At a rally in Michigan, when U.S. President Trump attacked the state’s Governor Whitmer’s epidemic prevention and blockade policy, supporters shouted “lock her up”.
More than a week ago, U.S. law enforcement agencies cracked a kidnapping plot planned by militia groups, and Whitmer was one of the targets. Some analysts said that the case highlighted the possible violent role of militia groups in voters voting next month. In the United States, there are hundreds of militias.
At the first debate of the presidential election late last month, facing the question of whether he would condemn white supremacists and militias, Trump replied: “Proud Boy, take a step back and be ready.” Pride Boy is a famous militia.
As election day approaches, there are increasing concerns that the election will be disrupted by militias.
Many groups have emerged and extreme activities have surged.
In addition to Michigan Governor Whitmer, Virginia Governor Northam is also the target of the kidnapping conspiracy uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
FBI agents said at court hearings that because both governors decided to impose “coronavirus blockade orders” on their state, the militia group Wolverine Watchmen believed that they were unconstitutional and deprived citizens of their personal freedom, so they planned to recall them, and even kidnapping and murder them.
Wolverine Watch is a newly established militia that has been described by media as a branch of the well-known “Michigan Militia” organization (also known as Wolverine), which was established in 1994 by Norman Olsen, who retired from the United States Air Force, to resist those believed to be government violations of the American Constitution. Acts of legal rights. But after the kidnapping was uncovered, Michigan Militia cut it on its website, saying that the two were not affiliated.
Michigan has always been a hotbed of militia activities, and there are currently 20 or 30 militias. With a large rural population and strong belief in personal freedom and self-reliance, militias have been very powerful in the state since the 1990s and are aspired by other state militias. In 2010, the FBI arrested members of the Michigan-based “Hutari” (meaning “Christian Samurai”) militia in a multi-state raid, which planned to deal with “government running dogs” (police) first, and then engage “comrades” with “comrades” to launch a “large-scale anti-government uprising” in the United States.
In the United States, due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic and the debate caused by the civil rights movement, the activities of extremist organizations in many big cities have further provoked people’s restlessness in the past six months or so. The militia movement “Bugalo Boys” became famous in the process. Members of the militia frequently appeared heavily armed at the scene of the protests and killed two policemen. It is a loose right-wing extremist movement organization that is widely circulated on social media. According to statistics, since mid-to-late August, Facebook has deleted groups related to more than 300 U.S. militias.
In fact, militia groups wandering in these cities are more or less associated with two militia groups. The name is “The Oather” and the other is called “3%”. The vower “has no traditional “militia” identity, but is a major donor within the community of civil armed organizations.” The oath-goers” said that the members of the organization “swore to fulfill the oath of all military and police, and take it as their duty to ‘defend the Constitution and oppose all enemies at home and abroad'”. In reality, they claim to maintain order in the cities where the riots occur, but the local government and people say that no one wants these armed civilians to wander around the community.
“Three percent” claims to be “a national organization of patriots who love the country, freedom and the rights of the people,” whose members sometimes appear in public like an army, armed with long guns and in bulletproof vests. 3%” is named after the idea that only 3% of the colonial people really entered the war during the American Revolutionary War. Although historians generally believe that this view is wrong, it still has a large market, and the militia movement firmly believes that even a small group of people can overthrow tyranny as long as they have guns in their hands. Members of the organization have surrounded the governor’s residence of Kentucky to protest against the epidemic-related bans, and are also suspected of damaging public property and making terrorist remarks.
In addition to these famous militias, there are many scattered local militias across the United States. Since Trump entered the White House with controversy in 2016, there has been widening differences in American society about ideology and justice, and armed militias have increasingly emerged in the scene of beating and looting riots, which in turn has exacerbated social chaos.
The Washington Post once described that in this summer full of anxiety and anger in the United States, conservative armed civilians across the United States quickly entered the public eye, marched to state legislatures, challenged “black people’s lives are life” protests, and chased online rumors.” What we are seeing now is the external manifestations of the activities organized by militia groups for many years, who have shifted from training in remote areas to street radicalism. The head of an agency that studies a far-right group in Seattle said.
Now that election day approaches, what the militias will bring to the general election, worrying many people.” Our most terrible nightmare: Will the militia obey Trump’s call to ‘monitor’ vote? Ed Pilkington, the chief reporter of the British Guardian for the United States, asked.
The impact is unpredictable, and civil unrest may continue.
Affected by the epidemic, the number of voters, especially Democratic voters, who use mail to vote in this year’s U.S. election has increased significantly. At present, the bipartisan dispute over the voting method is still inconclusive, and Trump also accused Democrats of using mail-in ballots to fake votes and refuse to accept the voting results against themselves. This statement encouraged the activities of the militias that supported him, and there were rumors that the militia would launch armed unrest at Trump’s call.
Stuart Rhodes, the leader of the Pledgers, has publicly said that his members will protect voters on the spot for fear that there will be “radical leftists” attacking voters. On Facebook, Miz Thompson, who calls himself the “commander” of the militia, asked members of his organization to wear regular army camouflage clothes to support the Republican fund-raising campaign. Last month, Thompson posted a picture of the cannon firing, writing: “Keep the position, riders. Justice has come. Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son, also called on social media to “all healthy men and women to join the army of Trump’s election security operations”.
