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State Supreme Court upholds Northam executive order

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The Supreme Court of Virginia refused late Friday to take up the appeal of a lower-court ruling upholding Gov. Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency in advance of expected militant demonstrations at the State Capitol on Monday.

The declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies the resources they need to keep demonstrators, policymakers, and all Virginians safe.

The emergency declaration is temporary, and extends from Friday, Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. until Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.

The full text of Executive Order Forty-Nine is available here.

“I am confident that the majority of those attending Monday’s rally will be peaceful,” Northam said in a statement released Friday evening. “I have full respect for their fundamental American right to voice their opinions. But over the past few days, the news has confirmed that that this rally is attracting extreme individuals and groups —including national hate, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist groups — who are threatening violence and looking to advance a violent agenda.

“As your governor, I will do everything in my power to keep Virginians safe. I thank Attorney General Mark Herring and our legal teams for their tireless efforts,” Northam said.

A release from the governor’s office sent out to announce the state of emergency on Wednesday reported that law enforcement intelligence analysts had identified “credible threats of violence” surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.

This was ahead of news on Thursday that the FBI had arrested three alleged members of a white supremacist group believed to be planning to attend the Monday rally.

The three – Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, Patrik Jordan Mathews, 27, and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19 – were arrested at residences in Delaware and Maryland and taken into custody without incident.

The men are accused of being in possession of a machine gun and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and body armor parts, according to the Justice Department, who says the three are members of the international white supremacist group known as The Base.

And then more news on that front on Friday popped up involving the arrests in Georgia of another trio – identified as Luke Austin Lane, 21, Michael John Helterbrand, 25, and Jacob Kaderli, 19 – reportedly affiliated with The Base who have been charged with conspiring to kill members of an anti-fascist group.

Against this backdrop, the State Senate voted Friday to approve bills that would require background checks on all firearms sales, limit gun purchases to one in a 30-day period, and allow localities to ban guns from public events.

All three passed along party lines.

Story by Chris Graham

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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