The U.S. Constitution states “... neither shall any person be eligible to that office [of president] who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years.” But last June, Elijah Manley decided to run for president anyway. The Fort Lauderdale High junior was only 16 (but has since turned 17). He contends that he might have had to wait 19 years to be inaugurated, but there's no age restriction to run.
This past year, Manley attended a debate for the Socialist party in Wisconsin, fundraised in New Hampshire, and ignited a loyal following of youth rights activists. Manley knew it would never be enough to actually win the presidency, but he hoped his campaign would at least challenge other candidates. Last month, he officially ended his run. But Manley is not losing momentum just yet.
As president of Continental Youth Assembly, a youth civil rights organization, Manley is always plotting new ways to bring young people more power since they are often oppressed by adults, he says. Earlier this year, Manley tried to lower the voting age in Broward to 15. Now, Manley's organizing a youth militia in South Florida comprised of people under the age of 25.
"This militia's purpose is to unite young people who want to be part of a collective body of pro-Second Amendment young people," Manley says, "exercising their Second Amendment right to formulate a militia."
Manley says he got the idea after participating with another militia in Wisconsin. "Together they trained, worked out, hunted together, and exchanged activist ideas," he says. "I felt that I could start something similar, just with a more intense purpose."
According to Manley, when he returned to South Florida he introduced a resolution to form a militia among other members of Youth Assembly. It passed last month. Manley insists that it's just one of the tenets of youth liberation: "The youth cannot depend solely on adults for protection. They must organize for self-defense."
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Manley stresses that the group is nonviolent and nothing like the Oregon militiamen, who earlier this year engaged authorities in a 41-day standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Some of their members were accused of setting fires to federal land and possessing explosives. Instead, Manley says his group will only learn how to defend themselves in the wake of a "tyrannical government," a military invasion, or natural disaster.
"When the founding fathers created the Second Amendment, they understood the need to form militias separate from government," Manley says. "I think the Second Amendment was made for all Americans, not just Americans over 18 or 21."
Manley also believes there shouldn't be an age restriction for gun licenses, but a test to determine ability and mental fitness — like a driver's license exam. (At present in Florida, you must be 18 to possess a handgun or long gun and 21 to get a concealed-carry license.)
So far, Manley says there are about a dozen people under the age of 25 interested. But he's still recruiting. There's a period of evaluation in place to make sure that anyone joining shares the group's core ideals of youth liberation. Manley is already planning their first training and hunting session, which will take place in either Oleta River State Park or the Everglades. Anyone interested can reach out to Manley on the Continental Youth Militia Facebook page.