No, Virginia State Police Weren't Outgunned By Militiamen

Gov. Terry McAuliffe says militia members at Saturday's Charlottesville rally had better equipment than state troopers. Not really.


Pacific Press/Sipa USA/Newscom

Virginia police have come under criticism for not quelling violence at Saturday's deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, but Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in an interview with The New York Times that militia members at the rally were better equipped than state police.

The Virginia Democrat told the Times that law enforcement arrived to find a line of militia members who "had better equipment than our State Police had." In longer comments that were later edited out of the Times' story, McAuliffe said that up to 80 percent of the rally attendees were carrying semi-automatic weapons. "You saw the militia walking down the street, you would have thought they were an army," he said.

McAuliffe claimed today on Pod Save the People, a podcast by Black Lives Matter activist Deray Mckesson, that the militiamen "had better armor than my state police and national guard had."

McAuliffe's statements were credulously repeated by many, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who warned in a tweet that armed militias were "rivaling state power."

McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman with no previous executive experience, speaks as though state and local police have have not received large amount of military equipment. The notion that police are outgunned by heavily armed private citizens is a common trope among gun-control advocates, but it bears little resemblance to reality.

Like every other state in the U.S., Virginia has received millions of dollars' worth of surplus military equipment over the years through the Pentagon's 1033 program, which distributes military gear to state and local police. While much of that equipment consists of things like thermal gloves and filing cabinets, it has also included M-16s, body armor, grenade launchers, bayonets, and armored personnel vehicles.

The Virginia Pilot reported in 2014:

Across Virginia, the program has sent 1,760 assault rifles and 116 12-gauge shotguns to local and state agencies, according to Department of Defense records. In addition to Virginia Beach's mine-resistant vehicle, known as an MRAP, 15 other cities and counties, including York County and Franklin, took delivery of the armored vehicles, according to the records.

Here's a photo of an armored vehicle—a Lenco BearCat, a model widely used by police departments around the country—that Reason's Ron Bailey snapped on the streets of Charlottesville on Saturday:

The police department of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where Saturday's rally occurred, obtained 12 M-16 rifles through the 1033 program. Virginia news outlet NBC12 reported that between 2007 and 2011 Albemarle County, where Charlottesville is located, "stockpiled 154 guns, mainly 5.56-millimeter rifles. That was the most weapons taken through the program in the entire state by a single police agency."

The 1033 program came under scrutiny in the aftermath of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where news wire photos showed police in heavy tactical gear forcefully dispersing crowds. Under changes instituted by the Obama administration, the program no longer provides body armor and has recalled equipment like tracked personnel carriers (which does not include MRAPs) and grenade launchers. Last year, demonstrators against the Keystone XL oil pipeline in North Dakota were faced with similar formations of militarized police, as well as the national guard, which deployed two surface-to-air missile launchers to the scene.

Whether Virginia police should have responded to the Charlottesville rally with a similar overwhelming show of force is a separate question. And none of this is meant to discount the incredibly fraught situation police were forced to handle or the risks they faced in doing so. But it is simply not factual to suggest that state firepower is at risk of being overwhelmed by right-wing militias.

McAuliffe's estimate that 80 percent of rally attendees were open-carrying guns—which is legal in Virginia—also appears overblown to judge from photos of the event. Luckily, not a shot was fired by police, by the militias, or by any armed counterprotesters.

The Virginia State Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article has been updated to reflect that the 1033 program no longer provides equipment such as body armor, bayonets, and tracked armored personnel vehicles.

NEXT: Violent Charlottesville Protester Claims 'Free Speech Does Not Protect Hate Speech'

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  1. Need moar gunz!

  2. CJ, you failed to specify whether the MRAP in that photo belonged to a state agency or some white nationalist protester.

    1. That picture is actually of a Bear/Bearcat militarized police vehicle. These are not mainstay vehicles of the US military.
      Lenco Bearcat

  3. Who told the police to stand down? City officials that keep telling police to stand down and not protect unsavory speakers (which has included everyone from Milo to a rally of Trump supporters in Portland) should be charged with civil rights violations.

