(The Center Square) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Directive Six, a directive to fortify the state’s response to attacks on religious or ethnic groups in response to “significantly increased” reports of antisemitism in the commonwealth during the Israeli-Hamas conflict.
“Hatred, intolerance, and antisemitism have no place in Virginia. As Governor, the safety and security of all Virginians is my paramount concern. Virginia is the birthplace of the freedom of religion in America, and protecting the community centers and houses of worship of the Jewish people is paramount,” Youngkin said in a statement.
“But this commitment extends to all religions, including those of the Muslim faith, who are increasingly concerned about backlash.”
The governor names several gatherings and demonstrations from the past few weeks where anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli sentiment was expressed – one in Richmond and two at state universities Virginia Commonwealth University and William & Mary. Student walkouts in support of Palestinians have occurred at several Northern Virginia high schools, as well as the University of Virginia.
The directive includes nine calls to action – four to public safety organizations and five to education organizations for safety within schools, developing several strategies and programs to combat ethnic and racial clashes.
Youngkin advises the Secretary of Public Safety & Homeland Security to create a “situation room,” a hub for focused coordination of local and statewide efforts – with the Virginia State Police, local law enforcement agencies, Commonwealth’s attorneys and U.S. attorneys – to “protect houses of worship and religiously affiliated institutions in the Commonwealth.”
The Department of Criminal Justice is to disburse $2.7 million in grant funding for the development and improvement of security measures for individuals or institutions in danger of being targeted for ethnic or religious reasons.
The Virginia Fusion Center, a partnership between the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management dedicated to combating terrorist attacks and other criminal activity, is to “maintain a heightened state of alert in identifying and addressing antisemitism and other anti-religious bigotry, as well as threats against houses of worship, religious schools, and community centers.”
All colleges and universities in the commonwealth with resident student bodies are to revise and submit their campus safety plans and incident-reporting systems to the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety; the center, which conducts safety audits on Virginia schools, is to include schools’ protocol for and prevention of “antisemitism, anti-religious bigotry, and ethnic violence” in its evaluations.
The governor has previously enacted means of depressing antisemitism in the commonwealth; his Executive Order 8, issued on his first day in office, created the Commission to Combat Antisemitism.