RICHMOND, Va. — A judge has upheld the Virginia governor's ban on all types of weapons at a pro-gun rally planned for next week.
Gov. Ralph Northam had announced the ban on Wednesday as he declared a state of emergency over threats of “armed militia groups storming our Capitol."
The judge's order Thursday came hours after the FBI announced the arrest of three alleged white supremacists in Maryland.
Virginia's solicitor general told the judge that law enforcement identified "credible evidence" that armed out-of-state groups planned to come to Virginia with the possible intention of participating in a "violent insurrection."
"No one wants another incident like we saw in Charlottesville in 2017. We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here," Northam said.
The governor urged all unnecessary personnel to stay out of Richmond Monday, out of an abundance of caution. Access will be restricted in and out of Capitol Square, officials said.
The Governor has prohibited all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds.
The state of emergency is temporary and extends from Friday, Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. until Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.
Organizers from the Virginia Citizens Defense League are predicting as many as 130,000 armed protesters from across the country could rally in Capitol Square on Martin Luther King Day. But they insist they're trying to avoid the kind of deadly chaos that swept Charlottesville in the summer of 2017.
"This is just average gun owners and average Virginians coming out to support them," Stewart Rhodes, founder of far-right group Oath Keepers, said. "It has nothing to do with white nationalism."
Democrats are in the midst of working on gun reform legislation with the party now controlling both the Commonwealth's house, senate and governorship.
Virginia Citizens Defense League President, Philip Van Cleave, is urging protesters to bring only their legal, concealed handguns, and to leave their rifles, body armor and camouflage behind.
"This is a public thing, we have no control over who shows up," Van Cleave said. when asked if any groups were unwelcome.
Van Cleave has been meeting with Capitol Police in hopes of heading off trouble.