    McAuliffe used police inaction to declare an a state of emergency and stop the protest, which was his intention all along.

    1. The ACLU representative made that exact observation

  4. Yeah I don’t buy it for a second. Were they outgunned in Berkeley too? Where you did nothing as the fascist communists went on a burning and looting spree?

    Leftist cities want this violence so they tell the police to stand down.

  5. “Redneck Revolt Fire teams”

    I did see a picture of an antifa with a compound bow but whoever penned that piece is no redneck:

    The worst moment of an entire weekend of white supremacist violence came when someone rammed their Dodge Charger into a large crowd of anti-racist protesters.

    1. I really, really appreciate how upset you are over them mismodeling the car. Don’t give up on this fight SIV, this is your hill to die on and I will die on it with you if it comes to it.

  6. I don’t mean this as a defense, but why aren’t there more pictures/videos of the marchers initiating the assaults (supposedly projectiles, direct attacks, etc.) on the counter-protestors? All the imagery I’ve seen has been direct marcher/counter-protestor contact and, of course, the vehicular homicide.

    Not a denial that any of it happened, but I’m still a bit surprised at the lack of visual content around this whole clusterfuck.

    1. I don’t know but the NYTs reported bottles of urine being thrown and pepper spray before describing clashes of individuals and groups. Those are signature antifa tactics.

  7. Your facts are no match for the power of The Narrative.

  8. McAuliffe was spouting similar BS this morning on NPR. He complained about everything from the ACLU and ignorant judges to how narrow the streets are in C’ville, but took full credit for no shots fired. Turd.

    1. McAuliffe is a fucktard. No surprises here.

  9. An MRAP continues to not be a tank or an armed APC.

    So it’s a little irrelevant to “out-gunned” arguments.

    But it sure looks impressive, if you’re trying to create impressions, I guess?

    (Also, again, cops get “grenade launchers” … but not explosive grenades. Tear or OC gas from a “grenade launcher” is identical to one from a “dedicated Less-than-lethal gas cannister launcher”, the only difference being a few mm in diameter to avoid awkward legal issues with the ability to fire 40mm explosives.


    That’s as relevant to “police militarization” in the real world as “scary bayonet lugs” was to the 1994 assault weapons ban.

    Seriously, just … stop.

    Stick to rifles (especially NFA ones) and the like, where the arguments actually work.)

    1. What is your point, exactly? An MRAP is a MILITARY vehicle designed to be operated in combat areas to significantly tip the scales in the favor of the possessors. It’s very strange not to consider that when talking about how a group is or isn’t outgunned. Let’s use the dictionary definition of outgunned: “have better or more weaponry than”. For the sake of argument, let’s assume an MRAP isn’t considered weaponry by itself (pretty debatable, but let’s just assume). However, the combination of MRAP and the weaponry used by police (who are highly trained and thus better weaponry themselves, but I digress) who possess the vehicle is certainly significantly superior to that of a few hicks toting rifles.

      1. If you think hicks versus MRAP is even remotely a fair fight, I implore you to check out the video below. For some reason, I doubt the hicks were firing .50BMG anti-piercing incendiary rounds.

        1. Some people have those rifles and rounds.

          MRAPs are mine-resistant vehicles not tanks.

          The only vehicles in the US inventory that can stop .50 rounds are M-1 tanks. If you are lucky a Bradley IFV.

        2. Furthermore, MRAPs are mine-resistant. In other words, you can blow a tire off that thing and its now a stationary vehicle.

          Military tactics involve recovering these vehicles and repairing them. A civil war would not make recovery easy since recovery bases would also be under attack. There is no safe place for treasonous police and military forces “behind enemy lines” because there would be no lines.

          1. Not sure I agree with this. If I’m a cop in an MRAP, I can hang out there for a damned long time. Not many people outside will be toting anything other than 5.56 (by far the most common rifle chambering) or 7.62 at best. Sure, there are people with 50BMG but they aren’t particularly common (and API rounds are even less common). The odds are on the cops surviving for long enough to call for backup, etc. are pretty good.

