MICHIGAN — According to a new report put together by a group of researchers, Michigan has been identified as one of several states that may see increased militia activity around the election and in the weeks afterwards.
“This doesn’t mean there’s going to be a right wing uprising in all 10 of these states, or five of these states or, even a single one of these states,” said Hampton Stall, one of the authors behind the 31-page report. “This is just a risk.”
Stall, who’s the founder and editor-in-chief of MilitiaWatch, worked on the report for over five months alongside the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, also called ACLED, a nonprofit that tracks and studies political violence.
The report stated that ”Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon are the highest risk for increased militia activity in the election and post election period.” Stall said they looked at a number factors in determining which states qualified for the "high-risk" list.
“One of the key things is if the state is in play for the federal election,” Stall said during a Zoom interview on Thursday October 22. “It’s really important to consider what are politically contested areas.”
He added that North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, California, and New Mexico were at moderate risk.
He said Michigan was considered ‘high-risk’ because the activity militias and other extremist groups have already demonstrated in the state, from the Proud Boys rally in August in Kalamazoo to the incident in Lansing when a group of armed protesters stormed the capitol building in late April.
“We also believe that there is likely a relationship between the anti-lockdown and re-open protest and the potential for network right-wing violence in a lot of places and Michigan is up there on that list too,” Stall said. “Networks are super important for these kinds of groups. The way that information flows, the way that calls-to-action flow, it’s all through networks.”
Stall said the researchers also paid attention to the groups reaction and response to protests a part of the Black Lives Matter movement and Antifa. They also looked extensively at recruitment and training events, which were detectable in Michigan.
After the FBI foiled the Wolverine Watchmen’s plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, they released video of the 13 now-charged men training with firearms and explosives.
“I think there’s a lot more attention on groups like this right now,” Stall said. “That case is obviously like a really serious case, given the alignment of intent, like how many people were actively interested in kidnapping a governor.”
However, Stall said one of the areas he’s most concerned about is the post-election period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. He said it doesn't matter who wins.
"If Biden comes out as the victor, and members of a lot of these far-right armed groups believe that there is sort of meddling in the election, which many of them are already saying they believe is happening, there may not be an acceptance of Trump being the loser,” Stall said. “That’s where mobilization towards violence could get really serious too.”
He said if President Trump wins, militias could feel empowered. Nevertheless, he hopes that people will read the report and learn about the dangers of the groups.
“[The report] means that we’re at a really high probability of there actually being pretty serious violence,” Stall said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It doesn’t mean when you go to vote somebody will shoot you. That’s not what the report is trying to say.”
***Click here for the full report****