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Opinion: Protecting speech and ensuring safety in Virginia after Dobbs

Freedom of speech is foundational to our republic and commonwealth. However, this freedom must be exercised in a peaceful manner.

By Bob Mosier, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety & Homeland Security

(Published in June 24, 2022 edition of The Washington Post.)

Freedom of speech is foundational to our republic and commonwealth. However, this freedom must be exercised in a peaceful manner. As we await the Supreme Court's decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case on abortion, I want Virginians to know that the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will protect all citizens of our commonwealth — and that includes keeping state and federal judges safe while simultaneously safeguarding our First Amendment rights.

It matters how we conduct ourselves.

This is not the first time the United States or Virginia has dealt with robust differences of opinion and conviction, nor will it be the last. Trials and tribulations will come in the future just as they have throughout our history. And just like we have in the past, we will overcome them together. What sets Americans and Virginians apart is the manner in which we choose to air our grievances. This is the difference between our vibrant discourse and the places in the world that aren't protected by these freedoms.

These national ideals, inked by Virginians, have been replicated and memorialized around the globe for nearly 250 years. It is up to us to uphold the historic words written by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and our very first governor, Patrick Henry. Virginians have always been resilient and undeterred, pressing through challenges together while embracing the spirit of Virginia.

In that spirit, I want to assure all Virginians that Youngkin and his administration are committed to the safety of all Virginians in their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights. Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs case, we are taking preparatory measures across the commonwealth to ensure the public's safety during these politically charged times.

His administration has consistently coordinated with local and federal authorities to ensure that the Supreme Court justices and their families who call Virginia home are protected from intimidation tactics. In May, Youngkin and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to enforce federal law to prevent the intimidation of justices and their families at their homes. After a draft decision in Dobbs was leaked in early May, protesters gathered at the homes of some justices in Maryland and Virginia.

Youngkin has spoken to the justices frequently. Ensuring their continued safety is a top priority for our administration.

As we wait for the final decision from the Supreme Court, Virginians should rest assured that whatever the opinion may be, there are ample resources to ensure all of our justices and our citizens remain safe.

It is imperative that protected peaceful protests don't turn into violence or destruction after the Supreme Court's ruling. This is for the safety of all Virginians. Let me be clear: Those who do not heed this message and perpetuate violence will be brought to justice to the fullest extent of the law.

Violence is not and never will be our legacy.

Virginians expect and deserve nothing less.

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