Virginia National Guard on standby for potential unrest in Richmond ahead of Biden inauguration

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — The Virginia governor and officials say Virginia National Guard members will not only be assisting in the nation’s capital between now and Inauguration Day. They will also be on standby for possible demonstrations in Richmond.

State capitals around the nation are preparing for unrest this week and next after chaos erupted in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, leaving five people dead including a Capitol Police officer.

About 2,000 members of the Virginia National Guard have already been sent to Washington.

The FBI has warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20. Investigators believe some of the people are members of some extremist groups.

As far as Virginia’s capital, a spokesman for the Virginia National Guard Thursday night said they will have personnel on standby in Richmond and available to respond if requested.

Gov. Ralph Northam also confirmed during a coronavirus briefing Thursday that the National Guard would be available to assist in Richmond, even though the state has already sent about 2,000 personnel to Washington.

“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.

Virginia Capitol Police are also increasing security measures in Richmond.

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.

The City of Richmond declared a new State of Emergency on Monday.

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 bringing firearms to government buildings or gatherings.

On Wednesday, the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS) also announced that it’s putting precautionary measures in place to protect employees, visitors, buildings, and the grounds at historic Capitol Square in Richmond.

Those precautions include:

  • Capitol Square will be closed Thursday, Jan. 14, through at least Thursday, Jan. 21. 
  • Steps will be taken to enhance security for critical infrastructure, including installing additional fencing and fortifying buildings in and adjacent to Capitol Square, beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13.   
  • Access to all DGS-controlled buildings will be restricted from Saturday, Jan. 16 through Thursday, Jan. 21.

“The public can expect to see an abundance of local and state law enforcement personal posted at stationary points and patrolling throughout the city,” said Brian Moran, Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

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.”

Meanwhile, in Hampton Roads, police officials said they haven’t heard of any upcoming planned demonstrations before the inauguration on Jan. 20, but are still prepared.

“We have placed out officers on high alert. We have galvanized some of our rapid response teams to put them on notice,” Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone said Friday.

Police ask the public to reach out if they see anything suspicious.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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