Who were those guys on Elizabethtown roofs?

If armed militia groups are going to give themselves permission to “police” local Black Lives Matter demonstrations, as they did in downtown Elizabethtown on June 6, I think it’s important to know a little more about them.

One of the groups in Elizabethtown — the Carlisle Light Infantry — claims to be the direct descendant of the Carlisle Light Infantry that marched with George Washington against the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania and fought for the Union in the Civil War.

The other, now calling itself the Domestic Terrorism Response Organization, identified itself as “Anti ANTIFA” on a newly created Facebook page June 1, but changed to Domestic Terrorism Response Organization shortly after President Donald Trump declared the loosely organized American anti-fascist movement to be a domestic terror group.

The president’s attempt to avoid addressing concerns about police brutality expressed across the country failed miserably. Under U.S. law, the federal government can only “deem entities terrorists and impose sanctions on them” if they’re from another country, according to The New York Times on June 10.

Elizabethtown police Chief Edward Cunningham told LNP | LancasterOnline that he “became aware” on the night of June 5 that some shop owners had arranged their own security, but said he didn’t invite the militia groups or approve their plans. Apparently, borough Councilman Bill Troutman didn’t either. Nearly a week later, he was still demanding to know “who put those people on the roof,” according to LNP | LancasterOnline.

One gunman told LNP | LancasterOnline his name is Niels Norby Jr. and stated “I was there to protect everybody” — store owners, police and protesters.

The Domestic Terrorism Response Organization members present in Elizabethtown apparently offered no explanation for their presence there. “Anti-antifa” — a name it previously used on Facebook — is a term that has been coined by and linked to some white supremacist groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Carlisle Light Infantry, in its modern incarnation, describes itself on its website (carlislelightinfantry.com) as “the living, breathing, operational element of the 2nd Amendment as defined by the signers of the constitution of the United States as ‘a well regulated militia.’ ”

Asserting to be the revitalized progeny of the Colonial-era Carlisle militia, the current leaders explain on their website why they had to get the unit back up and running. Following are direct and unedited quotes: “We live in a time where we as citizens are apprehensive, even afraid of our uniformed officers. We’re doubtful and suspicious of our local elected officials. We’re convinced that our leaders do not have our best interests, our families and livelihoods, in mind as they make decisions that effect every aspect of our daily lives. We live in a time when our open arms to the world and it’s many peoples and cultures invites risk and harm to our own. We therefore live in a time where it’s our personal and civic duty to stand up for what’s right, and protect what matters most.”

Despite its assertion that “we do not, and will not, discriminate against anyone,” there is not one black or brown face in the several group photos posted its website. Put all of that together and you come up with what sounds to me like another white nationalist group intent on imposing its jaundiced view of 21st-century American society on communities (as it did in Elizabethtown on June 6), whether we ask for it or not.

Shocking as it is to view photos of these people brandishing their weapons on the rooftops of downtown Elizabethtown, it really is nothing new. Militia members essentially threatened to lynch Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month to express their displeasure with restrictions imposed to protect them from the deadly coronavirus.

But they go much further back than that. I met these disaffected Americans years ago when I was reporting in Michigan, Indiana and upstate New York. Like the Carlisle group, they called themselves “real” patriots. Those I met had lost faith in this country and its institutions, including the political system, the police and the military. Like the Carlisle Light Infantry, those militia members lived in fear; for them it was fear of a one-world government, secret messages on the back of road signs and black helicopters on the horizon.

For the Carlisle Light Infantry, it’s — in my view — fear of people of color, immigrants, diversity and a world not dominated by white people.

I felt sad talking to those militia groups back then, and the same sadness washes over me as I listen to these militia groups today. Their members seem so desperate that they’re willing to take up arms against their fellow citizens.

Back then, I tended to write these folks off as an insignificant splinter of the American body politic. But I don’t think we can ignore them anymore. They have a president who seemingly encourages them to take the law into their own hands and who shows no signs of understanding the traumatic experiences of any Americans, black or white.

Notice that today’s militia members seemingly express no sense of identifying with the struggle for racial equality and justice now sweeping across our country. It was a peaceful desire to support Black Lives Matter that triggered the protest in Elizabethtown on June 6. But the Domestic Terrorism Response Organization and the Carlisle Light Infantry didn’t come for that. They stood with trigger fingers at the ready — an intimidating, self-appointed presence — apparently prepared to take out anyone who crossed whatever lines they drew for acceptable behavior during a demonstration against police brutality.

Although the Carlisle Light Infantry puts in a lot of time drilling, these members are not trained police officers. Thank God the day did not end in tragedy. But the challenge posed by these groups did not end at sundown in Elizabethtown. A civil society cannot allow violence or the threat of violence to usurp the rule of law.

These are tragically disappointed people, gripped by fear and a mindset that will lead to nothing good. We must invite them back into the community dialogue now — for their sake and ours. There’s no better time than the present.

