Preventing the Next Charlottesville: How Governments Can Respond to Private Paramilitaries

Katherine Welles /

Every state has legal provisions on the books that could be used to prohibit the kind of private militia and paramilitary activity that led to widespread intimidation, violence, and chaos at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville nearly six months ago, according to new research by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP).

In a new report, ICAP builds upon a lawsuit it filed in October against “Unite the Right” organizers and participating private militias and paramilitary groups on behalf of the City of Charlottesville, local businesses, and community organizations. In the suit, ICAP identified provisions of Virginia law that prohibit the paramilitary tactics employed not only by the white nationalists who terrorized community members and provoked violent confrontations with counter-protestors, but also by the private militias who claimed to be the self-designated peacekeepers. Now ICAP has released the results of legal research across all 50 states in an effort to help communities prevent public rallies from devolving into combat zones. 

In this discussion moderated by New America’s Robert McKenzie, ICAP’s leadership will explain how their research can prevent the next Charlottesville; Murfreesboro’s Assistant City Attorney will discuss how the City of Murfreesboro worked with ICAP to utilize these types of laws to prevent violence in a rally organized two months after the one in Charlottesville; and the Anti-Defamation League’s Senior Vice President of Programs will speak to the importance of using these legal tools to address private paramilitary activity. 

Opening Remarks:

Peter Bergen, @peterbergencnn
Vice President, New America 
Director, International Security Program, New America


Joshua Geltzer@GeorgetownICAP 
ASU Future of War Fellow, New America 
Executive Director, Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection 

Mary McCord@GeorgetownICAP 
Senior Litigator from Practice and Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection 
Former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, U.S. Department of Justice 

George Selim@ADL_National
Senior Vice President of Programs, The Anti-Defamation League 
Former Director of the Office for Community Partnerships, U.S. Department of Homeland Security 

Adam Tucker@cityofmborotn
Assistant City Attorney, City of Murfreesboro, Tennessee 


Robert L. McKenzie, @Bobby_McKenzie
Director and Senior Fellow, New America