An armed militia planned the kidnapping of the Michigan governor

An armed militia planned the kidnapping of the Michigan governor

An armed far-right group active on Facebook aimed to get Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, accused by the far right for the severe lockdown she applied to her state, to a "safe place". The plan was thwarted by the FBI

(photo: Handout / DNCC via Getty Images) An armed far-right terrorist group was planning the kidnapping of Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan in the United States. But the plan was thwarted by the FBI: 13 men were arrested on Thursday 8 October. Of them, 6 are accused by the Federal Court of conspiracy for kidnapping and 7 associated with militias of a group called Wolverine Watchmen, are accused by the court dealing with the terrorism case for trying to storm the Michigan Capitol with the intent to provoke a "civil war". The first 6 risk a life sentence, the other 7 up to 20 years in prison.

The details of the investigation

With the arrest of the suspects, the FBI has made public the report compiled by Special Agent Richard Trask with the details of the investigation. According to the accusations, the men taken into custody carried out real "training exercises in the field", during which they created and detonated an explosive test device, as well as using firearms. They also conducted a coordinated day and night surveillance of Whitmer's summer house between August and September.

Authorities have stated that the plot has been stopped thanks to the work done by undercover agents and informants in recent months. In fact, the FBI had learned of the plan at the beginning of 2020, through a group on Facebook: the report of the investigation mentions the social network three times, as one of the main communication platforms used by the terrorist group to coordinate own activities. Several members of the group even met on Facebook. In the private group, the conspirators also "shared photos and video recordings" of their so-called training exercises, including their failed attempts to make explosive devices.

In the words of journalist Charlie Warzel, "such posts are nothing new to Facebook, where extremists have been gathering for some time and have built vast private communities away from the watchful eyes of outside moderators and law enforcement." According to the FBI, extremist groups are increasingly turning to the internet and social media to spread their message and recruit new members.

Terrorist aims

The 13 men of the armed group did not target Whitmer for money or personal reasons: their motivation was purely political. Nor was the Michigan governor their only target: the militia aimed to overthrow several state governments (which they arbitrarily) suspected of "violating the United States Constitution," according to the FBI report. During an interception, one of the conspirators specifically stated that they would carry out their attack before November 3, presidential election day.

Governor Whitmer, in fact, is a leading figure in American politics. Throughout this spring, his name was on the list of possible candidates for Democratic vice president in the next election, before Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris. In recent months, however, Whitmer had ended up at the center of criticism and death threats for her less relaxed handling of the Covid-19 epidemic: last April she imposed a severe lockdown on Michigan, blocking almost all economic activity. Already during the protests that followed, many right-wing extremists began violent actions. President Donald Trump himself tweeted “RELEASE MICHIGAN! “, In support of the protesters (some heavily armed) who had gathered in front of the Michigan Parliament in the city of Lansing.

After Whitmer's foiled kidnapping, Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Biden accused Trump of fomenting hatred. In fact, in recent months, the president has repeatedly refused to unequivocally condemn white supremacist groups.

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