            And no way I agree with cops not having a safe place. Look at all of the police worshippers out there. I’d imagine a solid third-half of the populace would provide comfort. It’s really strange to assume that a significant portion of the populace would be on your side in a shooting conflict when a significant portion is not on your side during peacetime. Civil wars that end in an increase in liberty are significantly rarer than those that end in further oppression.

            1. Have you ever heard of the Brazen Bull? A little firewood and you’d be out.


    1. I laughed.

  11. Gov. Terry McAuliffe says militia members at Saturday’s Charlottesville rally had better equipment than state troopers. Not really.

    And then there’s this asshole. My jaw dropped when I heard him say this asinine, lying shit. Way to quell the tension and provide leadership and measured commentary on the situation douchebag.

    1. You can’t have a full on police state unless you let things occasionally get crazy in the streets. This allows the women and pussies to ask for protection.

      And by pussies, I mean Tony and palin, and brak, and all of those raging douchebags.

    2. Tension and open conflict between lefty Nazis and lefty SJWs are the Democrat’s bread and butter.

    3. McAuliffe’s a Clinton stooge, so it’s no surprise that he’s also a lying sack of shit.

      1. You are giving him too much credit for being not being worse than a sack of shit.

  12. You know, once upon a time, the armed militia was the state power – and a check on that power as well. “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

    1. That’s cute.

  13. I am skeptical of anything McAuliffe says, unless it involved guns, in which case I know he is lying.

  14. “…that militia members at the rally were better equipped than state police.”
    GOOD! The way it should be and is BTW.

    I can guarantee that most police department do not have a Barretts .50 cal rifle which can easily pierce armored car armor.

    1. For damn sure not many in California.
      After CA banned all civilian ownership of any .50 cal rifle, including single shot. Barratt refuses to sell to any state agency, and returned all CA state weapons in for service without completing the service.

  15. Yeah, just ask the Branch Davidians or those poor bastards at Ruby Ridge how their accidental or intentional attempts to rival state power went.

    If you think a Militia has as much firepower as the cops, you haven’t been paying attention.

    1. To be fair, that was a single compound of less than 100 adults who were trying to defend themselves more than actively destroy the police and military’s ability to wage war.

      Its fairly easy to surround and murder people who don’t really want to kill and won’t leave their home.

      Civil war would look much different.

      1. Civil war would most certainly look different – it would look like the wholesale slaughter of the vast majority of the those who choose to engage police forces. This notion of anything other than a small fraction of gun owners (outside of those with military/LEO training) doing anything other than shitting their pants when they’re shot at is absurd. The vast majority of gun owners fire their guns only at ranges, if at all. Some much smaller number fire at animals, which don’t fire back. There’s an enormous difference between that and trading fire with a well-armed and better-trained opposing force. I say this as a gun nut.

        And please don’t pretend like the Branch Davidians were helpless victims of the state. They were a cult led by a power-hungry psycho who routinely abused women and children. There’s no libertarian case to be made in defense of the BDs.

        1. The hell you say. The average cops fires his weapon for

          1. qualifIcation once a year. Most gun owners go at least once a month. And the cops and military both fire at stationary targets too. You’re also neglecting to mention hunters, who have at least decent stalking skills and accuracy at moving targets. Not to mention the cops and military would be wearing uniforms. If you need to look any further than how a rag tag bunch of civilians can give the worlds fiercest military in the world a run for their money, holler at the Taliban or Al Qauda. Not to mention veterans won’t necessarily be in the side of government, and a lot of active duty military and guard simply won’t obey the orders. A civil war in this day and age would make Antietam look like a day at the park.

            1. Interesting. I was an avid archery hunter earlier in my life. I had several hunting partners who also happened to be Viet Nam vets. One such hunting partner, was a civilian employee at nearby Concord Naval Weapons Depot. Weapons Depot had many young, Marine guards.

              Hunting partners, and some Marine guards liked to engage in local paint ball contests when that was all the rage. But hunters kicked young Marine ass every time. Hunters know how to hide, to stalk to move silently. Military trains balls to the wall. Balls to the wall is great in full scale wars. Gorilla war takes skills. Skills that people who know how to hunt, particulary archery hunting where one must get within 40 yards of one’s prey, that are very useful in gorilla warfare.

