RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Law enforcement agencies across Virginia are preparing for potential protest and unrest in the coming days, which includes downtown Richmond, home to the Virginia Statehouse.
“Virginia’s state and local law enforcement agencies will work together to protect Virginia’s State Capitol from any acts of violence. They also will continue to support safety efforts in our nation’s capital. Please assist our safety efforts by staying home and by reporting any suspicious activity to law enforcement,” said Dana Schrad, Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director.
The Virginia General Assembly is set to gavel in Wednesday at noon, drawing some lawmakers back to the Richmond area. Top House and Senate lawmakers received a threat assessment Tuesday evening.
“We’re going to be prepared. We’ve had this happen before,” said Governor Ralph Northam, (D) Virginia.
Northam was in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to thank the Virginia National Guard for helping secure the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.
Virginia law enforcement is on high alert in the coming days due to an FBI warning about protests in all capitals across the country. The planned events starting Jan. 16 are making the rounds on social media. But police are unclear about how many people could descend on downtown.
“The violence, the destruction that we saw that escalated is just beyond the pale and we certainly don’t want anything like that to happen again,” said Delegate Todd Gilbert, (R) 15th District.
Virginia law enforcement will be stretched from Richmond to Washington, where hundreds of national guardsmen remain on duty through the inauguration.
“Our national guardsmen and women will be prepared and they will have the equipment that they need,” said Northam.
Virginia’s Capitol complex is no stranger to large demonstrations. Over the summer, Northam called in the Virginia National Guard to keep large groups of protesters out. Last January, law enforcement dealt with about 22,000 who flooded the streets in and around the statehouse for a gun-rights rally.
Lawmakers are hopeful for a peaceful start to the session.
“I think everybody needs to take a deep breath and really ratchet down the rhetoric right now,” said Del. Gilbert.
Statement from the Joint Information Center issued January 12, 2021:
On Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly will convene for its annual legislative session. A Unified Command has been established, again this year, for the opening of the legislative session and stands ready to protect legislators, City of Richmond residents and businesses, and visitors. The Unified Command includes the Division of Capitol Police, Richmond Police Department, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Emergency Management and others.
The legislative process is open to all citizens virtually and in-person, in accordance with state COVID-19 guidelines and permit regulations. 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.
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. 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.
Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.