Militia experts worry more violence could happen following foiled kidnap plot

Militia expert concerned about more violence
Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 9, 2020 at 6:06 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Experts who have tracked anti-governmental groups for years say Michigan has a long history of militia groups.

Both Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University Senior Lecturer, along with the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan say that because of this, they weren’t surprised to learn militia members were involved in the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

“I am not surprised,” said Carolyn Normandin, the Anti-Defamation League regional director. “We have been concerned about a rise of domestic extremism for a long time.”

“Militias have been very active in Michigan,” added Cooter. “The fact that they have been involved for so long, there have been folks who have been around since the beginning, so they have become in some cases like consultants for new people who want to come up and make their own.”

Cooter says that the Wolverine Watchmen, the militia group investigators say were behind the plot, has recently been created.

“It is my understanding that it primarily formed as a result specifically to the state’s response to the pandemic and people feeling that they had to do something about that,” said Cooter. “It tends to be the case across the board that newer and smaller groups, especially ones that have splintered off from another group, might be more extreme...more prone to violence.”

New reports from federal officials say the seven men tied to the Wolverine Watchmen militia group support the “boogaloo” movement.

“It’s more of an ideology. It’s kind of cross cuts other groups as well,” explained Cooter.

“Boogaloo is a short-hand for civil war, so they’re people interested in people ramping things up and taking any opportunity to push into violence to overthrow the government,” added Normandin.

Cooter says her research shows militia groups tend to be law-abiding most of the time, but she’s concerned that this incident could lead other extremists' groups to act out.

“I think groups nationally watching this see this as an illegitimate effort to suppress free speech. They will believe the charges are trumped, upend will put them more on edge heading into this election,” said Cooter. “There is a potential for this to be a variable in further radicalization.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel says the Wolverine Watchmen militia is one of an estimated two to three dozen militia groups in Michigan.

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