It’s been almost two weeks since reports that a right-wing militia group had planned to kidnap Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer. From the period between October eighth, when the news first broke to now, a slew of information has been released about the proposed attack, the men involved, their origins, groups they are affiliated with, their purpose, and the charges brought against them. Let’s break it down and figure out what it means, not just at its face value, but in the aftermath.
Here’s what we know: Fourteen men were charged with domestic terrorism for a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, try her for treason, and kill her. Their plan also included storming Michigan’s state capital, kidnaping other government officials, and inciting a civil war. The group of domestic terrorists stalked her private vacation home in northern Michigan on two separate occasions. Seven of the fourteen teens were affiliated with a local Michigan white militia group, the wolverine watchmen. Six members of the terrorist group will have federal charges brought against them, specifically the conspiracy to kidnap.
The members were upset about the governor’s restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 epidemic that has so far killed over 210,000 people in the United States. One of the members, Adam Fox, referred to Governor Whitmer as a “tyrant B****” and condemned the Michigan official for her policies implemented throughout the state during and after lockdown. The plot was nationwide. Most members were residents of Michigan, but a resident of Delaware and Wisconsin were also identified.
The group was first reported to the authorities by “The Detroit News” at the beginning of 2020. The FBI began monitoring the group’s correspondence and gained access to a member of the militia group, who later became an informant as he was concerned that the group’s plan and ideas were going too far. The militia group had several meeting locations including, Grand Rapids, Michigan in the basement of a local business, Hartland townships, Michigan, Elk Rapids, Michigan, and Dublin, Ohio. The group experimented with various firearms, tasers, and Molotov cocktails in hopes of capturing the governor and other state officials. The men thought that the governor wielded too much power, so much that they deemed it unconstitutional.
What this means and the aftermath: The year 2020 has seen an explosion of social unrest and injustice. Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, right-wing white supremacy groups have gained confidence from elected officials, including the sitting president, who famously refused to condemn white supremacy at the first presidential debate. Donald Trump has provided a platform for these domestic terrorist groups that disrupt our democracy.
Governor Whitmer condemned Donald Trump’s lack of action in denouncing the right-wing militia groups and was promptly attacked by the president at one of his campaign rallies, criticizing her policy choices during the COVID crisis instead of offering support and leadership during a time of crisis for the governor and the crumbling authenticity of our democracy.
The juxtaposition between the protests performed by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and white supremacy groups in terms of the police force and hostility holds a wide disparity. The police presence and force used against BLM assemblies are much more aggressive than the armed militia groups that stormed Michigan’s State Capital in Lansing earlier this summer.
White supremacy groups hold a false sense of patriotism. While these men may think that they are creating a greater, more fair society by violently protesting and threatening to hold an extrajudicial killing, these men are the definition of anarchists. A term associated with black lives matter groups in certain pockets of the media, this white supremacist group perfectly embodies this sentiment with their hopes for a self-governing society brought about by illegal atrocities. A patriot may disagree with his or her country’s officials, protest for greater equality and representation, vote, hold officials accountable, and monitor legislation, but a patriot does not take matters into violent hands and call for the deaths and capture of legislative officials. Nor do they practice law enforcement outside of a fair and just legal system.
The intersection of white fragility and toxic masculinity is apparent and abhorrent in this instance. These men were motivated by a sense of superiority based on their race and even gender. Their association with alt-right groups, including the boogaloo movement and the wolverine watchmen, root their values in inciting civil war, race wars, antigovernment ideations, and committing violent acts to achieve these goals.
The use of sexist slurs, including Alex fox’s “tyrant b****” comment, reveals what we already know: governor Whitmer is not only being attacked for her policy but her gender. Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to refer to her by name and instead calls her “that woman from Michigan,” which has spurred t-shirt slogans in support of Whitmer. This ties into a greater, more problematic issue for female representatives.
In July, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was called a “f****** b****” by fellow congress member, Representative. Yoho. These verbal attacks are not just to be brushed off. They are consistent reminders that female elected officials face greater battles than just policy divisions. This rampant sexism is even multiplied for Female officials of color.
In light of Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Twitter enacted a policy explicitly stating that wishing harm or death threats towards a person would affect the social media platform. However, female progressive members of Congress, including Rep. AOC, Rep Tlaib, Rep. Omar, and Rep. Pressley, have dealt with a barrage of death threats across Twitter and various social media platforms since their introduction into office. These differences remind us that the double standard between male and female elected officials is continually exploited.
2020 has been a raucous election year. The tumultuous period includes calls for social justice, police reform, a public health crisis that incited an economic recession. It continued with an intense and argumentative discussion surrounding voting and voting rights in America. The chaos only increased this month with an uncovered kidnapping and execution attempt on an elected official.
Regardless of party or a Right, Left, Center affiliation, an attack this horrific open the chasm of national disarray and greater threatens our country’s democracy’s integrity. The Michigan Governor wrote a personal piece for “Elle” magazine stating that she is not intimidated, nor will she be pushed to the side. She stands resolute and continues to be “that woman from Michigan.”