Charlottesville, Virginia Rally
Saturday 12 August 2017 various groups attended the Unite the Right Rally promoted by Jason Kessler in Charlottesville, Virginia. The primary players, white supremacist groups such as the League of the South, and white pride organizations like the Proud Boys, took advantage of their permit to occupy Lee Park, recently renamed Emancipation Park. The opposing group known as Antifa set up their counter demonstration on Market Street near the downtown mall area. An ecumenical group arrived early and knelt in prayer along the Market Street curb in front of the park. Reports of hundreds of police agents including Virginia State Police, the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office, and the Charlottesville PD filled the streets and neutral areas within Lee Park and in adjacent areas of the city.
Internet news media and social media paint various pictures from a myriad of perspectives about who attended and what the purpose of the groups meant. One particularly skewed view pertains to the appearance of a multi-state militia group consisting of members of the Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New York Light Foot Militia who were augmented with militia members from Oregon and Michigan.
Because alternate news sources don’t often check facts, statements like “white supremacists dressed in cammo and heavily armed” leave the readers with significant misinformation. The overall commanding officer of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia (PLFM), Christian Yingling, made it perfectly clear to all who bothered to ask him the presence of this militia ensured First Amendment free speech to all attendees by being a neutral buffer between the two groups. George Curbelo, commander of the NYLFM, indicated the discipline of the group ensured none of the members would engage in siding with the opposing forces on the street.
In many instances, these militia members disregarded their own safety and stepped between those arguing, throwing projectiles, and reaching to grab their opponents. Once the militia made these moves, the Antifa and White Supremacist individuals resorted to using their free speech, as was the purpose of the rally and the actions of the militia.
Both PLFM and NYLFM played important roles in like actions primarily in PA, NY and MA. By using their specific brand of neutrality to curb violence before it escalated, they received gratitude and accolades from federal, state, county and local law enforcement groups.