Michigan’s state attorney general is speaking out about the foiled plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer which was started among right wing, domestic terrorist groups with a white supremacist agenda. What’s worse is that state officials confirmed that this type of right wing extremism is increasing and seemingly emboldened by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, which has been widely criticized as racially charged.
"The people that we charged are affiliated with this Wolverine Watchmen group," Attorney General Dana Nessel told NPR, noting that group is based in Michigan. “But there are multiple white supremacy groups and militia groups that have been acting in accordance with one another."
A joint task force investigation that lasted multiple months resulted in the FBI arrests of Paul Bellar, Sean Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Peter Musico, and Joseph Morrison, the Detroit News reported on Thursday.
The group of men, all white, was reportedly upset about Whitmer’s restrictions that came about due to the coronavirus pandemic and wanted to rebel and create a “self-sufficient” society. Court documents say their intention was to invade the Michigan state capitol building and take hostages.
According to the FBI, the men have been plotting since at least June and six others linked to them were also planning to storm Whitmer’s vacation home in Delaware and take her captive. Those individuals were identified in a criminal complaint as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.
They were reportedly plotting to force Whitmer to stand “trial” for “treason” before the Nov. 3 election, according to the News.
The individuals involved were backers of what is known in white supremacist and domestic terrorist extemist circles as “the boogaloo,” or a revolution that upends American society into a second civil war.
"This effort to have a mass uprising nationally is something that we should be very concerned about because, again, it's not just a Michigan problem, this is an American problem," Nessel said.
Extremist groups, angered mostly by protests over police killings of Black people as well as restrictions over coronavirus, have themselves strengthened in their resolve and are using those phenomena as recruitment points.
"I think that those protests were used actually as recruiting stations to add more members and to find people that were angry with the governor, angry with the government, and frankly, I think encouraged by the words of our president," Nessel said.
The President's Words
Earlier this year, Trump tweeted simply “Liberate Michigan” as a response to Whitmer’s executive orders when coronavirus spread was increasing throughout the state. People then showed up at the state capitol building in Lansing brandishing long guns and automatic rifles. Others blocked traffic in protest of the policy.
More recently, during the first presidential debate, Trump avoided condemning white supremacists instead saying to one extremist group, the Proud Boys, “stand back, stand down,” which many of their chapters took as acknowledgement of their movement.
Such groups were identified by the FBI as an increased threat by director Christopher Wray in congressional testimony in February.
“The most persistent threats to the nation and to U.S. interests abroad are homegrown violent extremists (HVEs), domestic violent extremists, and foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs),” Wray said.
Extremist plots against the government are not new. In fact, they’ve existed throughout American history and have resulted in everything from failed coups to presidential assassinations. In more recent history, one -- which also started in Michigan -- resulted in the 1995 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma federal building bombing which killed 168 people.
At a farm in rural Decker, Michigan, Terry and James McNichols teamed up with Timothy McVeigh to plan the attack. It turned out to be the most deadly act of domestic terrorism since the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma riot, which itself came from post-World War I white supremacist paranoia.
Terry Nichols was sentenced to life imprisonment. James Nichols, who was never charged, died in 2017. McVeigh was executed in 2001.