RICHMOND, Va. – The Department of General Services, working with the Division of Capitol Police, temporarily prohibited entry into Capitol Square on Thursday to disrupt an unpermitted event that officials say could have posed a risk to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Several groups promoted the "Reopen Virginia" event on Capitol Square Thursday to protest Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 53, which bans crowds of more than 10 people, and Executive Order 55, in which he issued a "stay at home" order through June 10. Under the stay at home order, Virginians are told to stay home unless they must leave for essential services.
The groups encouraged participants to hug and share food at the event.
As a crowd began to gather, DGS and Capitol Police closed gates to Capitol Square to prevent additional entry. According to CBS 6 in Richmond, police reminded attendees to maintain social distancing and warned people who ignored those reminders they could be cited for violating the governor's order. There have been no reported of any tickets being issued.
Gov. Northam and public health officials, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), have encouraged the public not to gather in groups in indoor and outdoor spaces to prevent exposure to and spread of COVID-19. The disease has killed more than 200 and infected more than 6,800 in Virginia.
DGS and Capitol Police will continue to monitor gatherings on Capitol Square and take appropriate actions when necessary to protect the public.