‘Turn around right now and go home’: Virginia Capitol locked down ahead of Inauguration, Lobby Day

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam went on the offensive at a press conference Thursday as he discussed threats of violence at state Capitol Buildings across the country.

Security is ramping up significantly around the Virginia State Capitol after the FBI said all 50 state Capitol buildings could be sites of armed protest leading up to Inauguration Day.

“If you’re planning to come here or up to Washington with ill intent you need to turn around and go home. You are not welcome here and you are not welcome there,” Northam said.

However, Northam added if they do come Virginia will be ready.

Northam said they have sent Virginia National Guard members and police officers to D.C. However, he added both would be available for Richmond as well.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the city has been preparing for Lobby Day for weeks, long before the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week. Stoney said while everyone has a right to be heard, everyone also has a right to be safe and unthreatened.

“Violence and the insurrectionist activities we saw at our nation’s capitol will not be tolerated in Virginia’s Capitol,” Stoney said.

Stoney said last year’s Lobby Day came and went peacefully, and expects it to go the same way this year. However, the mayor said a lot has changed this year and expects people to obey the new laws, including not brining fire arms to government buildings or gatherings.

Signs prohibiting firearms posted by Richmond Police near Capitol Square ahead of possible demonstrations.
(Photo: 8News Digital Reporter Tyler Thrasher)

Signage is already up, reminding people of the city’s gun ban in city buildings or in public spaces.

“We all have a right to be heard, but we all have a right to be safe and free from fear and intimidation,” Stoney said.

He also reminded citizens that road closures would be in effect this weekend and to avoid downtown.

A state official said Capitol Square has been closed until Jan. 21, in anticipation of possible unrest. Even so, security fencing is being put around the square along with other additional security precautions.

“We are taking the necessary measures to protect the people and property of our commonwealth,” he said.

It’s unknown what specific details of any possible threats may be pointed at Richmond. Still, Northam had a message for anyone looking for trouble.

“You’re not welcome here and you’re not welcome in our nation’s capital. And if you come here and act out, Virginia will be ready.”

Virginia Capitol Square grounds closed ahead of Inauguration Day. (Photos: 8News Digital Reporter Tyler Thrasher)

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