              A single sniper, picking off one or two enemies nightly, can create a sense of fear and intimidation that gives gorilla fighters a psychological upper hand.

              That hunting partner I had? He said he left for Viet Nam calling the enemy “gooks” and “Charile” as the Army had taught him. After 18 months in the field, he was wounded by sniper fire and returned, calling them Mr. Charles, sir.

              1. Gorilla war takes skills.

                But not as much skill as orangutan war.

                (Sorry, couldn’t resist that. For the record, I think you make some very good points.)

        2. Well, I’m glad we successfully killed all those women and children then in Waco, sounds like they were already used up by David Koresh.

        3. First, you very accurately describe the situation at the time of the start of our war for Independence from Britain. Guess which side won that time? The ones most closely matching the “hopeless cases” you described.

          Second, there is NO evidence David Koresh was abusive toward the women and children in the compound, DoJ several times interviewed and examined some of the women and children, all of whom WANTED to “go home’ to the compound. The abuses were the fabrication of Janet Reon’s Just Uss Department, as an excuse to “go git ’em”. Sure he had weapons. Nothing illegal, and nothing rising to any violationi of any laws in place at the time. I know a few dozen folks who have more than they did. SO WHAT? The right to arms does not come with a cap on quantity, nor restrictioins on types. That was in Texas, not Commieformula or the District of Criminals. And CERTAINLY not Noo Yawk

      2. Don;t forget that Dear Jannie (Reno) depolyed a fire breathing tank.. yes, an armored tank with steel track drive, and a rather large cannon that could also fire incendiary rounds. It was some form of such round from that tank that started the fire that murdered all the occupants of the buildings, including women and children. “We had to kill them all to protect them” sort of thinking.

        How sick is that? If memory serves, she is the same dimwit now reigning over UC Berserkeley, or is that the whole of the UC system?

        1. Janet Reno died last year. You’re confusing her with Janet Napolitano, who is currently president of the UC system.

  16. Anything to turn this into a story about guns…whatever.
    I’m sure there are some who are disappointed that no shots were fired during the fracas despite the presence of so many firearms.

    Now if we only had a law that prohibited human-operated cars…

    1. just wait. They’re working on that one, too. Its coming

  17. Quote from bottom of article-“McAuliffe’s estimate that 80 percent of rally attendees were open-carrying guns?which is legal in Virginia?also appears overblown to judge from photos of the event. Luckily, not a shot was fired by police, by the militias, or by any armed counterprotesters.”
    Governor McAuliffe was repeating the talking point of Hillary Clinton, that gun bans are needed because cops are “outgunned” by everybody.
    The cops withdrew, retreated, probably under orders because a “peaceful” demonstration would not be newsworthy.
    It appears that both /all sides were performing for the cameras. President Trump properly condemned all the violent demonstrators. The media seems to have set this as a trap for President Trump.
    I want to know who ordered the police to flee and if the vehicular homicide happened because the police were ordered to get out of the way so that the protest could turn violent?

    1. “”The cops withdrew, retreated, probably under orders because a “peaceful” demonstration would not be newsworthy.”
      –No they didn’t. They didn’t intervene in every fist fight that was breaking out as quickly as some might have liked, but they were fully omnipresent throughout. And in no way could the “successful” terrorist attack be blamed on a lack of police. A guy rammed his car into a crowd of people. How would the cops stop him faster than he was stopped?

      “t appears that both /all sides were performing for the cameras.”
      –Well that is sort of the point of both a march and a protest, isn’t it? To draw attention to one’s cause. In this case, the “cause” was the avowed belief in the inate supremacy of the “white race” and the need to exterminate or separate from, those unfortunates who made the unpardonable mistake of not being born into the white race.

    2. Which brings me to this gem: ” President Trump properly condemned all the violent demonstrators. The media seems to have set this as a trap for President Trump.”

