Northam told all nonessential staff to stay home, and many lawmakers urged aides to stay away, though committees will still meet and both chambers will convene floor sessions. The young pages who run errands in the House and Senate were given the day off for safety.
Outside the Capitol, authorities used tall chain-link barriers to create a pie-shaped pen for the rally. The area takes up about a third of Capitol Square, a manicured park dotted with monuments to figures ranging from Native Americans and George Washington to a segregationist governor and civil rights leaders. The monuments were protected with additional fencing, as was the Executive Mansion to the east.
The square is usually open on all sides to foot traffic. Under Northam’s emergency order, access is restricted to one spot, at 9th and East Grace Streets. Just inside that entrance, the crowd will be split into 17 lines for screening with metal detectors.
Anyone attempting to bring in weapons will be turned away, but police will not confiscate those items, officials have said. Demonstrators who do not want to part with their guns may remain armed on city streets. Authorities say they will cut off admission to the rally once the crowd hits a certain number, which they have declined to disclose.
– Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella in Richmond braces for enormous gun-rights rally Monday