According to the Financial Times, several militia groups have vowed to appear at polling stations in full arms, and some groups have also sought to establish links with local authorities and law enforcement agencies. The article quoted Josh Ellis, who provides network platforms for militias, saying that this will happen in eight states, including California, Oregon and Washington, and North Carolina, which is likely to do so. Ellis also said that if the election failed, Trump stood up and said, “This was obviously stolen from me” and such words, “under the Constitution, he is the commander-in-chief, and he can call on the militia to take action”.
“It’s really possible that we’ll see armed militia members, armed groups, or Trump supporters in the vote.” Cassie Miller, a senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, believes that these people can not only intimidate voters, but also hope to create chaos at this critical moment. Mary McCord, a law scholar at Georgetown University, said Trump’s warning that he would only lose the election if there was a vote fraud, which sounded a “dog whistle” for militias that claimed to defend American democracy and called on them to take action when something was against the Republican Party.
Many experts believe that the closer the election is, the stronger the fear of violence. If Democrat Biden wins, some people are likely to turn the conversation into violence.” I fear that there will be many (militia) organizations that do not support President Biden’s legitimacy, and that government will have to consider how to disarm the militia. This will be a dangerous situation. Seth Jones, senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said. And if there is no obvious winner on election night, conspiracy theories will prevail and violent conflict is also likely to occur.
Four years ago, the militia strongly supported Trump in the confrontation between Trump and Hillary. In the last week of the election campaign, the militia group “striled the army”, and many organizations threatened that if Hillary was elected, they would carry out armed protests and maintain law and order. Many analysts say that given that the United States is still trapped in the violent protests in the summer and Trump’s refusal to promise a peaceful transfer of power after losing the election, the above concerns are not unreasonable. But historically, the impact of militias on the general election is limited. In the context of the division of American society, in addition to psychological impact, they will bring more chaos and violence.
Mrs. Sun, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science of Christopher Newport University in the United States, said to the Global Times that a new CSIS study shows that the possibility of terrorist attacks in the United States will increase in the next few months and next year.
This may be due to the fact that some far-right supporters of Trump have realized that the election is unfavorable. In their eyes, Trump’s defeat will mean that the “white supremacy” society they have built will be further dominated by multiculturalism.
Some militias may put pressure on minority voters near polling stations in the name of “watching the election” and “maintaining order”. Because of this possibility, some voters may not go out to vote. American society is also worried that militias have acted excessively to impact the legitimacy of the entire election.
Originating from history, deeply entangled by partisanship
Why can extreme militias have such a strong influence? This is inseparable from the history of the American militia. In fact, the emergence of militias preceded the founding of the United States.
As early as the colonial period, according to the rules of the state rulers, all strong men of school age were members of the militia, and towns formed local independent militia groups to defend their interests.
The year before the enactment of the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Essays detailed the idea that the founders gave the militia supremacy.
As defined by the U.S. Militia Act of 1903, “militia” includes both organized militias, such as the National Guard and naval militias, and unorganized militias, that is, armed groups composed of physically sound men between the ages of 17 and 45, non-national guard or naval militias.
After World War I, the National Guard was integrated into the scope of the United States Regular Army, while unorganized militia groups became looser until the rise of “white supremacy” and “patriot movement”.
The militia was originally part of the far-right “patriot movement”, which was traditionally anti-government. Members believed that the Constitution gave them legal rights and took measures to overthrow the government as appropriate. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the militia movement has an anti-government and conspiracy-oriented ideology.
Shortly after the deadly confrontation between the “Davidite” militia and federal law enforcement personnel in Waco, Texas in 1993, the militia grew throughout the United States and by the spring of 1995 had spread to almost every state in the United States. The Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing that year brought the militia movement to a climax.
“Most people, including local law enforcement, tend to turn a blind eye to such groups unless a group does catch the federal government’s attention because of alleged violent conspiracy,” said Amy Coote, a senior lecturer at Vanderbilt University, who has long studied American militia groups.
Because of this, in some parts of the United States, the local police have adopted a policy of acquiescence and even cooperation with militias. Previously, a Michigan sheriff praised the Wolverine Watchman and stood at a public rostrum with the members of the organization.
Objectively speaking, the defense of the militia movement is not limited to the Democratic government, but due to the long-term commitment of the Democratic Party to gun control, it is in opposition to the position of militia groups defending the right to own guns. Researchers noticed that the militia developed fastest during the Clinton administration in the 1990s.
The eight years under George W. Bush’s administration were a period of relative convergence of the militia movement. After Obama came to power, the militia rose rapidly again. And Trump’s disdain for the federal government has won him a lot of support from militias.”
According to the report of the Anti-Defamation League, the number of militias in the United States has doubled since 2008. The 2018 data of the Southern Poverty Law Center lists 612 anti-government groups across the United States, including 216 active militia groups.
According to the New York Times, experts estimate that veterans and active service members now account for at least 25% of militia members; about 15,000 to 20,000 active members of the existing 300 militia groups in the United States.
According to CNN, Trump seems to be deliberately creating the illusion of large-scale vote fraud by making incitement remarks that refuses to peacefully transfer power.
CNN quoted former U.S. President Ronald Reagan as saying that the use of firearms is “a ridiculous way to solve the necessary problems” and stressed that the Second Amendment does not protect private militias and that intimidation of voters is illegal.