RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said public safety officials are ready for any possible threats against the state capitol in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump loyalists that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and dozens injured.
"Let me start by saying violence has no place here or in Washington," Northam said during a news briefing Thursday. "Free speech is a value we all hold dear, but violence is something else entirely. In America, we are proud of our tradition of a peaceful transition of power, and make no mistake, that is what will happen next week."
Northam said the Commonwealth deployed state troopers and more than 2,000 members of the Virginia National Guard to Washington, D.C., last week to protect the capitol and in preparation for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
"I do not want these brave men and women to be in danger," Northam said. "We want them back home safe and we need them back to help with vaccinations and a lot of other duties that they have in our Commonwealth. But when they get home is dependent on those who would put them in danger by coming to our state capitol or Washington with violent plans."
The governor said Virginia State Police, Richmond Police and Capitol Police are working in "close coordination" to prepare for possible protests.
"If you're planning to come here or up to Washington with ill intent in your heart, you need to turn around right now and go home. You are not welcome here -- and you're not welcome in our nation's capitol," Northam said. "And if you come here and act out, Virginia will be ready."
Virginia's Capitol Square closed
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said Capitol Square will remain closed through at least next Thursday, which includes Lobby Day Monday, Jan. 18.
"Security fencing is being installed around the square and additional security measures are in place to protect the buildings on the square including our capitol," Moran said. "The Virginia National Guard will have personnel on standby to assist law enforcement..."
Moran said law enforcement is "well prepared for rapid response and mitigation if an incident or act of violence should occur around our capitol or at the Science Museum."
Officials said encouraged the public to remain vigilant and report any any suspicious activity to police.
Additionally, officials said road closures and other advisories related to the Capitol Square closures are posted on the state's "unified command" Facebook and Twitter pages at VACapitol2021.
"These platforms will be updated in real time leading up to and including Lobby Day 2021,"Moran said.
Lobby Day 2021 Road Closures and Preparations: pic.twitter.com/SbT8E8A63m— Richmond Police (@RichmondPolice) January 13, 2021
Richmond Mayor: ‘Assault on democracy... will not be tolerated’
Mayor Stoney said officials have been planning for weeks for the General Assembly's upcoming Lobby Day, which drew thousands of armed gun-rights advocates to Capitol Square last year.
"Last year's Lobby Day, while unsettling in many ways for the proliferation of firearms on our streets, came and went peacefully, Stoney said. "We have the same expectation for lawful demonstration this year, and expect your full cooperation and respect."
The mayor said his administration's goal is the same: "Respect and protect the right to peacefully demonstrate regardless of your viewpoint, and to safeguard the public health and safety of Richmond's residents, and their property."
Stoney said that while everyone has a right to be heard, Richmonders also have a "right to be safe and free from fear and intimidation."
"So let me be clear, the violent, lawless insurrection and assault on democracy and its institutions that unfolded last week in Washington, D.C., will not be tolerated in the City of Richmond," Stoney said. "I don't care who you are, we will protect the city, this capitol, this Commonwealth, and the lives and property of all the law abiding people who live here."