Republican leader tells 'white supremacist garbage' to stay away from Virginia gun rally

David Millward
Chain link fence erected ahead of gun rights rally in Richmond Virginia - REUTERS

The Republican leader in Virginia has told groups planning to spread "white supremacist garbage" at a pro-gun rally on Monday to stay away.

Amid fears that violence could erupt with far-right militias joining pro-gun activists in a march on the state capitol in Richmond, Todd Gilbert joined forces with Democrat governor, Ralph Northam, in a plea for peace.

The rally has been called to protest against sweeping gun-control measures proposed by Mr Northam's administration.

"Lobby Day is a time for people to peacefully assemble and petition their government. It is not a place for hate and violence," Mr Gilbert said in a statement on Saturday.

"Any group that comes to Richmond to spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest isn't welcome here."

The display of unity among Virginia's political leaders came against a backdrop of rising tension in the city of nearly 230, 000 following the arrest of several members of The Base, a neo-Nazi group last week.

Fearing that the rally could become a repetition of the riot at Charlottesville, in which one person died, Mr Northam declared a state of emergency last week.

Leaders of the "Unite the Right" groups, such as the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia, who were present at Charlottesville, have said they are planning to go to Richmond.

Mr Northam said the state had received credible intelligence that acts of violence were being planned including storming the state's Capitol.

Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins has sworn to protect second amendment rights Credit: Eva Hambach/AFP

An array of security measures has been put in place including a ban on carrying weapons in the Capitol grounds. The Federal Aviation Administration has imposed temporary flight restrictions above the city.

Rally organiser Philip Van Cleave also called for the protests to be peaceful.

Virginia has become the political epicentre of the battle over the second amendment which guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms.

The Democrats, who control the statehouse for the first time in a generation, are poised to introduce a series of curbs including universal background checks on gun purchases and a ban on military-style assault weapons.

Opposition to the measures has seen over 100 municipalities in the state declaring themselves "Second Amendment Sanctuaries" in which the authorities will refuse to enforce the new state laws.

Last week Donald Trump gave his support to gun rights groups in the state.

"Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia he said on Twitter.