A plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, attack the state capitol and incite violence has been foiled by the FBI, who arrested 13 right-wing militia members.
The Wolverine Watchmen militia group allegedly intended to take Governor Gretchen Whitmer hostage and try her for treason.
On Thursday, they were charged with violating the state’s anti-terrorism act by conspiring to kidnap the governor and propagate violence.
In a press conference on Thursday, the governor linked the plot against her to the rhetoric of President Donald Trump, saying he had spent the last several months “stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division”.
She accused Trump of encouraging extremist groups, saying, “When our leaders meet with, encourage and fraternise with domestic terrorists, they legitimise their actions”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany hit back, insisting that Trump condemns all forms of hate. “Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations,” she said.
The Wolverine Watchmen militia group, which recruits through Facebook, is firearms-trained and ready to rise up against the government, according to the FBI.
Numerous violent incidents have been linked to similar citizen militia groups across the US in recent years. The movement became prominent in the mid-1990s and surged again with the growth of social media, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the ADL, said militia movements generally support Trump and therefore they have shifted their anger away from the federal government, where it is traditionally aimed, now targeting state governments and leaders instead.
“In that sense, it’s not surprising that a militia cell might decide to target a high-profile Democratic governor,” he said.
Michigan is a key swing state in the 2020 presidential race.