      –No, he didn’t properly condemn anything. To prove my point, Let’s just play a thought experiment and imagine that President Obama was still in office during the London Bridge Attack. And rather than issuing a normal statement of concern for the victims/condemning terrorists, he instead remarked that though the attackers were bad, we too have blood on our hands from the Crusades.

      Can you imagine how justifiably apoplectic the Right would go? This was not just another political constituency; they were Nazi-sympathizesrs proudly aping the Third Reich. He should have been able to call them out.

      Then, as if that wasn’t enough, one of these Nazis hopped in his car and rammed it into a crowd of pecople — killing only one, by sheer dumb luck.

      To this, Trump says of his own free will that, effectively there’s blame to go around on all sides. Compare that with his sweeping statements about immigration every time an immigrant somewhere in the US commits a murder.

      This wasn’t a trap set by the media. It was yet another trap set for Trump by Trump. Which he then stepped in repeatedly. I get that you have partisan loyalty, but it doesn’t take much imagination to recognize that virtually anyone could have and would have handled this situation better then this mentally incontinent man-baby of a president.

      1. When a terrorist kills a bunch of people on a bridge minding their own business, how many sides can you take?

        The antifas (and other left wing activists) have verifiable record of using violence against any side they perceive to be racists and bigots. They HAVE killed people, and they exchanged blows with a hate group who obtained a permit to hold a rally. The white nationalists was assisted by the ACLU and the leadership level coordinated with police days before the rally to minimize violence. Apples and oranges.

        The point of “hate speech is legal, assault isn’t” was raised in this very publication to highlight the notion it’s not ok for counter protesters to assault those who are peacefully expressing their bigoted views. The reverse is also true, of course. A domestic terrorist took a woman’s life, but he might have been a lone wolf. None of the armed militia men actually shot the counter protesters (although they’re certainly guilty of beating up on some people).

        It’s not…. even that rare for political leadership to blame effectively blame multiple sides. Remember the LA riots? During the height of the BLM some black leaders condemned gun culture and black on black violence as well as the police shootings.

      2. That is exactly the kind of comment Obama would make, when he wasn’t busy tweeting pap like “nobody is born hating another because of race or color.” And yes, people on the right side of the aisle would be “justifiably apoplectic” but the MSM wouldn’t give a damn and the left-wing narrative would continue unabated.

        The proper police role in this is really not all that hard to figure out. They know the line of march and the place of assembly, and so set up barricades and police lines so “counter-protestors” are kept at least a block away from the protest itself. Anything less invites a physical confrontation, and a physical confrontation is what they got.

        1. No, it isn’t the kind of comment that Obama would make, and we know that he wouldn’t because he didn’t. He was often accused and derided for harboring such feelings of moral equivalence. But he never said any such thing, because he is not a complete idiot. He surely understood how politically foolish, not to mention substantively foolish it would be to spread blame around in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Trump, by contrast, clearly doesn’t understand why it’s stupid to think this way, nor evidently can he understand why it is politically suicidal. Because he is a buffoon and a man-baby.

          As to the “pap” you quoted, it was not Obama, but a line from Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

          That is the kind of statement that politicians make when they are actually trying to unite a divided country. Trump’s statement is the kind you make when you’re trying to pour gasoline on a fire. Not typically what we want from a US president. But who knows, Trump’s style worked great in Venezuela. I’m sure it will make American great again too.

        2. P.S. You’re right that holding a Nazi rally invites a physical confrontation. I don’t like that or support the counter-protesters who clearly wanted to fight. But the fact that such a rally would invite a massive response and was
          clearly designed to spark a fight was a surprise to nobody. Which is why the city aggressively tried to stop it from happening. Unfortunately, a judge exercised bad judgement. So that explains the minor fights and melees that were otherwise unremarkable. But it doesn’t explain the murderous terrorist attack whose obvious intent was to indiscriminately murder and wound as many people as possible. That’s why this incident is major national news, whereas similar dust-ups without terrorist attacks in Portland and Louisiana were mere blips. That’s what Trump needed to respond to. Instead, he equivocated and made it sound like this was just a fistfight between a few people that escalated out of hand. No, moron, it was a cold-blooded terrorist attack. Not hard to denounce. Unless you’re Trump.

