Nov 17 2021, at a rally in Michigan, when US President Trump attacked Governor Whitmer’s epidemic prevention and lockdown policy, supporters shouted “lock her up”. More than a week ago, U.S. law enforcement agencies cracked a kidnapping attempt planned by militias, and Whitmer was one of the targets. According to some analysts, the case highlights the possible violent role of militias in voter voting next month. In the United States, there are hundreds of militias. At the first debate of the presidential election at the end of last month, facing the question of “whether white supremacists and militias will be condemned”, Trump replied, “Proud boy, take a step back and get ready.” Proud Boy is a well-known militia. As election day approaches, there are more and more people worrying that the election will be interfered with by militias.
Many groups have emerged, and extreme activities have soared.
In addition to Michigan Governor Whitmer, Virginia Governor Northham was also the target of the kidnapping plot cracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). FBI agents said at court hearings that because both governors have decided to impose a “coronavirus lockdown order” on the state, the militia “Wolverine Watchman” believes that they are unconstitutional and deprive citizens of personal freedom, so they plan to remove them, and even plan to kidnap and murder them.
Wolverine Watchman is a newly established militia group called a branch of the well-known Michigan militia (also known as Wolverine) in the United States, founded in 1994 by Norman Olsen, a retired U.S. Air Force, to resist those believed to be government violations of American constitutions. Acts of legal rights. However, after the kidnapping case was solved, the “Michigan Militia” cut on its website, saying that the two were not subordinate.
Michigan has always been a hotbed of militia activities, and there are currently twenty-three militias. With a large rural population and a firm belief in personal freedom and self-reliance, militias have had a strong power in the state since the last century and 90s, and have been yearned for other state militias. In 2010, the FBI raided and arrested members of the Michigan-based “Hutari” (meaning “Christian warrior”) militia in many states, which plans to deal with the “government lackeys” (police” first, and then entangled with “comrades” to launch a “wide-scale anti-government uprising” in the United States.
As far as the United States is concerned, due to the continuation of the coronavirus epidemic and the controversy caused by the civil rights movement, the activities of extremist organizations in many big cities have further aroused people’s restlessness in the past six months. The militia movement “Bujaro Boys” was famous in this process. Members of the militia group frequently appeared at the protest site heavily armed and killed two policemen. This is a loose right-wing extremist movement, which is widely spread on social media. According to statistics, Facebook has deleted groups related to more than 300 American militias since mid-to-late August.
In fact, militia groups wandering in these cities are more or less associated with the two militias. It’s called “Oather” and the other is “three percent”. The Oather itself does not have the traditional “militia” status, but is the main donor in the civil armed group community. The oather said that the members of the organization “vowed to fulfill the oaths of all soldiers and policemen and take ‘defending the constitution against all enemies at home and abroad’ as their mission”. In reality, they claim to maintain order in the rioted city on this principle, but the local government and the people said that no one wanted these armed civilians to wander around the community.
“Three percent” claims to be “a national organization composed of patriots who love the country, freedom and people’s rights”, and its members sometimes appear in public like an army, carrying long guns and bulletproof vests.” Three percent is named after the concept 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 lot of market. The militia movement firmly believes that even if it is only a small group of people, as long as they have guns in their hands, they can overthrow tyranny. Members of the organization have surrounded the governor’s residence in Kentucky to protest against the ban related to the epidemic, and are also suspected of destroying public property and making terrorist statements.
In addition to these well-known militias, there are many scattered local militias across the United States. Since Trump entered the White House with controversy in 2016, there have been widening differences in American society on ideological and justice, and armed militias have increasingly flooded at the scene of riots of smashing and looting, thus exacerbating social chaos. The Washington Post once described that in this summer of anxiety and anger in the United States, conservative civilians across the United States quickly entered the public eye, marching to the state legislature, challenging “black people’s lives are also lives” protests, and chasing online rumors.” What we are witnessing now is the external manifestations of the activities organized by militia groups for many years. They have shifted from training in remote areas to street radicalism. The head of an organization in Seattle that studies extreme right groups said.
Now, as the election day is approaching, many people are worried about what the militia will bring to the election.” Our most terrible nightmare: Will the militia follow Trump’s call to ‘surveill’ votes?” Ed Pierkinton, chief reporter of the American edition of the British Guardian, asked in an article.
The impact is unpredictable, and civil unrest may continue.
Affected by the epidemic, the number of voters voting in this year’s U.S. election by mail has increased significantly, especially Democratic voters. At present, the bipartisan dispute over the voting method has not been finalized. Trump also accused Democrats of falsification of mailing votes and refusing to accept voting results that are not conducive to him. This statement encouraged the activities of the pro-heir militias, and there were rumors that the militia would launch armed unrest at Trump’s call.
Stuart Rhodes, the leader of the “Oath”, has publicly stated that his members will protect voters on the spot for fear that the “radical left” will attack voters. On Facebook, Miz Thompson, who claimed to be the “commander” of the militia, asked members of his organization to wear regular army camouflage uniforms to support Republican fundraising activities. Last month, Thompson posted a picture of artillery firing, saying: “Heep the position, riders. Justice is coming.” Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. also called on social media for “all able-bodied 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 armor, and some groups have also sought to establish contact with local authorities and law enforcement. The article quoted Josh Ellis, who provides online platforms for militias, as saying that such a situation will occur in 8 states, including California, Oregon and Washington State, and North Carolina may also be possible. Ellis also said that if the election fails, Trump will come forward and say, “This is obviously stolen from me”, “According to the Constitution, he is the commander-in-chief, and he can call on the militia to take action.”
