Virginia GOP leader: Hate groups spreading 'white supremacist garbage' are not welcome here

Virginia GOP leader: Hate groups spreading 'white supremacist garbage' are not welcome here
© Greg Nash

Virginia House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert is calling on hate groups that spread "white supremacist garbage" or violence to stay away from the State Capitol, as officials prepare for a gun rights rally that has prompted the governor to declare a temporary state of emergency. 

"Lobby Day is a time for people to peacefully assemble and petition their government. It is not a place for hate and violence," Gilbert said in a statement on Saturday, just two days ahead of the planned protest. "Any group that comes to Richmond to spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest isn’t welcome here."

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) last week declared a temporary state of emergency after receiving credible evidence of "threats of violence" surrounding the demonstration. Northam said in a statement that he'd also seen "extremist rhetoric" comparable to the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. 

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Based on the threats, he said he would ban any kind of weapons, including firearms, from the State Capitol grounds from Friday evening to next Tuesday evening. 

A senior FBI official told CNN that authorities arrested multiple suspected neo-Nazis nationwide last week over fears that they were planning to commit violence at the guns rights rally in Richmond. Authorities said that seven men, who allegedly belong to the white supremacist group, The Base, were arrested in Delaware, Georgia, Maryland and Wisconsin.

"House Republicans reject any attempt by any group to infuse any kind of twisted or extreme worldview into this fundamentally democratic exercise," Gilbert added in his statement on Saturday. "So there's no mistake, this is my message to any group that would subvert this event: you are not welcome here."

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, the organizers of the rally, are expecting thousands of people to attend the demonstration on Monday. The group's Facebook event page indicates that more than 6,000 people say they are attending. 

The demonstration comes as Northam and Democratic leaders in the state legislature vow to enact a number of gun control reforms during this General Assembly session. Democrats have full control of the government this year for the first time since 1994. 

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The Virginia Citizens Defense League filed an injunction in court following Northam's emergency declaration, arguing that prohibiting them to assemble with firearms was a breach of their Second Amendment rights. A Richmond Circuit Court judge rejected argument on Friday.