  18. If the Prohies were scared because the Whinats had some icky black guns, they oughta’ve told the NG to bring a few Bradleys with ’em. Or M1s: the 120mm might be a bit much for civil unrest, but just tell ’em to leave the shells behind and only bring ammo for the coaxial, and it’s all good.

    Betcha the Wan Supremacy Brigade can’t afford any of those! SSDI can only pay for a couple Olys or Bushys, max. The State has a natural monopoly on expensive equipment, not an artificial one; insurgents and militias can drain a State force over time, but they can’t go head to head with them in a public square. They can always guarantee freedom of assembly if they care to.

    This is all just the usual Rifler Madness.

  19. People there on the alt-right are saying the cops intentionally pushed the groups together.

  20. We need more gun control so cops feel sufficiently armed that to molest you with impunity.

    Stop resisting.

  21. “Gov. Terry McAuliffe says militia members at Saturday’s Charlottesville rally had better equipment than state troopers.”
    A full out blatant lie.
    Even if true, it would be the governors fault.

    I moved away from Virginia before it became baja DC, but the state troopers I knew were fully capable, and willing, of standing between two violent groups to prevent the potential violence from becoming actual violence. I saw it several times during the ‘protests’ of the unpleasantness in southeast asia. Everybody yelling and shouting, but no one stupid enough to close in on the state police, who ‘just’ stood there in a line with batons and shields resting on the ground.

  22. You aren’t paying attention, if you haven’t realized that McAuliffe is dishonest. It didn’t start with this issue. It goes back to well before the Lincoln bedroom garbage. So let’s just establish one thing. He isn’t mistaken nor misremembering.

  23. First off if the police can only do the right thing if they have a preponderance of fire power than we have bigger issues. That implies no-knock raids are the only way for police action, and if you are in a CCW state every stop requires firearms out and suspects on the ground and cuffed before the situation can be addressed. This is of course ludicrous and police are not the military nor should they operate that way. I see the militarization of police an end around attempt to equip a force for military like actions without violating the constitution and federal laws. We don’t need DA being a core competency of the local PD.

    Next, what the hell is wrong with some of you? We are going to argue tactics here as a way of changing the argument? The bottom line is the police have the obligation to do the right thing. Police ROEs tend to be fairly liberal and officers always have the legal right to self-defense (see countless articles on here of how that leads to death by police for no particularly good reason). To argue about MRAPS and up armor is silly.

  24. Is our fate to have unlimited coverage of insignificant events with relevant facts being inversely proportional? Charletesville: was there any consideration that there may have been normal folk marching who for historical reasons didn’t want statues removed. Were there any? Didn’t the government have the duty to protect those with the permit and insure their message was heard, regardless of its repulsion? The Governor of Virginia complained the dispicable types marching brought semi-automatic guns and out weaponed overwhelmed those meant to keep order. How is that the police and state personnel could be outnumbered with all the advance notice. “Wasn’t that news? I saw on tv numerous marchers with hand guns + ostensibly legal in this open carry state. Was any of either side having illegal weapons? Isn’t that relevant? I hear rumors there were 3x the hostile anti+marchers than those with the permit. Were they equally armed? I’m at s total loss how anyone not present and objective could form an opinion on the entire affair except the vicious use of the car as a weapon. How come like that?

  25. I am skeptical of anything McAuliffe says, unless it involved guns, in which case I know he is lying.
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  26. Your facts are no match for the power of The Narrative.
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  27. “The Virginia Democrat told the Times that law enforcement arrived to find a line of militia members who “had better equipment than our State Police had.” In longer comments that were later edited out of the Times’ story, McAuliffe said that up to 80 percent of the rally attendees were carrying semi-automatic weapons. “You saw the militia walking down the street, you would have thought they were an army,” he said.”

    In still longer comments, which were still edited out before they were ruefully restored (shame on you for missing this, Reason), McAuliffe CONTINUED:

    “And yet not a shot was fired, zero property damage.”

    Reference here:…..ttesville/

    Yeah, I know, the Reason article makes this point, but it doesn’t point out that MCAULIFFE made this point.

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