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Halifax supervisors hold off recognition for county militia

South Boston News
Halifax County Militia commander Mitzi Thompson speaking to county supervisors. / September 09, 2020
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors debated Tuesday night whether to embrace a heavily armed citizen militia as an option for maintaining public safety, before deciding to table a proposed motion to formally recognize the Halifax County Militia.

Militia members had sought a resolution from the county to establish that the armed citizen group could be called upon by the governor, White House or the board of supervisors in times of need to assist local authorities. The tabled resolution states that the Halifax County Militia will be self-trained with firearms that include semi-automatic rifles and pistols that use detachable magazines which hold more than 10 rounds of bullets.

“The militia is here, okay. We are not going anywhere, okay. We are reaching out and asking to work with you,” said Halifax County Militia commander Mitzi Thompson. “We are not asking for permission to be a militia, we have that permission from the Constitution. We are teaching our neighbors with civil power to properly carry and safely use firearms so when the time comes they will shoot the right one.

“I just happen to have the skill set to properly train members,” Thompson told supervisors.

Other speakers at the Tuesday night board meeting, however, asked supervisors if they had considered the legality of designating the group as the county’s official militia, with all the potential pitfalls that could entail.

“Who is going to govern them? Are you going to be responsible for them? Are you going to pay them when you call them to duty? Who is eligible to join? If they kill somebody, who is going to be liable? We have a police force, the State Police, the Sheriff’s Office, and they have never failed me. I don’t need a militia,” said Mattie Cowan of South Boston.

“When we had the rally in South Boston, they came with those big guns and they intimidated people. We don’t need that,” said Cowan, referring to the Black Lives Matter rally at Constitution Square on June 1. That event, organized by 17-year-old HCHS student Nevaeh Hodges, drew a small group of militia members who flanked two sides of Constitution Square bearing assault rifles and other firearms.

Cowan’s comments drew scattered laughter from militia supporters in attendance, prompting Board Chairman Hubert Pannell to tell the crowd that such behavior is not allowed: “When someone is at the podium, you must give them full respect. Laughing is not allowed in this setting. Disorder in this room will be escorted out of the building,” said Pannell.

Detra Carr, vice president of the local NAACP, told supervisors: “We are headed into unwanted territory — the county is divided more now than in the past 50 years. I look to you all to make wise decisions for everyone. In a Black man’s eyes, a militia is not needed. We have 911 to call the police and the National Guard to protect us. Adding other facets will cause trouble.

“We just want progress and everyone to get along. We have to work together or there will be trouble. Doing things off to the side, making corners for others, is not a leading example of progress. Let’s please work together and represent everyone,” said Carr.

ED-8 supervisor William Bryant Claiborne chimed in, “We don’t need a militia. This will provoke the possibility of civil unrest and next month there will be another militia before the board. We can do better than this.”

As evidence, Claiborne pointed to Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois 17-year-old who has been charged with double homicide in the shooting deaths of two individuals protesting police brutality in Kenosha, Wis. Rittenhouse claimed membership in a local militia group and has been charged with illegal possession of a firearm in the deadly Wisconsin shootings, among other felony offenses.

ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon also cautioned against granting formal recognition to the local militia. “Under the Constitution, it is our duty and honor to protect this land. We should not give special entities permission ... I have concerns giving blessings to private entities. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel … We should let them do what they do, and not find ourselves giving blessings to 10 different militias. We have law enforcement in place who citizens call when they need help,” said Brandon.

However, other board members expressed support for the idea of having a county militia group. ED-1 supervisor Ricky Short, who introduced the resolution to formally recognize the Halifax County Militia, mused, “How nice would it be to have a militia right here in Halifax County to call up while we wait on the National Guard.”

ED-2 supervisor Jeff Francisco said he does not believe the Halifax County Militia is a violent entity, suggesting the group could prove useful in responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.

“I don’t think they have the rights of a State Trooper. I don’t see them as an army. They can’t have illegal guns. I don’t see the violence in it some others may do,” said Francisco.

But Brandon questioned why Halifax County would grant recognition to any citizen group that purports to do the work of law enforcement or the military. “We do not need people who are not in uniforms, without identification or recognized out here running around with guns. Society is protected by tax dollars and people are taught to trust the blue,” he said.

Short, who motioned to approve the resolution, received a second from ED-4 supervisor Ronnie Duffey. However, Garland Ricketts, ED-7, called on the board to give more thought to the matter and made a substitute motion to table the resolution.

“We are not ready for this,” said Ricketts. “We need to know the ramifications of who is involved, their limits, duties, extent of action working with law enforcement, along with input from local citizens.”

Ricketts’ motion to delay the vote was accepted by the full board.

