There are more guns in the US than there are people, and thousands seem ready to use them. For example, if President Trump should lose the upcoming election. Will violence from the far-right militias threaten after November 3rd?
They march through the streets with bulletproof vests, steel helmets and machine guns, they worship President Donald Trump and they reject the state – private militias in the USA. They consider themselves brothers in the spirit of those American settlers who took up arms in 1775 to shake off the British yoke. Your critics see them as dangerous, right-wing extremists. A few days before the election, the question arises how these paramilitary forces will react if their idol loses. Do you hold still? Or will they keep Trump in the White House at gunpoint? Is there even a threat of a new civil war? There would be enough weapons in the country – according to estimates, 393 million pieces. More than the United States has residents.
The short answer: There will be no new civil war – even if some would-be warriors hope for it. There are far too few militias for this and they would not have a chance to assert themselves against the police or even the US military. Which, in turn, are based on the constitution, like Trump’s Republicans, by the way. At least its influential Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has made it clear that the next president will take office on January 20 next year, just as it has for the past two centuries.
The real question is whether deluded extremists will still take up arms and whether people may die because Trump does not recognize defeat. Chaos, riots, and exchanges of fire are possible, my experts. That doesn’t seem that far-fetched when you consider that Trump recently avoided not clearly distancing himself from white racists and militias in a TV duel with his challenger Joe Biden. In front of the whole country he was at first clueless, but then mentioned a group called “Proud Boys” and shouted to them “Stand back and stand by”, which many understood as an invitation to be ready. Including the said group itself, which immediately printed T-shirts with the slogan.
Militia wanted to kidnap the governor
Then there were the plans of a militia to kidnap Michigan State Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom the FBI recently foiled. The militiamen wanted to storm their official residence with 200 men and then bring the politician to trial for treason and possibly murder her – because the militia officers did not agree to the strict corona lockdown in the state. Whitmer then demanded that they no longer speak of “militias” and instead call them “terrorists”. A few months earlier, heavily armed militia men had entered the state parliament to protest against the Corona measures. The case of a 17-year-old man in Wisconsin caused a sensation after allegedly shooting two people during the protests against police violence in Kenosha. The young man was quickly attributed to the militia, but there are many indications that he is not a member of such an organization, but was more of a lone perpetrator. But which in turn was inspired by the ideas of the militias.
The militia officers were especially in the limelight in August 2017 when they marched in Flecktarn with neo-Nazis, supporters of the Klu Klux Klan and the Alt-Right movement in Charlottesville, Virginia. A man ran over a counter-demonstrator who died shortly afterwards. Trump shocked large parts of the American public when he said there were “very fine people” on both sides. Not only his challenger Biden accuses him of having put neo-Nazis and their opponents on the same level. When announcing his candidacy, he said that he had decided to run against Trump because of that day.
There could be hundreds of armed groups with up to 100,000 members plus other sympathizers in the US, estimates the extremism expert Mark Pitcavage of the civil rights organization Anti-Defamation League. Many reports portray them as far-right Trump fans, but that’s only part of the scene, albeit a large one. There are also more harmless groups who see themselves as disaster relief workers in waiting and train survival techniques. Those who reject the government as such are not necessarily racist either. “Guns are the common denominator of most anti-government extremist groups. It is not racism,” said George Washington University scientist JJ MacNab for the US Congress. There are now even African-American militias who want to defend themselves against police violence and racism. Ntv correspondent Hanna Klouth was the first reporter to visit them recently. Most groups are white, right-wing or right-wing extremists.
It all started in the early 90s
Today’s militia movement dates back to the early 1990s when two incidents fueled the scene. Gunfire broke out at Ruby Ridge Farm in Idaho when government officials tried to arrest a right-wing extremist – his son and wife were shot dead. This sparked outrage, as did a 1993 Texas incident. In the city of Waco, members of a sect carrying weapons were to be arrested, and civilians were again killed, including children. These incidents led to the establishment of numerous militias whose members were convinced they could not trust the government. They saw themselves in the tradition of the militia from the time of the American Revolutionary War, which rose against the British.
It is not at all unusual in the United States that the federal government is viewed critically in Washington. This also has to do with the widespread mentality there, which attaches great importance to personal responsibility and rejects government interference as being aggressive. With the militias, however, the usual distance turned into a deep hatred that culminated in an absurd conspiracy theory. According to this, socialism ruled the world and wanted to make Americans slaves. And Washington, especially then President Bill Clinton, is trying to do just that. Surrendering the weapons is the first step. In 1995, two men even bombed a government building in Oklahoma City.
At that time, the militias believed that the year 2000 would bring the big bang – because then the computers would go on strike because of the millennium change and the evil government would use it for themselves. When that did not happen and with George W. Bush, what they saw as a less despicable man moved into the White House, the militia went downhill. But thanks to social media and a new hate figure – Barack Obama – they regained popularity in later years. The “Three Percenters” stood out. They assume that only three percent of the settlers in the colonies fought against the British during the American War of Independence – and therefore only so few fighters are necessary for an overthrow.
Trump throws them into a dilemma
Subversion is exactly what many militias want in order to then rebuild the country according to their ideas. When Donald Trump ran for the presidency, it came closer to that overthrow than anything else – they flocked to support the businessman they hoped would really clean up Washington. It was the first time ever that militia endorsed a mainstream candidate. However, his election victory threw the groups into a dilemma. Because now “her husband” stood for the federal government in Washington, which had been hated for decades. The armed groups avoided the contradiction by simply looking for new enemies. The Antifa, for example, which excelled in protests against Trump.
Militias tried, for example, to provide “protection” from counter-demonstrators at President’s events. The armed groups appeared at the Black Lives Matter protests that roamed American cities after the murder of George Floyd. There was also looting on the fringes, which the militias wanted to take action against. They also tried to prevent controversial statues from being torn down. It should therefore not be a coincidence that Trump did not distance himself from the militias. Nor that he railed so vehemently against the “Antifa”, although these groups hardly play a role in numbers.
In view of all these facts – possibly 100,000 men under arms, willingness to use violence, loyalty to Trump – one can get queasy if the incumbent loses the election. Does “Stand back” still apply? Or does he call them more or less directly to action? Trump can certainly do that. But one shouldn’t overestimate the paramilitary groups either – purely militarily it is hardly conceivable that these troops can achieve much. It starts with a lack of training and does not end with a lack of organizational structure. Much more important, however, is that many members of the militia are not extremist fanatics who are ready for anything.
But only “gun fools”?
The journalist and author of a book about militias, John Temple, wrote in the “Washington Post” that many joined the militias not primarily for ideological reasons, but rather because they enjoyed the camaraderie or were interested in weapons – just ” Scouts with guns, “as a moderate militia member said in a documentary on TV station ABC. In addition, the groups have different ideological focuses. There are also many who rejected Trump, precisely because he now stands for the federal government. According to Temple, the militias are not violent across the board either. These would even offer some dissatisfied an outlet and possibly even suppress tendencies towards violence. Individual offenders pose a much greater risk than organized groups.
Whether it will be such individual perpetrators from the orbit of the militia or several armed men – it is possible that there will be violence in the event of a Trump defeat. In her statement for Congress, the scientist MacNab wrote that there would be talk in the scene about starting a civil war if it should. But she also thinks it is more likely that individuals will take action. That can cause a lot of suffering, but it won’t shake the state. But that would not be over yet – should a President Biden more consistently insist on compliance with corona measures such as mask requirements or business closings, this could also lead to resistance. Because the militias also consider the corona pandemic to be a conspiracy aimed at suppressing it. So they will remain a problem. With or without Trump.