“We are really likely to see armed militia members, armed groups or Trump supporters in the voting.” 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 McCard, a legal scholar at Georgetown University, said that Trump warned that he would lose the election only in case of vote fraud, which sounded a “dog whistle” to militias that claim to defend American democracy and called on them to take action when situations are not conducive to the Republican Party.
Many experts believe that the closer to the election, the stronger the fear of violence. If Democrat Biden wins, some people are likely to turn the dialogue into violence.” I’m afraid that there will be many (militia) organizations that do not support President Biden’s legitimacy, so that the government will have to consider how to disarm the militia. This will be a dangerous situation. Saith Jones, senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the United States, said. And if there is no obvious winner on election night, conspiracy theories will prevail and violent conflicts are also likely to occur.
In the confrontation between Trump and Hillary 4 years ago, the militia firmly supported Trump. In the last week of the election campaign, the militias “prepared for horses”, and many organizations threatened that if Hillary was elected, they would carry out armed protests and maintain public security. Many analysts said that given that the United States is still trapped in violent protests in the summer and Trump’s refusal to promise a peaceful transfer of power after losing the election, the above-mentioned fears are not unreasonable. However, from the past history, the impact of militias on the election is limited, and in the context of social divisions in the United States, in addition to psychological influence, they can bring more chaos and violence.
Sun Taifu, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Newport University in Christopher, said a Global Times reporter that a new CSIS study shows that the possibility of terrorist attacks in the United States will increase in the next few months of this year. This may be due to the fact that some of Trump’s far-right supporters have realized that the election was not good. In their eyes, Trump’s defeat will mean that the “white supremacy” society they build is further dominated by multiculturalism. Some militias may put pressure on minority voters near polling stations in the name of “observing elections” and “maintaining order”. Because of this possibility, some voters may not go out to vote. American society is also worried about the excessive behavior of militias to impact the legitimacy of the whole election.
Originating from history, it is deeply involved in partisan entanglement.
Why can extremist militias have such a strong influence? This is inseparable from the history of American militias. In fact, the emergence of militias preceded the founding of the United States. As early as the colonial period, according to the regulations of the rulers of the states, all strong men of school age were members of the militia, and each town formed a local independent militia group to defend its own interests. A year before the promulgation of the U.S. Constitution, the Collection of Federalists detailed the idea of the founding of giving the militia the supremacy.
According to the definition of the U.S. Militia Act 1903, “militia” includes both organized militias, such as the National Guard and Naval Militia, and unorganized militias, that is, armed organizations composed of able-bodied men aged 17 to 45, non-National Guard or naval militias. After World War I, the National Guard was integrated into the scope of the regular U.S. army, while unorganized militia groups became more and more loose until the rise of “white supremacy” and “patriot movement”.
Militia was originally part of the far-right “Patriot Movement”, which has traditionally been anti-government. Members believe that the Constitution gives them the legitimate right to take measures to overthrow the government as appropriate. According to the Anti-defamation Alliance, the militia movement has an anti-government and conspiracy-oriented ideology. Shortly after the fatal confrontation between the “David sect” militia and federal law enforcement personnel in Waco, Texas, in 1993, the militia developed and expanded throughout the United States and spread to almost every state of the United States in the spring of 1995. The bombing of the Federation Building in Oklahoma City that year culminated the militia movement.
Amy Kurt, a senior lecturer at Vanderbilt University who has long studied American militia groups, said, “Most people, including local law enforcement authorities, often turn a blind eye to such groups unless a group does attract the attention of the federal government because of the so-called violent conspiracy.” That’s why local police have adopted a policy of acquiescence and even cooperation with militias in some parts of the United States. Previously, a Michigan sheriff praised “Wolverine Watchman” and stood on a public podium with members of the organization.
Objectively speaking, the target of the militia movement is not limited to the Democratic Party government, but because the Democratic Party has long been committed to gun control, it is in opposition to the position of militia groups defending the right to hold guns. Researchers have noticed that militias developed the fastest during the Clinton administration in the 90s of the last century. The 8 years of George W. Bush’s administration were a period of relative convergence of the militia movement. After Obama came to power, militias rose up again. Trump’s disdain for the federal government has won him the strong support of many militias.”
According to the report of the Anti-defamation Coalition, the number of militias in the United States has doubled since 2008. Data from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2018 listed 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-duty soldiers now account for at least 25% of militia members; there are about 1.5 to 2 million active members of the existing 300 militia groups in the United States.
CNN said that Trump seemed to deliberately make inflammatory remarks rejecting the peaceful transfer of power, thus creating the illusion of large-scale vote fraud. CNN quoted former U.S. President Ronald Reagan as saying that the use of guns is “a ridiculous way to solve the necessary problems” and stressed that the Second Amendment of the Constitution does not protect private militias, and it is illegal to intimidate voters.