Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Virginia State Director Lori Haas issued the following statement:
“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing the cancellation of the annual Martin Luther King Day Vigil and Day of Advocacy. We have chosen to cancel the event due to the ongoing, credible threats to public safety that have been promoted and encouraged by gun extremists. The Virginia Center for Public Safety, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence have hosted this event for the last 28 years. Advocates have faced armed individuals trying to intimidate us each year. But this year is different; we have received information that heavily armed white supremacists will be seeking to incite violence, and our organization has decided that the safety of our volunteers, advocates, and staff, many of whom are survivors of gun violence, must be our top priority.
“The individuals who seek to turn a day which is traditionally about citizens exercising their First Amendment rights and participating in the democratic process into a platform for political violence are trying to destroy our democracy. They refuse to accept the results of the 2019 election in Virginia — in which the people of the Commonwealth voted for stronger gun laws — and they are promoting the message that ‘the people with the guns make the rules.’ They have amplified and fanned the flames of insurrectionism and civil war in a way that is irresponsible and dangerous. Now, citizens who represent the overwhelming majority of Virginians are prevented from lobbying their officials because of credible threats to their safety. This is a full scale rejection of our democratic elections. This is mob rule. It is a grave threat to our democracy.
“Given the serious concerns about possible violence on Monday, we recognize that we can not guarantee the safety of the brave gun violence prevention activists and survivors who have fought so hard for this day. We are an organization that strives to promote public health and safety, and we cannot in good faith lead our supporters — some of whom are children and teenagers — into a violent, dangerous situation. We refuse to engage with those who seek to physically harm us.
“This armed intimidation is clearly a threat to democracy and public safety. But the good news is that by the end of this legislative session, Virginia will be a safer place. The new gun violence prevention majority is already working to pass strong gun violence prevention measures like universal background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders — policies supported by the overwhelming majority of Virginians.
“On Monday, the agitators will come to Richmond intent on chaos. Then they will leave. But we will still be here. We will continue to fight for the rest of this legislative session with the data, facts, research, and the strong belief that we will succeed and save lives in Virginia.”
For reporters seeking more information, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and our partners will be holding a press call at 5 p.m. ET. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for call-in information.