Militias say they protect rights, critics call it a sham.

Militias say they protect rights, critics call it a sham.

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) – Bob Gardner packed up his military gear and firearms on the Fourth of July and headed south to Gettysburg for a battle.

The commanding officer of the PA Light Foot Militia would join hundreds of his brothers in militias from across Pennsylvania to protect the hallowed ground from what appeared to be a group threatening to burn a U.S. flag and desecrate Confederate monuments at the national park.

Groups such as Gardner’s call themselves constitutional militia, saying they defend the rights of others. In Pennsylvania, 28 militia organizations are listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-government groups.

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Since their birth in the mid-1990s, they have primarily stayed hidden, but this year, they’re out – fully armed – to patrol Black Lives Matter rallies, claiming to provide protection from counter protesters. They’ve also made themselves visible at state capital demonstrations, demanding the reopening of businesses during the pandemic.

But their greatest show of

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