Militias, those American vigilante, homegrown, domestic, quasi-military groups that have sprouted in the dark places in our nation like mushrooms may offer some kind of comfort to those Americans who are worried about violence, but they give many of us the heebie-jeebies. We do not know when they will show up with their long guns and their hand guns, and now, apparently, their medical kits, to “protect” Americans and our property. Their presence makes it riskier to support a movement like Black Lives Matter, which many of us see as a necessary response to the senseless ‘picking off’ of black lives. Again and again, despite the nation’s obviously shocked expressions of the wrongness of these deaths of mostly black men and even a few black women, these killings keep happening and they seem to represent a belief that black lives do not matter.
If you want to see a list of militias then just Google “List of Militia Organizations in the United States”. The article this search leads to tells us that three militias have a national presence: The Constitutional Sheriffs, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters. There is also a chart which lists 35 state militia groups and a chart put together by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2018 which lists 47 local militia groups.
The militias stepped in during the Cliven Bundy raid. Bundy had been grazing his cattle for free on federal land while other ranchers paid the required fees. When men from the Interior Dept. showed up with guns to take away Bundy’s cattle (who knew before that moment that government agencies had troops) militias began to appear to tell the feds that only the local sheriff had jurisdiction according to posse comitatus rules. It did not make me feel more secure when either set of troops appeared, but when those militia men lay prone on the highway and pointed their long guns between the highway dividers at the federal troops my heart sank. Was this the moment we would go to war with ourselves? Who would be on which side? Fortunately the federal troops did not engage and they left. It appeared though that the militia had won. But no one wanted a war to protect the rights of a rancher who cheated. He could have used the system to fight the fees the feds charged for grazing. Two wrongs were allowed to slide in the interests of peace. Are we reaping the consequences now? If not will we really be in for it in the future. And it doesn’t help that our President loves what these militias do.
The militias again showed up in Michigan to protest Governor Whitmer’s coronavirus stay-at-home and social distancing mandates. The militia members with their long guns entered a state legislative building and stood menacingly on the mezzanine in a sort of American nightmare scenario. They say they were invited to protect an American Patriot Rally. We know that many Americans are not considered patriots by the people who came to this rally. (vox.com, “The private militias providing “security” for anti-lockdown protests explained,” by Jane Coaston, May 11, 2020)
In Kenosha our militia fears became real when Kyle Rittenhouse, only 17 years old used a semi-automatic rifle to kill two people and injure one. Which militia does he belong to and why is a seventeen year old in possession of this type of gun? Seventeen- year-olds have fought in wars, although they had to lie about their age. However they had officers who were in the lead; they had been trained. Where were Kyle’s officers? What kind of training did he have except for hate speech and political right wing rhetoric? This is exactly what informs our fear of militias. They don’t like liberals. They believe that the left is a bunch of socialists and communists. I wonder where they get this from? Why would I not fear groups with guns who are taught to hate everything I stand for? What good can possibly come of this?
A Global News story offers some more details about the actions of the militias in Kenosha as protesters once again confront a suspicious shooting of a black man who was going to a birthday party for his eight year old son where he may or may not have been an invited guest. Violating an order of protection is not generally punishable by death if that is what was happening and that is why this is another senseless shooting with no questions asked and seven bullets in the back. Jacob Blake is not dead, but may be paralyzed for life. For once we may hear a victim speak.
The Global News article has these things to say:
Militia movement in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Gina Barton, Cary Spivak, Bruce Vielmeti
“The heavy involvement of armed militia members among protesters has added an element of volatility to this week’s protests in Kenosha. While small pockets of armed men have gathered at protests in Milwaukee throughout the summer, the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer has drawn more people-with more guns. Combine that with lesser prepared police in a smaller city and national attention that’s drawn demonstrators from out of town and the risk of violence increases.”
“The large presence of armed men Tuesday night in Kenosha has been linked to a local militia group known as the Kenosha Guard, which created a Facebook event called-Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property. The invitation was re-posted by the far right website Infowars.”
“Although such groups claim allegiance with police they are promoting their own agenda, according to Friedfeld (Alex Friedfeld, investigative analyst at the Anti-Defamation League). Their rhetoric often derides the Black Lives Matter Movement, he said.
Another militia group, called the boogaloo, also has attended all three nights of protest in Kenosha so far, according to Justin Mishler, a self-proclaimed member who lives in Belvidere, Illinois.
About a dozen armed boogaloo members were at the protests Sunday, about two dozen Monday and more Tuesday, he said. Their purpose was to provide security and protection for businesses, he said.”
The Kenosha police seemed to welcome the presence of the militia members and did not arrest Rittenhouse until the next day when he had returned to Illinois. This is also a troubling tendency as the police seems to treat militias as legitimate enforcers and protectors. It seems they only protect the right wing from the “awful, terrible” left wing, as Trump labels the left whenever he gets a microphone in front of his face. If you happen to believe that Black Lives do Matter then you are a “leftie” and fair game for the police, the military, and the militias. Pretty scary stuff. Small wonder people worry about a second civil war.