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White supremacist group scouted 2 Michigan sites for 'hate camps' training areas

Dana Nessel 2020 picture Michigan AG
Posted at 8:52 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 08:52:29-04

CARO, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said two former state Corrections sites allegedly were being assessed by a white supremacist group called The Base as potential training areas for “hate camps.”

Three men, including one arrested last year after an Ann Arbor-area family was intimidated, have been charged in connection with a state police and FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation.

The vacant properties — Camp Tuscola Annex and Tuscola Residential ReEntry Program — are in Tuscola County’s Caro, about 100 miles northwest of Detroit. Each is owned by the Michigan State Land Bank.

State-issued clothing taken from one of the locations last October, according to Nessel who said Wednesday in a release that “hate camps” are what The Base calls paramilitary firearms training exercises.

The Anti-Defamation League says The Base is a small, militant neo-Nazi organization that was formed in 2018 and in which members portray themselves as vigilante soldiers defending the “European race.” The group is preparing for an impending race war, according to the ADL.

Justen Watkins, 25, Thomas Denton, 32, and Tristan Webb, 19, are charged with gang membership, conspiracy to commit teaching use of firearms for a civil disorder, larceny in a building and using a firearm during a felony.

Denton and Webb were arraigned Wednesday in Tuscola County District Court and ordered held on $250,000 cash bonds. Watkins was expected to be arraigned via video from the Washtenaw County Jail.

He and Alfred Gorman were arrested in October and accused of intimidating a family in Dexter, near Ann Arbor. Watkins, of Bad Axe, and Gorman, of Taylor, were charged with gang membership, unlawful posting of a message and using computers to commit a crime.

The charges followed a December 2019 incident in which the Dexter family saw men in dark clothing shining a light and taking photos on the front porch of their home. The photos were uploaded onto The Base’s social media platform channel along with a caption that alluded to a person involved with an antifa podcast, according to authorities.

Nessel’s office said then that the group was targeting that person, but that he had never lived at the home, which is about 52 miles (83 kilometers) west of Detroit.

Antifa is an umbrella description for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist white supremacists at demonstrations and other events.

Watkins had professed to be the appointed leader of The Base, Nessel’s office said.

The Caro properties were illegally entered prior to the arrests of Watkins and Gorman. They are due for preliminary examinations in the Dexter case on Aug. 24 in Washtenaw County District Court. Gorman currently is out on bond.