Human xenophobia is functional in an evolutionary sense: members of a tribe are far more likely to have survived in the past, hence we are biologically wired to be tribal in this way. Without even knowing we do it, we will dehumanize those who we do not like or trust, those who look and sound too different. Once we have placed someone in a "not like me" category, it becomes OK to treat them badly, even kill them. This instinct is difficult to manage in modern society. Our founding documents speak of "domestic tranquility" but we have precious little of that in these interesting times.
The Wolverine Watchmen is a newer group that became active in response to efforts to flatten the pandemic curve in Michigan, and in response to the president's exhortations to "liberate Michigan" from the Covid-19 sparked lockdown. Trump has repeatedly attacked Michigan's Governor in speech and writing, making the target quite clear.
The Wolverine Watchmen of Michigan intended to kidnap the Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and to put her "on trial" for treason. How they think that their version of a trial will be more just than that agreed upon by broader society speaks to their ignorance and isolation. They want to form "a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient". I can understand that, though their methods leave a great deal to be desired.
The WW website has been deleted. Their social media activity revealed particular concern about taxes, gun control and the "Deep State". Michigan is also home to the Boogaloo Bois who, like other Boogaloo groups are focussed on fomenting civil war.
Thirteen people were arrested by the feds for two separate plots on the Governor. The arrests include 7 members of the WW. They wanted to use bombs to blow up police vehicles and storm the Capitol with 200 men. The militia leader and others were charged with "threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist ats, and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony". I presume that the feds waited until they had ample evidence to bust the militia because the last federal case again a militia in Michigan ended poorly for the feds in 2012 when all seven defendants were cleared.
One young member of the arrested WW group talked about sending a bomb to the governor, saying "I just wanna make the world glow, dude," "we're just gonna conquer" everything and it will all "have to be annihilated". Comments like this do not suggest that this young man in particular has any ability to think critically or to comprehend what the law or the rest of society might have to say about his ideas.
An expert named Amy Cooter (Vanderbilt U) estimates that there are 24-36 similar militia groups in Michigan with the potential for violence. Michigan's militias are the envy of armed groups nationwide. Most of them are law abiding and predominantly interested in protecting what they believe are constitutional rights. They may not start out racist but they could easily end up that way in an environment of racial tension and with the influence of social media, which has increased collaboration between white supremacy and conspiracy groups. Talk of inciting a civil war is becoming more common especially by the militarized portion of Trump's base.
Meanwhile the president has been stoking fear about the next election. I suspect that when he loses he'll do his best to invalidate the election. He'll use these thugs to tie up law enforcement efforts, and sue to stop a vote count in some battleground state. From there he expects that a conservative-stacked supreme court will make him POTUS for a second term, from which platform he'll be trying to keep the office for life.
This story is just the beginning of the intended violence, and it is not the anti-fa that is plotting it.
Interesting times, indeed.
Betsy Ross Flag (flying at ringleader's house) significance: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/betsy-ross-flag-nike-colin-kaepernick-patriot-movement-ku-klux-klan-854612/