LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A militia member who responded to the May 31 protest at Fifth and Federal shared his experience with WFXR News, saying he did not break any laws.
His assertion is in response to letters sent by Mary McCord, the Director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, to various local governments last month.
The letters advised elected officials and law enforcement in Lynchburg — as well as Campbell, Bedford, and other counties — that under Virginia law, only the governor can call in militias, adding that militia members who responded to Fifth and Federal may have broken the law.
“I’m a private citizen on private property where an owner is concerned about his business, so I’m there on invitation,” said Paul Cangialosi, who says he is a member of the Nelson County militia.
He says there were about 20 people inside the restaurant, mostly members of various militias, but also two customers. According to Cangialosi, they were defending because police were, “flat footed.”
Cangialosi says they did not break any laws and things would have been a lot worse if they hadn’t been there. In addition, Cangialosi says he and others arrived armed, ready to protect the building.
“Once we arrived here at around 8:30,” he said,” I went ahead and put my hand gun on. It was external so everyone could see it. It wasn’t concealed carry. So I did have an AR-15 with me as well.”
According to Cangialosi, he and about 20 others mostly stayed in the building, except for two times when he said protesters got close to the building.
“I left the front door and came out with my rifle. I don’t believe I pointed it at anybody,” Cangialosi said. “I basically raised my rifle to a low ready position and told him he needed to back up.”
McCord says the Second Amendment does grant people the right to defend themselves but says that any armed security needs to be registered and licensed.
“You can’t just say I’m coming armed and I’m going to be your security force,” said McCord. “So there’s that false assumption of the duties of law enforcement or of security that is also potentially an issue. And it sounds like potentially there was a brandishing.”
Cangialosi mainly refutes McCord’s reading of the law that only the governor can call in a militia.
“The contention was a militia showed up,” he said. “So if I’m in Nelson County and he’s in Bedford County, and we’re not even on the same militia, there were people in there who were not members of a militia.”
McCord says the militia members don’t have to belong to one unified group to be in violation of the law.
“The law is about the conduct. It’s not about being part of a named militia who only acts in matching uniforms at certain events.”
McCord says she’s not trying to call people out but hopes to educate militia members of what is and isn’t protected.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison says, “These matters are under investigation.”
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