Militia Groups in the Midwest

Who are the Christian militia 'Hutaree' and why was the FBI targeting them?

Brett Michael Dykes, Yahoo News, Mar 29, 2010, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_ts1361

This weekend, the FBI conducted a series of raids in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana to detain members of a Christian militia group on criminal charges. The group in question calls itself the "Hutaree"; its website says the term translates as "Christian warrior." And in keeping with that name, the material it has posted online reflects an outlook of violent religious confrontation. The Hutaree believe that acts of violence can bring about the final judgment prophesied in the Christian Bible — and therefore have been arming themselves to go to war with the Antichrist, "evil Jews," and Muslims. They have documented their training exercises in a series of YouTube videos. And they spell out the theological rationale for their actions on the "About Us" page on their website:

“Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment. The only thing on earth to save the testimony and those who follow it, are the members of the testimony, til the return of Christ in the clouds. We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren't. We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up to the time of the great coming ... The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it. We will reach out to those who are yet blind in the last days of the kingdoms of men and bring them to life in Christ.”

According to the indictment unsealed this morning in court, the nine members of the group — eight men and one woman — planned to "levy war" against the U.S. government. To incite such a war, the group planned to murder law enforcement officials and then follow up their initial attacks with a separate attack on the fallen officers' funeral(s), where a large number of law enforcement personnel would no doubt be gathered.

With other news of vandalism and harassment from right-wing activists angry about the passage of health care reform, some commentators are already depicting the arrests as a further sign of how conservative activists are promoting violence in their ranks. But even within the militant world of the Michigan militia movement, the Hutarees are viewed as extreme religious fanatics.

Still, while the more secular and libertarian leaders of the militia movement may distance themselves from the Hutaree, the two militant strains of right-wing activism share some tactical affinities, says Kenneth S. Stern, the American Jewish Committee's director on anti-Semitism and extremism. "What you're starting to see in the number of militia groups sprouting up in the last year is a general antigovernment ideology," Stern says.

Stern cautions that it's too soon to draw broader lessons from the alleged Hutaree plot. But he does add that "whenever you have a combination of the ideology that says, 'the government is evil and we'd better do something about it,' and a religion that says, 'Hey, God wants you to do something about it,' that can be problematic."

 

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Growing Culture: Militia mentality

By Tom Beyerlein and Valerie Lough, Dayton Daily News, April 4, 2010, A8

ST. PARIS — If the United States government collapses, Michael Craft and his Unorganized Militia of Champaign County are ready. “One day, if we have a complete collapse ... if one day we are no longer a constitutional form of government, we’re going to need people who are willing to defend the neighbors in the community and your family,” Craft said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center last month placed Craft’s militia and 12 other Ohio groups on the same list of militias as the Michigan-based Hutaree, nine members of which were arrested last weekend on charges they plotted to kill police, then set off bombs at the funeral, as part of an uprising against the government.

Craft said his militia, founded in 2000, is “defensive, not offensive,” and doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with the Hutaree, an apocalyptic Christian group with Ohio members whose Web site includes the slogan, “Preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.”

 

Extremist “patriot groups” and armed militias have grown exponentially since the November 2008 election of President Obama, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many of them have extreme anti-government doctrines, engage in unfounded conspiracy theories and believe a “new world order” of totalitarian world government is looming.  “Over the last several years, we have seen this explosive growth of organizations on the radical right,” said center spokesman Booth Gunter. Militia groups have grown from 42 in 2008 to 127 in 2009, the center reported last month.

 

Along with Craft’s militia, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the statewide Ohio Militia, the Southwestern Ohio Defense Force of Lebanon and the Constitutional Militia of Clark County as patriot groups.  Kenneth Goldsmith of Zanesville, who heads the Ohio Defense Force which includes a Lebanon “battalion,” said the Ohio Militia is probably the remnants of an extremist group that has been operating in the state for years. A man identifying himself as the Ohio Militia’s leader last April issued a YouTube video, since removed from the site, calling for an armed million-man march on Washington.

Goldsmith said the Ohio Defense Force has no connections with militant militias. He said his group, which has about 200 members statewide, chose the name “defense force” to avoid the stigma associated with the militant groups.

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center said militias began springing up in the early 1990s as a reaction to the election of President Bill Clinton and the deadly standoffs between federal agents and the Randy Weaver family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, and the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, in 1993. Michigan became a militant hotbed, but the Midwest generally, including Ohio and Indiana, has been home to many militias, Gunter said.  “After Oklahoma City, that whole movement started dying off,” he said, referring to the April 19, 1995, federal building bombing masterminded by anti-government zealot Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001.

 

Militia membership has surged since Obama’s election, Gunter said. “Obama is president. The economic problems have played a big role. Also (contributing), we think, are the changing demographics of the country. There’s a feeling white people are losing control.”

These days, he said, militias and patriot groups can organize more easily with technological developments like the Internet. “We have a lot of mainstream figures in the media and politics who are willing to promote their conspiracy theories,” Gunter said. “People think, ‘Maybe I should be concerned that Obamacare is going to kill my grandma.’”

Craft said his militia has seen some increase in membership since Obama’s election. Of the growth of such groups nationally, he said, “maybe it could be the political climate. Generally, people who are in a militia tend to be Libertarian or conservative. When you have a federal administration that is Democrat or liberal, they’re going to be a little more nervous.”