However, in a separate vote, the Board of Supervisors voted to recognize Thompson for her work organizing a “Back the Blue” rally to support law enforcement on Aug. 23 at the Halifax Farmers Market. Duffey made the motion to adopt the resolution and ED-5 supervisor Dean Throckmorton offered a second, but Claiborne called for a roll call rather than a voice vote. The motion passed 7-1 with Claiborne voting in opposition.

The resolution was similar to one adopted by the supervisors a month earlier, honoring Hodges for her work organizing the Black Lives Matter rally in downtown South Boston.

Board members also approved a proclamation for Constitution Week, an annual event noted by the county and both the Town of South Boston and the Town of Halifax to remember the ideals laid forth by the framers of the Constitution in 1787. Constitution Week will be recognized Sept. 17-23.

County administrator Scott Simpson presented the proclamation of Constitution Week to Cynthia Hall.

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"When the time comes they'll shoot the right one." A comment like that is all one needs to hear to make a decision about this group. The last thing any community needs is a bunch of untrained, inexperienced, armed yahoos running wild. I can get together with 4 other people and we can call ourselves a basketball team, but that doesn't make it so. EMS, firefighters, law enforcement, and the military are trained professionals. These folks are not.


what are the qualifications to join militia?
How diverse is the member group?
How do you properly vett said members?
Do you require mental stability and agility to be a member?
So many questions - kudos to the board on the vote. Did the right thing


You people don't even know the Constitution of VA or the US. Everyone in Virginia is a member of the "unorganized" militia. Sorry I was in ems/vol FD and the military (for 14 years USAF) and there are screws ups in both organizations. If the thugs that destroyed Richmond, came here and there were cops and an armed militia backing them up, they would not loot and destroy. Part of me really wishes that they would defund the police, these idiots don't realize that the only thing protecting them is the police. 1870s frontier justice sounds pretty good about right now.


How can you be pro-police but trying to take over the job of the police? This is a horrible idea. I have seen Ms. Throckmorton’s judgement all over the Facebook group she runs. She is full of conspiracies and not big on facts or evidence. Why would we take the least educated bunch to come out of the high school and give them power that they are neither capable or willing to handle? This needs to be shut down, or there’s going to be some kind of tragedy.


Maybe it's time for the Black Panthers to lay a little whoop on theses bozos....give them a gun and they think they have a voice....this is a sound argument for appealing the second amendment....


Why would the governor, White House or the board of supervisors call on a militia when there is organized law enforcement. Idiots will use any smoke screen to get their agenda across. Self-trained militia, really Mitzi? Police aren't self trained. Please laugh at yourself. I read nothing about body cameras on this militia group. Let me take a wild guess...that too will be self done. What has Halifax Co. come to that they would entertain such stupidity.


I think Jeff Francisco may want to call FEMA, not the militia for natural disasters and other emergencies. If Francisco doesn't see the potential violence in this group...might I say he is a large part of the problem and should not consider another term upon his current term expiration on December 31, 2021. Please feel free to stepdown prior to the date.


allpolitical2 you love history
1790 and 1791 President George Washington dispatched militia forces into the Northwest Territory to battle Native Americans. Twice the force was defeated with embarrassing results. Washington learned his lesson and in 1794 dispatched a force made up of regular troops led by General Anthony Wayne, who defeated the Native Americans at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. - untrained unreliable unstable unorganized undone

Washington wrote, “I am wearied to death all day with a variety of perplexing circumstances, disturbed at the conduct of the militia, whose behavior and want of discipline has done great injury to the other troops, who never had officers, except in a few instances, worth the bread they eat.”


What is her skill-set to train militia members?


Will ED-2 supervisor Jeff Francisco ensure that the local militia has no illegal weapons and have will not act in a violent manner when push comes to shove? I think NOT. The County has fire/ems and law enforcement already and we know there is not enough money around to properly fund those agencies now. There is no need for an official local militia, no one will want to call on them in a time of need, 911 will not dispatch them so what is the point other than to intimidate minorities and those of us who support BLM and positive change. Mr. Francisco has blinders on and he is simply the newer generation of the Good Ole Boys club that is struggling to maintain their grasp in governing and control. It is clear that he is out of touch with his minority constituents. His use of the words "think" and "see" in his comments speak volumes about how he views people in general.


Mr. Pannell is an ignorant joke who doesn't know the English language and is manipulated by the good old boys to maintain power and none of the other supervisors know what they are doing. Short and Francisco are Davis boys. Duffey is Jack Dunavant's boy.. Ricketts? Brandon controlled by his folks who put him there. Throckmorton lost. Claiborne is the only one who makes sense and they are intimidated by him. God help our county.

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