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Backing the forces in blue

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Mitzi Thompson with the Halifax County Militia speaks out at the Halifax Farmers Market that attracted more than 150 people. (David Conner II photos) / August 24, 2020
A “Back The Blue” rally drew some 150 people to Halifax Farmers Market on Sunday afternoon for speeches by local political and militia leaders who decried what they see as rising threats to liberty and law enforcement.

The event was organized by the Halifax County Militia, represented by Mitzi Thompson, the organization’s commander, and featured remarks by Del. James Edmunds and Halifax County Republican Unit Chair Jimmy Wade.

Many of the participants came with firearms while few wore masks during the spirited but peaceable event. Town of Halifax Police Chief Stuart Comer welcomed guests — much as he did earlier this month for a rally against Halifax Council member Jack Dunavant, who showed up for Sunday’s event — and Comer was accompanied by some 15 officers with the Town of Halifax Police, Sheriff’s Office, South Boston Police Department, Virginia State Police and Blue Ridge Regional Jail. A similar number of officers provided security at the Unity Project demonstration against Dunavant’s controversial letter to the editor, “Killing America.”

“I thank all the assisting agencies for their [help] regardless of political views. Our job is public safety,” said Comer.

Speakers sought to align themselves with law enforcement, vowing to resist legislation to restrain the actions of police in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and other high-profile police encounters that have led to the deaths of African Americans around the county.

The rally also provided an opportunity for speakers to voice pro-Second Amendment views. “I was raised to believe in my country, love my family, honor my flag, and grab my gun ready to fight for my country if that day ever comes,” said Thompson.

She quoted at length the words of Patrick Henry and President John F. Kennedy, the latter from a speech that JFK intended to deliver to the Texas Democratic State Committee in Austin on Nov. 22, 1963, the day he was slain by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas.

“For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed., to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom,” she said, quoting the late president’s remarks.

Citing “all the agendas being pushed on us to [restrict] the rights to defend ourselves and our land,” she also drew from the words of Patrick Henry: “The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.”

Wade, newly elected chair of the Halifax County Republican Party, spoke from the podium after Thompson. “Law enforcement is the glue that holds our society together. The known presence of the police force keeps the bad guys from breaking into your home, robbing you at the bank, and helps the lines at the grocery store stay orderly.”

“We’d be living like Mad Max if there were no police,” he said.

Edmunds offered his take on the special session of the General Assembly, convened Aug. 18 by Gov. Ralph Northam. Northam summoned lawmakers back to Richmond during the off-session to deal with a $2.7 billion budget deficit that has arisen with the coronavirus pandemic. Assembly Democrats have also proposed a raft of law enforcement reform bills that drew sharp criticism from Edmunds.

The proposed measures “are a solution in a search of a problem and will end law enforcement,” said Edmunds. Instead of saving lives, the bills will consign police to investigating and reporting crimes after the crimes are committed, he said.

In the state Senate, Democrats have advanced legislation by Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) that would ban no-knock warrants, set statewide minimum training standards for police officers, including training in de-escalation techniques, and place limits on the use of deadly force.

Another Democratic bill, by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) would remove the automatic six-month jail sentence for assaulting a police officer. Initially, the bill downgraded officer assaults from a felony to a misdemeanor, but Surovell amended the bill to maintain the offense as a felony. However, the bill would give judges and juries the discretion to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor if the officer is unharmed.

Addressing the death of George Floyd and others in police custody, Edmunds blamed the actions on a few bad actors in policing ranks, adding that the backlash against Floyd’s death has created a knee-jerk reaction to law enforcement — with officers presumed guilty until proven innocent, he said. Edmunds also criticized efforts to remove or curtail qualified immunity for police, a legal doctrine that shields officers from civil liability, even in extreme situations.

“It’s clear that most split decisions are made based on rigorous training [police officers] received to carry that badge,” said Edmunds. He said officers should not be punished through after-the-fact civilian review, with the benefit of hindsight and not having to act in the heat of the moment. Edmunds suggested the police reforms pending in the General Assembly could cause officers to be charged as a criminal after the fact for making the best decisions they could at the time. Democrats have labeled similar assertions as false.

Edmunds says he supports increased training for law enforcement officers, “but let’s not put them in fear of becoming a criminal themselves while trying to save lives.”

The rally came to an end with Thompson addressing members of the Halifax County Militia who came to the rally. Thompson said militia members are ready to assist with search and rescue operations, and many are obtaining CPR and FEMA certifications.

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mitzi - how many people of color are in the militia? What are the requirements to join the militia? How do you vet the member mental health and ability to make life or death decisions? What is the average education level of said members? How many members have experience with diversity? Is the militia open to all? What is the militia creedo code of ethics?
How do you join? Cpr and fema certs have a wide array of programs some very basic what certs are the members studying for? cpr was taught in my high school.

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