McAuliffe signs executive order halting demonstrations at Lee statue

Governor Terry McAuliffe today issued Executive Order Number 67 temporarily halting issuance of permits and prohibiting demonstrations at the Lee Monument until new emergency regulations have been approved and implemented by the Virginia Department of General Services.

terry mcauliffeGovernor McAuliffe determined that following the events of the Unite the Right rally on August 12th in Charlottesville, and subsequent deaths of three individuals, to develop a comprehensive set of fair and consistent rules to both protect first amendment rights and prevent threats to public safety. The Governor believes that this suspension is necessary to give state and local officials breathing room to make thoughtful and informed decisions on managing the new reality of the potential for civil unrest.

“In spite of weeks of preparation, the city of Charlottesville was the target of an act of domestic terrorism that cost one woman her life, and had a helicopter accident lead to the deaths of two state troopers,” said Governor McAuliffe. “In the aftermath of this tragedy, several groups have requested permits to hold similar-styled events at the Lee Monument in Richmond. State and local officials need to get ahead of this problem, so that we have the proper legal protections in place to allow for peaceful demonstrations, but without putting citizens and property at risk. Let me be clear, this executive order has nothing to do with infringing upon first amendment rights. This is a temporary suspension, issued with the singular purpose of creating failsafe regulations to preserve the health and well-being of our citizens and ensuring that nothing like what occurred in Charlottesville happens again.”

Governor McAuliffe will issue a related executive order convening a task force, headed by Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran to study the safety concerns that arose from the events of August 12th.

The Department of General Services will craft their new emergency regulations based on the recommendations of this new task force, which will be issued within three months.

The Lee Monument presents unique challenges to large-scale demonstrations because it is located on a major thoroughfare in a residential neighborhood in downtown Richmond, and current rules date back decades.  Current standards, for instance, permit demonstrations containing as many as 5,000 people. In addition, the permits allow for assemblies to gather from sunrise until 11:00 P.M. As a result, these conditions provide for not only major public safety concerns, but present serious threats to both traffic and private property.

         
 

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