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Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Gunmen at ‘Free Speech’ Rallies

"Even before violence erupted in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, city residents and the police anxiously watched the arrival of self-styled militias — swaggering gangs of armed civilians in combat fatigues — standing guard over the protest by white supremacists and other racist agitators against the removal of a Confederate statue.

Who were these men, counterprotesters asked as the riflemen took up watchful positions around the protest site. Police? National Guard? The Virginia National Guard had to send out an alert that its members wore a distinctive “MP” patch. This was so people could tell government-sanctioned protectors from unauthorized militias that have been posing as law-and-order squads at right-wing rallies.

In brandishing weapons in Charlottesville, the militiamen added an edge of intimidation to a protest that was ostensibly called as an exercise in free speech. By flaunting their right to bear arms, they made a stark statement in a looming public confrontation. “You would have thought they were an army,” noted Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, one of 45 states that allow the open carrying of rifles in public to some degree, most without a permit required

The Gunmen at ‘Free Speech’ Rallies https://nyti.ms/2v9XgDX

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