Virginia bracing for potentially violent protests on 2 fronts
RICHMOND, Va. - A little over one week ago, Virginia deployed State Police and National Guard members to D.C. after a mob of pro-Trump supporters wreaked havoc in the U.S. Capitol.
Since then, the state’s National Guard commitment to the nation’s capital has swelled to 2,000 ahead of Inauguration Day. They’ve joined thousands of National Guard members hailing from Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in anticipation of move violence from protesters challenging the validity of the 2020 election.
"We want to make sure there’s a safe transition of power – a peaceful transition - that’s what our democracy is all about," said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. "Just what we watch a week ago was just despicable – to see fellow Americans – terrorists – attacking the nation’s capital."
However, after the FBI warned that right-wing activists are planning violent demonstrations in 50 capitals in 50 states ahead of President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Commonwealth is also moving to secure Richmond.
READ MORE: FBI bulletin warns of nationwide armed protests leading up to Biden's inauguration
"We also have threats here to our capital city in Virginia, so we’ve made sure to protect and get ready for that and, as I’ve told folks, I don’t mind if people peaceful protest, that’s what the first amendment is all about, but if people are looking to come to Richmond for trouble, we’re going to be prepared for it," the governor said.
A federal official told the Associated Press that one FBI bulletin said, "Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January."
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Northam doesn’t have to look far back into Virginia’s history for an example of armed protesters gathering in Richmond.
In January 2020, second-amendment protesters surged into Richmond, some of them vowing to take over the capital.
"We dealt with this back in January, and we made it clear that we were not going to allow people on the capital square – you remember what they said? That they were going to overtake our capital last year – so we had our police presence here, and the National Guard was here. We’re going to do the same thing this year. And if they modify their plans a bit and are on our highways, we’re prepared for that as well," Northam said.
READ MORE: Thousands of gun-rights activists crowd streets of Richmond
The governor declined to specify what kinds of numbers could be expected in Richmond this weekend, nor did he outline what law enforcement might be planning.
The Biden transition team announced last week that the theme for the inauguration will be "America United," and Northam echoed those sentiments.
"This is a time when this country needs to come together," Northam said. "We’re pleased to have the resources available, but the message that should be out there is, why are we using our resources such as our National Guard to protect from fellow Americans. We’re trying to get through this COVID, our National Guard is being used to do testing and vaccinations and that’s where they need to be right now – not in our nation’s capital and not, certainly, here in Richmond. They should be out in our communities, doing what they’re good at doing."