Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., issued an executive order Friday halting the issuance of permits and prohibiting demonstrations at Richmond's Robert E. Lee Monument.
Another monument dedicated to the Confederate general, which stands in Charlottesville's Emancipation park, was at the heart of a white supremacist rally last weekend that claimed the lives of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and two state police officers. Now, McAuliffe wants to prevent a similar situation from happening in Richmond.
"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 a statement. "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."
McAuliffe defended the order, saying it does not infringe upon free speech rights; rather it is intended to ensure measures are taken to protect peaceful assembly.
"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 added.
Richmond's Robert E. Lee monument stands in an iconic boulevard which features other Confederate statues. McAuliffe said allowing any large demonstration there would "create a safety hazard in the current circumstances." Richmond once served as the capital of the Confederacy.