A new report finds that five states in the country are at high-risk for far-right militia activity around the upcoming election.
Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Wisconsin are the states the report names as the ones at the highest risk for militia activity. Researchers say they did not have any specific inside information on what the groups may be planning or where that activity could take place.
The report, co-authored by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project and Atlanta-based Militia Watch, warns that armed extremist groups “pose a serious threat to the safety and security of American voters." It cites fear of a “left wing coup” and anti-coronavirus lockdown sentiments as drivers of militia activity.
Hampton Stall, founder of the blog Militia Watch, says Donald Trump’s campaign is causing the groups to become “more aggravated, more energized,” but the groups are not necessarily growing in size.
The report cites militia groups like the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers, but also focused on the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois who advocate for civil war.
“It has become very normal for militias to show up at protests," he said. “That’s a really powerful effect of this summer.”
The groups are known to be violent. This past August, in Wisconsin, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested for allegedly killing two protesters and wounding another. Earlier this month, police arrested 13 men for plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
ACLED has gathered data on armed conflict and political violence around the globe for the last decade, but the organization started tracking militia activity in the United States in 2020.
“With the election coming up, we were really interested in doing a spotlight on the U.S. context as well," Roudabeh Kishi, director of research at ACLED, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kishi says her organization’s work is to understand and bring awareness to the potential for militia violence, but not to sway people away from voting this election.
“We don’t have reason to believe that groups will show up on election day at a specific election site and harm people," she said.