At the Intersection of Domestic Terrorism and Voter Intimidation

The Next Three Weeks Could Get Ugly – Don’t Flinch


An Introductory Note About “Militias”

These groups that call themselves militia are not a new phenomenon. Legitimate groups existed in our earliest history. They evolved into state organizations, then into the National Guard.

What we see running around now is something very different. There was an explosion of such groups following President Obama’s inauguration. Gee, that must have been a coincidence…. They began growing again and got more visible with the encouragement of Donald Trump.

For an excellent look into militias, check out the New Yorker, AUG 24.

We call them what they are – soldier wannabes, racists, survivalists, domestic terrorists. But the fact that they choose most often to call themselves militia is actually helpful. For that makes them private militia, a type of organization that is illegal in every state.

Come a new administration (and even if not, then on a state level) these folks may soon find themselves in more trouble than they expected.

Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection has published a excellent guide to dealing with such groups. Its organized on a state by state basis.

A Personal Encounter

I had an early encounter with one of these groups years ago. It was one of the Michigan groups, which have been in the news over plans to kidnap the governor and start a civil war. This same group was among those trying to storm and intimidate the state legislature.

Michigan is one of only two states where it is legal to enter the legislature with weapons. Hopefully, the new legislature will clean that up.

I was the Military Chief of Staff at the US Mission to the UN in the late 90’s, working for Ambassador Madeline Albright. I received a letter , addressed to me by name and title, from the “commander” of one of these militias.

The writer said he was writing about a concern they had. They had heard the UN’s armed forces were planning to do training in the remote areas of Michigan. Black helicopters had already been spotted. He wanted it known that this was unacceptable. They would defend such invasions of state territory.

I likely should have let it lie, but I chose to respond. I advised him that the UN has no armed forces. They only have troops loaned by members countries for specific peace keeping missions. I advised that the UN has no helicopters, black or otherwise. They lease a few from time to time, usually bright white and blue.

Finally, I noted that his group has no legal standing or authority. But I would share his letter with people who do have authority. I assured him the authorities would appreciate knowing what his group was thinking. I then passed both the letter and my response to the FBI.

The Brown Shirts Model of Intimidation

Groups like this are always a potential danger and should not be taken lightly. What makes them dangerous now is that someone in Washington that sees them as useful. This is the classic fascist approach to intimidate citizens, especially over voting.

Hitler had his brown shirts; Mussolini had his version. So, too, do Erdogan in Turkey and al-Assad in Syria. Trump has often spoken of “his” motorcycle gangs. These groups, most often grounded in racism, are tailor made for him, and he for them.

So, the risk of these people showing up at polling places is not minor. Law enforcement and poll workers are preparing for such eventualities around the country.

In some few places, law enforcement may be slow to react, even sympathetic to such groups. But I believe that to be a distinct minority.

History Calls – This Time It Might Be Calling YOU

Which brings us to the real key actors – you and me. I am disappointed that some who had planned to work at polls or to vote in person have dropped out. They have done so over fear of intimidation and armed threats.

I understand the apprehension, but let’s think about this for a moment. What a deal for the intimidators! Just the mere possibility that someone perhaps may show up at your polling place is enough to scare you off.

Are we really so cowardly as a people? This election really is about saving democracy and deciding what we are as a nation. I would hate to think that we are so easily beaten back.

A friend of mine recently posted a powerful statement about this on social media (Thanks, Hank). He noted that people in places like Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan vote at higher rates than we. They often do so while being shot at and bombed. But they are determined to vote. Intimidated? Not a chance.

Are we to fold our tent at the mere threat of a pickup truck full of these guys? I hope we are made of sterner stuff than that. The threat is real, but so too is our responsibility.

As I have often stated in this space, every once in a while, history comes calling. Turns out this time, it’s calling us.

See you at the polling place.

Bill Clontz, Founder, Agents of Reason       Bill Clontz

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3 replies to At the Intersection of Domestic Terrorism and Voter Intimidation

  1. I found this a very encouraging statement as I am about to volunteer at the polls in two days! I won’t be intimidated by the white supremacist’s megaphone in my ear.

  2. Fabulous. I trained for two hours with Choose.Democracy on how to prevent a coup. Roger and i voted in person yesterday.

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