 

 

Cutting through the Green Tape: Who called the militia to ‘protect’ during Elizabethtown Protest

 

Peak of coronavirus crisis might not hit here until late spring, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital leaders say

Lancaster County could still be six to 10 weeks away from the peak impact of the coronavirus crisis, leaders of the county’s largest hospital system said Thursday.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital officials didn’t specify how many COVID-19 cases or patients they anticipate at the potential peak in mid-May to Mid-June. But their projection is the first public estimate of when the worst of the outbreak could arrive here.

They urged residents to strictly adhere to social distancing to help prevent the crisis from overwhelming the local health care system.

In addition to speaking with officials from Lancaster General Health, which operates the county’s largest hospital, LNP|LancasterOnline gathered information from the three other local health systemsUPMC PinnacleWellSpan Health and Penn State Health — and will publish those updates soon.

Here are three takeaways from Penn Medicine Lancaster General hospital, from president and CEO Jan Bergen and chief clinical officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski.


Don’t be complacent

Bergen and Ripchinski warned that a lot more Lancaster County residents are likely infected now than the official numbers show.

What has happened in New York and other places, they said, shows how the virus gathers steam while levels seem low and then suddenly cases start doubling every couple of days, growing exponentially.

They’re expecting a surge could hit here within three weeks, with potential peak impact from mid-May to mid-June, and making extensive preparations that LNP|LancasterOnline will report later.

Bergen said it’s absolutely essential that people practice social distancing “very seriously,” because if they don’t, “We will find ourselves in a situation that the demand for health care service is outstripping what we can provide.”


By the numbers

As of Thursday, there were 27 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, of which 10 were in the intensive care unit and six were on ventilators.

The system has swabbed more than 2,500 people for testing so far, with 168 cases confirmed.


Testing updates

As of Wednesday, the hospital now has the ability to do in-house, same-day tests, which leaders said reflects being part of the larger Penn Medicine organization.

That capacity is limited to about 200 patients every 10 days, so priority’s given to patients in the hospital as part of an effort to minimize exposure.

Tests for most of the people the system swabs here is still going through commercial labs. That had been taking well over a week due to backlogs like those reported across the nation, but is now down to six days and leaders said they think turnaround time will continue to get faster. There are 800 to 900 tests pending.

The system is working on a second swabbing site to be opened in Lancaster city.

Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up

I was invited in April to give a paid book talk here in Lancaster, and I was so blown away by the societal innovation the town’s leaders had employed to rebuild their once-struggling city and county that I decided to return with my reporter’s notebook and interview them.

.. Greater Lancaster is a microcosm of America. The city has a population of 60,000, about 40 percent of whom are white, 40 percent Latino — mostly Puerto Ricans whose parents came decades ago to process chickens.

.. Unwilling to let their hometown die a slow death, and fed up with weak municipal politicians, Mann and other civic leaders “got together in my living room” to become catalysts for change. “Our first insight was that leadership matters” — and if it wasn’t going to come from the politicians, then it would come from them — and it would be devoid of party politics.

.. “We found that people who were responsible for key parts of the city, business and government had never met each other,” said Mann. “They were all in their own silos, and we — Hourglass — were neutral, so we could get them together.”

.. When a leader from York told him: “Ray, you know, we take care of our own. We’re doing things our way,” D’Agostino responded, “Maybe that’s part of the problem.”

.. locate the stadium in the city’s northwest corridor in 2005. Recalled Mann: “I went to opening night and sat next to people from suburbia and they said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m in Lancaster.’”

.. Hourglass, and other groups provided the funds so public officials and the private sector could learn from the best experts in the world on how to lift their city and businesses. These included bringing in the mayor of Charleston, S.C., Joseph Riley, to explain how to build a thriving downtown; Edward Deming to teach quality improvement strategies; and an urban development expert from Brookings, Christopher Leinberger, to help create a long-term growth vision for the city and county. They’ve even looked to Denmark for insights.

..  found the hunger for best practices profound. “There is an awareness that all good ideas don’t start here,”

.. Gray, with the help of Leinberger, started by drawing up a long-term revitalization plan, which he carried around on a small note card every day to make sure every decision aligned with it.

..Gray told me he once remarked to F&M’s president, “You want to make Lancaster a place where students want to come and I want to make it a place where graduates want to stay.”

.. he forged a quiet partnership with Lloyd Smucker, a Republican who was then a state senator, to establish a community reinvestment zone that created the income stream to pay off the bonds needed to fund the convention center. “That was because Smucker and I could work together,” said Gray. “You get an awful lot done if you don’t worry who gets credit.”

.. Part of Gray’s strategic plan was also to bring public art into the city. “Art makes people feel better about themselves and their communities,” he told me, “so we made a huge push for public art

.. The unemployment rate in Lancaster County is 3.3 percent while in the city it’s over 10 percent. And while some 30 percent of the city lives below the poverty line, it reaches 50 percent in some of the poorest neighborhoods.