McAuliffe's order halts demonstrations at Lee monument

RICHMOND, Va. (WVEC) -- Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Friday that put a temporary halt to demonstrations at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Charlottesville.

Executive Order Number 67 stops the issuance of permits and prohibiting demonstrations at the Lee Monument until the Virginia Department of General Services approves and implements new emergency regulations.

McAuliffe decided after the events of the Unite the Right rally on August 12 and subsequent deaths of three people that a comprehensive set of fair and consistent rules to protect First Amendment rights and to prevent threats to public safety should be developed.

The governor believes the suspension will give state and local officials time 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 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.

McAuliffe will issue a related executive order that will establish a task force headed by Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. The group will study safety concerns and the Department of General Services will create new emergency regulations based on the recommendations of the task force. The group will issue those recommendations within three months.

A news release from the governor's office Friday stated: 

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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