Police, soldiers bring lethal skill to militia campaigns against US government

“Thousands of police and soldiers – people professionally trained in the use of violence and familiar with military protocols – are part of an extremist effort to undermine the U.S. government and subvert the democratic process.

According to an investigative report published in the Atlantic in November into a leaked database kept by the Oath Keepers – one of several far-right and white supremacist militias that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 – 10% of Oath Keepers are current police officers or military members. Another significant portion of the group’s membership is retired military and law enforcement personnel.”

“The Three Percenters, another militia present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, also draws a substantial portion of its members from law enforcement, both military and civilian. Larry Brock, a pro-Trump rioter arrested with zip-tie handcuffs, allegedly for taking hostages, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who posted content from the Three Percenters online.”

“Far-right elements have always had some presence in U.S. security forces.

Throughout the 20th century, many local police departments were heavily populated with Ku Klux Klan members. The connections between terror groups and law enforcement enabled discrimination and violence against African Americans, Jews and other minorities.

In 1923, all the Black residents of Blandford, Indiana were forced out of town to an unknown location following accusations that an African American man assaulted a young girl. The unlawful “deportation” was conducted and organized by the local sheriff, a Klansman, with the assistance of local Klan chapters.

Many U.S. military bases have also had cells of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups throughout the 20th century.

In 1995, three paratroopers from Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, were arrested and charged in the killing of a Black couple in Fayetteville. Two were sentenced to life in prison for the murders. The Army initiated an investigation at the base, which was known for being a hub of the National Alliance, then the country’s most influential American neo-Nazi group.

The Army identified and discharged 19 paratroopers for participating in hate activities. One went on to kill six worshipers in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August 2012. He died in a police shootout.”

“The militias’ success secretly infiltrating police departments contributed to the emergence of new far-right associations that openly recruit law enforcement, like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America.

Founded in 2011 by former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, the group promotes the notion – contrary to the Constitution – that the federal government authorities should be subordinated to local law enforcement. It has more than 500 sheriffs nationwide. Just over half are currently in office.

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America has pushed its members not to enforce gun control laws and pandemic-related mask regulations that they believe infringe on civil liberties.”

Why Militias Are So Hard To Stop

“When you’ve got neo-Nazis harassing an innocent family in the suburbs because of a podcast that has nothing to do with them, it’s pretty clear this country has a domestic extremism problem. The Department of Homeland Security knows it, Congress knows it, and every single person who watched the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in horror knows it. There are many elements to the domestic extremism threat in America, but one prominent component is private militias. An assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has warned that violent extremist militias present “the most lethal” threats in the U.S., and the share of public demonstrations involving far-right militias has increased since the 2020 general election, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.”

“Militias pose a prickly dilemma for law enforcement because they butt up against a bunch of different American narratives around self-defense, gun rights and how to live in a safe society. Some militias are just a group of guys doing target practice in the woods. Other militias plot to kidnap a governor.”

“The presence of the term “a well regulated militia” in the Second Amendment to the Constitution leads a lot of people to believe that these groups must be constitutionally protected, but the Bill of Rights is open to interpretation. Some scholars say the Second Amendment was referring only to state-run militias called upon by the governor or federal government as needed, not private groups. In fact, in the Supreme Court’s 2008 landmark ruling that upheld an individual’s right to bear arms, the justices notably reaffirmed an 1886 ruling that the Second Amendment “does not prevent the prohibition of private paramilitary organizations” — in other words, private militias.
“Private militias want us to think the Second Amendment protects them, and they’re just wrong,” said Mary McCord, the executive director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. “‘Well regulated’ has always meant ‘regulated by the state.’””

“When Facebook recommended he join the Wolverine Watchmen, Dan thought it was a group for firearm training. It wasn’t until a fellow group member started inquiring about how to find the home addresses of police officers that alarm bells started going off.

Dan, whose last name has not been publicly released in order to protect him, went on to become an FBI informant who was critical in uncovering the Watchmen’s plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In March, he testified at a preliminary hearing for three of the more than a dozen people arrested and charged in the case since October.”

“law enforcement doesn’t always act when it encounters militia activity, and that can lead to dramatic consequences. It’s part of the reason why armed protesters, including some militia members, who had planned to storm the Michigan Capitol in April 2020 didn’t have to storm anything. Instead, they were allowed inside by state police and stood in the gallery above the Senate chamber, toting semiautomatic rifles, staring down as lawmakers went about their business. At least two of these militia members were later arrested for the foiled plot to kidnap Whitmer.”

FBI arrests Kentucky militia members connected with Boogaloo Bois

“John Subleski, 32, is accused of inciting a riot in downtown Louisville on Jan. 6, the same day a mob egged on by former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. Subleski was allegedly part of a militia group that identified with the Boogaloo Bois — an extremist movement that centers on planning for an overthrow of the U.S. government.

Federal prosecutors allege that Subleski used social media to encourage others to take part in the riot. Subleski posted that it was “Time to storm” the Louisville Police Department, according to a criminal complaint.

Another Louisville man, Adam Turner, 35, allegedly menaced a Kentucky police officer during a protest caravan through St. Matthews, Ky., on Dec. 25. Turner was carrying an AR-pistol and resisted arrest, according to a Justice Department news release. He later posted threatening messages against police on his social media.”

Trump is gone. But the threat of right-wing violence that arose under his watch remains.

“The most successful terrorist campaign in American political history took place after the Civil War.

Ex-Confederate soldiers and ordinary Southerners unwilling to give up on white supremacy formed a series of violent cells aimed at undermining Reconstruction. Their attacks, the most infamous of which were lynchings of recently freed Black people, aimed to disrupt racially egalitarian governments and impose costs on the North for continuing to occupy Southern land. The violence increased after Reconstruction ended, working to intimidate local Black populations while Southern states created new regimes that would render them second-class citizens.”

“We do not actually need a huge spike in far-right violence for it to be politically impactful. The mere threat of future violence can poison a democracy.”

“If more moderate Republicans are afraid to speak up, extremists will increasingly speak for the party. The more the extremists speak for the party, the more they will push Republicans voters to the far right and embolden violent far-right actors, further intimidating moderate voices from speaking out.

This is one key difference from the political dynamics of the 1970s. Back then, no significant faction of the Democratic Party was aligned with the violent radicals. Today, large sections of the far right see themselves as acting on behalf of or in conjunction with the Trumpist forces in the Republican Party. In footage of Capitol Hill mobbers ransacking the Senate floor, one attacker justifies his actions by saying “[Ted] Cruz would want us to do this.”

“There seem to be enough guns, political support, and rhetorical space to sustain at least some degree of mobilization by violence-curious radicals,” says Paul Staniland, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. “It’s a lot easier to unleash carnage than to pack it back away.””