Jessica Schulberg·Senior Reporter, HuffPost
Fri, October 23, 2020, 3:07 PM MDT
Militia groups “pose a serious threat to the safety and security of American voters,” particularly in the nation’s swing states, according to a joint report from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and MilitiaWatch.
Over the past several months, private militias “have become more assertive,” the two organizations found in a report published Thursday, titled “Standing By: Right-Wing Militia Groups & The US Election.” The report cites kidnapping plots targeting elected officials and interventions in protests throughout the country.
Parts of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon are at the highest risk of increased militia activity around the election, it says, while parts of North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, California and New Mexico are at a moderate risk. The report identifies the Three Percenters, Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois as groups that pose a “high” or “very high” potential for violence.
The report’s authors wrote that there’s been “a major realignment” of U.S. militia activity. While these groups have traditionally been anti-government, several of them have largely rallied behind a single political leader: Donald Trump.
The president has urged his supporters to go to polling sites during this election “and watch very carefully,” a directive likely to inspire far-right militia members, who see themselves as soldiers in a civil war. Asked to condemn the Proud Boys at a debate last month, Trump instead told them to “stand back and stand by,” a directive the neo-fascist group publicly interpreted as marching orders.
When militia members were arrested earlier this month for plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, the president seemed to delight in their animus toward her, encouraging a “lock her up” chant at a campaign rally in the state days later.
His son Donald Trump Jr. has asked “every able-bodied man, woman to join the Army for Trump’s election security operation,” an effort to recruit poll watchers who believe Democrats are trying to steal the election.
ACLED and MilitiaWatch, which found that militia activity has been reported in at least 34 states and Washington, D.C., since May, identified specific factors that increase the risk of election-related militia activity in certain states. ACLED is a nonprofit that monitors global political violence and MilitiaWatch is an online publication that tracks militia activity in the U.S.
Militia activity is expected to be higher in competitive spaces like swing states, the report found, where armed groups may work to repress votes for Trump’s opponents. Armed groups appear to be particularly active in areas where there have been protests against the lockdowns aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus — an effort militias perceive as an assault on their freedom — and places that have seen Black Lives Matter protests — which militias view as “leftist coup” activities.
Locations where militia members have friendly relationships with members of law enforcement are likely to see higher levels of militia activity, the report found. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, law enforcement officers were recorded on video handing water to a group of militia members and telling them, “We appreciate you guys, we really do,” shortly before 17-year-old vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two people in late August.https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/militia-threat-voters-2020-election-210721723.html