Police, soldiers bring lethal skill to militia campaigns against US government

An extremist group is using thousands of soldiers and police officers who are trained in violence use and have a good understanding of military protocol to subvert the democracy process and undermine the U.S. government.
A leaked database containing the OathKeepers' data was revealed in a Atlantic investigative report. It is one of many far-right and white supremacist militias who stormed the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. 10% of OathKeepers are currently military or police officers. Retired military and law enforcement officers make up a significant part of the group's membership.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the hate group was founded by an ex-Army paratrooper following Barack Obama's 2008 election. It claimed an unlikely 30,000 members. These were mainly current and former military personnel and law enforcement officers.

Another militia, the Three Percenters (present at Capitol Jan. 6), also draws substantial numbers of its members from civilian and military law enforcement. Larry Brock, a pro Trump rioter, was taken into custody in zip-tie handcuffs. He is allegedly being held hostage for taking hostages.

The militia movement is an American far-right militarized stream. Its members support an ideology that challenges the authority and legitimacy the federal government and stockpile weapon stocks.

It is beneficial for militia members to have a background in the military or police. This improves their ability to carry out sophisticated and successful operations. They also have a patriotic image, which helps to hide the security threat they pose.

Camouflaged man, with a bulletproof vest, sunglasses and a hand folded guard.

Longstanding ties

Twelve National Guardsmen had been sent to Washington, D.C., the day before Biden's inauguration. Two of them had ties to right-wing militias.

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U.S. security forces have had a presence of far-right elements for years.

Many local police departments had a large Ku Klux Klan presence throughout the 20th century. Terror groups were able to create connections with law enforcement that allowed discrimination and violence against African Americans, Jews, and other minorities.

Blandford's Black residents were expelled to another location in 1923 after being accused of a brutal assault on a young girl by an African American man. With the help of local Klan chapters, the local sheriff organized the illegal deportation.

Head shot of a balding white male with a goatee and blue background

Many U.S. military bases were home to cells belonging to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups throughout the 20th Century.

Three paratroopers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina were charged with the 1995 murder of a Fayetteville couple. Two of the murderers were sentenced to life imprisonment. The Army began an investigation at the base because it was the hub of the National Alliance, America's most powerful neo-Nazi group.

The Army discharged 19 paratroopers who were involved in hate activities. Six worshipers were killed in an Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh temple in August 2012 by one of them. He was killed in a shootout with police officers.

Increasing convergence

With the rise of militias such as the Oath Keepers (which was founded on the principle that recruits police and military), concerns about far-right elements in law enforcement and the military have grown more acute over the past decade. Oath Keepers promise to not follow orders for jobs that they believe are contrary to the Constitution.

Secretly infiltrating police stations was a key factor in the rise of far-right groups like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America.

The group was founded in 2011 by Richard Mack, an ex-AZ sheriff. It promotes the idea that federal authorities should be subordinated and administered to local law enforcement. There are more than 500 sheriffs in the country. Only half of them are in office at the moment.

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America have urged their members to not enforce gun control laws and pandemic mask regulations. They believe they infringe civil liberties.

Skilled insurrectionists

It makes far-right groups appear more legit when they have members who are also professionals and swear to protect the nation and their communities.

Authorities might not be as likely to consider them domestic security threats. This would allow them to have restricted access to firearms, and other sensitive locations.

According to my research, American far-right violence actually makes American militias more efficient than police and military personnel.

A man wearing glasses and sporting military fatigues poses in front of large crowd with an American flag.

My recent book on right-wing terrorist shows that militia attacks are far more deadly than those of far-right groups. I managed the data set with my team at University of Massachusetts Lowell. They are proficient with weapons and ammunition and have had some military training.

People with little operational experience and who act out of their own free will are often the ones initiating attacks by far-right groups.

Militias are more likely to attack high-value, secured targets such as government buildings. Timothy McVeigh is an example. A Gulf War veteran, McVeigh was associated with the Michigan Militia. His bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people in 1995.

An increase in attacks on military and police targets seems to be due to the penetration of far-right militants within the ranks of the military and police.

Our data shows that between 1990 and 2000, 13% U.S. militia plots and attacks were directed at personnel or military installations. This proportion rose to 40% in 2017.

Federal agencies are often more difficult to counter the dangerous activities of militias because they have been trained in intelligence collection, surveillance and public safety.

Militias that recruit professionals are more effective at carrying out their radical crusade.

This story has been updated to reflect new information about security at Biden's inauguration. It also includes a correction to correctly locate Fayetteville, North Carolina.

This article was republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site that shares ideas from academic experts. It was written and edited by Arie Perliger, University of Massachusetts Lowell.

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Arie Perliger is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Defense.