed to work,” he said.

The Department of General Services also told 8News capitol square will be closed in the coming days as they secure the grounds. DGS said additional fencing will be put up as additional security measures are discussed.

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