The decision comes less than a week after violence erupted in Charlottesville, Va., as a white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups gathered in the college town to protest the removal of a statue of Lee, a Confederate general.
One person was killed and 19 others were injured when a car plowed through a crowd of counter-protesters, who had turned out to oppose the white nationalist groups.
The demonstrations in Charlottesville reignited an intense national debate about whether statues and monuments dedicated to Confederate leaders should be taken down.
In announcing his executive order Friday, McAuliffe said that several groups have requested permits in recent days to hold demonstrations similar to the Charlottesville rally at the Lee Monument in Richmond.
“State and local officials need to get ahead of this problem, so that we have the proper legal protections in place to allow for peaceful demonstrations, but without putting citizens and property at risk,” he said in a statement.
“Let me be clear, this executive order has nothing to do with infringing upon first amendment rights. This is a temporary suspension, issued with the singular purpose of creating fail-safe regulations to preserve the health and well-being of our citizens and ensuring that nothing like what occurred in Charlottesville happens again,” he said.
Current safety regulations for demonstrations at the Lee monument in Richmond date back decades, according to a press release issued by McAuliffe’s office, and major protests in the area could “provide for not only major public safety concerns, but present serious threats to both traffic and private property.”