Gov. Ralph Northam (D) already moved to temporarily ban weapons from the Capitol grounds in advance of the rally. Earlier this week, he said that authorities had received credible intelligence — some gathered, via dark Web channels used by white nationalists outside Virginia, about groups with "malicious plans” that could include storming the Capitol or weaponizing drones.
Further fueling concerns, the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday arrested three alleged members of a white supremacist group on gun charges, in part out of concern over the potential violence at the planned rally in Richmond.
Monday’s rally is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, one of several grass-roots groups that travel to Virginia’s state capitol every year for citizen lobbying day, which is scheduled for Monday. This year, however, the group is expecting a larger crowd because the Democratic takeover of state legislature has given new momentum to several gun control measures, including requiring background checks on all firearms purchases and limiting handgun purchases to one a month.
State officials want to avoid a repeat of the violence that broke out in Charlottesville in 2017 during a Unite the Right, rally that centered on opposition to the removal of a Confederate statue in the town. One person was killed when James A. Fields Jr., an avowed neo-Nazi, rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. Fields was convicted of murder.
The FAA will sometimes impose temporary flight restrictions during special events or during hazardous situations such as wildfires or hurricanes. Those who ignore the FAA’s restrictions can have their drones confiscated, may be detained for questioning by law enforcement and could face steep fines.