New York, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- Six people linked to an extreme rightist militia group have been arrested and charged with planning to kidnap and possibly assassinate Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, federal authorities reported Thursday.
A federal court in Michigan on Thursday formally charged the members of the group with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer and other officials, and they could be facing life in prison if convicted.
Although six men were charged with federal kidnapping offenses, at least seven other members of the group face state charges.
The six members of the militia had acquired weapons, were surveilling the governor at her home and had trained to kidnap her or kill her along with other members of the Michigan state government before the Nov. 3 elections.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference that the accused belonged to the “Wolverine Watchman” militia group and intended to foment a civil war, adding that they are facing charges related to terrorism and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
The FBI learned early this year, through social media, that a militia group was “discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components” and “agreed to take violent action,” according to a sworn affidavit in the case.
The plan of the group, which had been infiltrated by FBI informants, was to put Whitmer on “trial” for “treason” at their hiding place in a remote part of Wisconsin and they were not ruling out executing her.
Whitmer, in remarks delivered Thursday afternoon, thanked the law enforcement agents “who risked their lives” to protect her and her family.
She went on, without naming him, to criticize President Donald Trump for not clearly condemning and rejecting violence by ultrarightist groups during racial disturbances around the country, in some of which militia members have violently intervened against anti-racist demonstrators.
“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight,” Whitmer said. “When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit.”
She went on to criticize Trump for remarks he made during his debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden recently, saying: “Just last week the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups. ‘Stand back and standby,’ he told them. … Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.”
The busted group was formed this past summer after a meeting of more than 10 people in Ohio who were aiming to create a self-sufficient militia, the local Detroit Free Press reported.
In July, the accused planned to kidnap or kill the governor at her vacation home on Mackinac Island, in Michigan, since they decided that to take over the state Capitol Building in Lansing, which they had considered doing, would require more than 200 militia members.
The members of the group tried to procure maps and floor plans of the governor’s vacation home so that they could carry out their assault in October.
Whitmer has been the target of criticism from conservative groups and ultrarightist militias since she decided to shut down all commercial activities and ban large gatherings in her state because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Groups of armed militia members decided to protest last spring before the capitol building against the governor and what they considered to be a violation of their constitutional rights.