Gov. McAuliffe issues executive order, stopping demonstrations at Richmond's Lee Monument for now

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a press conference August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

RICHMOND, Va. - Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order Friday temporarily halting permits and prohibiting demonstrations at the Lee Monument in Richmond until new emergency regulations have been approved and implemented by the Virginia Department of General Services.

McAuliffe said he believes that following last weekend's events in Charlottesville, there is a need to develop a comprehensive set of fair and consistent rules to both protect First Amendment rights and prevent threats to public safety.

Furthermore, he believes that the 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,” McAuliffe said. “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 fail-safe regulations to preserve the health and well-being of our citizens and ensuring that nothing like what occurred in Charlottesville happens again.”

McAuliffe said he plans to 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 12.

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.

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