On October 22, the Virginia Minuteman Militia issued a statement over an attempt by local business owners in Charlottesville to file a lawsuit to prevent ‘private militias’ from parading in public at future rallies. The lawsuit originated with events surrounding the white supremacist rally ‘Unite the Right’ this past August and was filed against individuals, militia groups, and white nationalist organizations who helped plan the event or where in attendance. Furthermore, the suit invoked a state law that disallows “unlawful paramilitary activity” and citizens masquerading as law enforcement.
The complaint amongst other things stated, “Instead, private military forces transformed an idyllic college town into a virtual combat zone.” The complaint also posited, “These vigilante militia members (Militia Defendants) carried assault rifles as they patrolled the sidewalks in combat boots, military-grade body armor, and, in most cases, camouflage uniforms. They were equipped to inflict massive harm upon a moment’s notice from their commanders. Whatever their stated intentions, these groups terrified local residents and caused attendees to mistake them for authorized military personnel.”
For people who attended Unite the Right, one of the most threatening postures of the white nationalists, supremacist, and alt-right provocateurs who gathered in Charlottesville was the sight of heavily armed militia, most of whom were wearing body armor and sporting long rifles – reminiscent of the tactics and operating posture of tactical law enforcement or National Guard. Given the continued antagonism by white nationalists in Charlottesville, including a recent torchlit rally by Richard Spencer, the city’s council voted on October 12, to also join the suit. Should this suit be successful, the implications could be vast and would set the template for other counties and cities to take legal action against white supremacist groups who are supported by private militias.
The Virginia Minuteman Militia has a different take, however, and in their statement they said, “We were there to protect all Americans,” which was followed by, “On August 12th of this year, some of our men were part of a 32-man group that came to Charlottesville to support and defend everyone’s rights to the 1st Amendment.”
This is where the conversation becomes complex and debate over free speech and the kinds of speech that needs protecting becomes convoluted. While the Virginia Minuteman Militia in their statement claim to be against white supremacy; “We are not white supremacist…We do not take sides or support in any way, any racist or race supremacy group.”, the various militias operating posture during Unite the Right was almost entirely geared towards providing security for the white nationalist groups holding the rally at Emancipation Park. Throughout the morning’s clashes they stood in a row, arms close at hand, clad in military kit, with their back’s toward the
We are not white supremacist
We are not a paramilitary group
We do not seek to hurt, but to defend.
We do not take sides or support in any way, any racist or race supremacy group.
We are Americans just like you.
We only seek to keep peace and protect the rights given to all Americans by the Constitution.
We worked to keep the peace between both the right and the left for over 3 hours. We were attacked, but not once did we use force against any protesters or rally attendees. We did everything in our power and within the parameters of the law to try to keep the rally peaceful. Our only regret is that we could not do more to help keep peace among the protesters.
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