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Paramilitary group members arrested with plan to kidnap Michigan governor

On Thursday, Oct. 8, over a dozen men from multiple states were arrested on federal and state charges as a result of a foiled plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer.  

All the men apprehended last week were members of an anti-government militia group and, according to Whitmer in an address from Lansing later that day, they were “preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me.” All of them face a possible life sentence if convicted. 

Seven men are closely linked to a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen and were charged in state court for alleged efforts to storm the Michigan Capitol and give material support for terrorist acts. 

Six of the men were arrested and charged with federal crimes in connection to the attempted kidnapping. Five of them were from Michigan and one from Delaware. The man from Delaware, Barry Croft, was ordered to be brought to Michigan to face the charges on Tuesday.

Two of the men arrested for their connection to the plot to kidnap the Michigan governor are U.S. Marine Corps veterans. (Photo credit: @segamihcfund on Twitter)

The arrests are a result of a detailed investigation by the FBI focusing on militia groups discussing violent overthrow of certain people in government and law enforcement positions. The inquiry arose as a consequence of individuals talking about anti-governmental militancy and forming connections with other like-minded people through social media.  

Two individuals in particular, Croft and a Michigan man named Adam Fox, were identified by the FBI. Through online communication, Croft and Fox found they had a common cause and agreed to recruit others with the intent to overthrow multiple state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution.  

On Saturday, June 6, Fox, Croft and 13 other people from various states held a meeting in Dublin, Ohio. According to Special Agent Richard Trask – who was instrumental in securing federal charges for six of the men arrested – they discussed a self-sufficient, constitutional society and different ways of achieving it. One method they talked about was murdering or “taking” a sitting governor, characterizing people in positions of power as “tyrants.”  

Although this loose collective is composed of people from multiple different states, their main concentration was thought to be Michigan. When Trask testified today at a court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he stated that they had also discussed kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam at their June 6 meeting in Ohio.  

“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders,” Trask said.  

Members at the meeting shared grievances about the measures taken by Democratic governors, like Whitmer and Northam, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Back in April, when the virus was spreading rapidly throughout the U.S., President Donald Trump mirrored the complaints made by paramilitary groups. He disputed stay-at-home orders and other protective measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.  

On Sunday, April 17, Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” Then, a minute later, the president tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

Just a few minutes later he added “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” 

All three states have sitting Democratic governors, who have endured hard criticism for their attempts to combat COVID-19. In addition, each of these states have had massive anti-lockdown, pro-gun demonstrations with heavily armed protestors gathering in and around government buildings. 

The difficulties of the past seven months have created the perfect conditions for widespread militancy, as well as elevated political and racial polarization. With circumstances worsening across the nation, an election on the horizon and Trump continuing to play the role of agitator, violent anti-government action will only become more common. 

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