The stay-at-home protests taking place across America took a disturbing turn Thursday, when hundreds of protesters entered Michigan’s State Capitol. Displaying rifles and screaming into the faces of state police, who were blocking them from entering the House floor, they looked like they were staging a scene of anarchy, or even a coup. What started off as rallies and demands for their liberties to be reinstated appeared to have turned into a violent rebellion.
Yesterday’s images may seem both extreme and completely irrational to many, but for some Americans, it is déjà vu. Especially for those who remember the events of the 1990s all too well.
Back then,as now,there was the anti-government militia movement, which developed partly as a result from the recession in the early 90s. They also were taking action against what they believed was a far-reaching government violating the rights of its citizens. Granted, this government — President Bill Clinton’s first four years — did take disastrous actions during the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, killing fellow Americans, including young children. Later on came theFederal Assault Weapons Ban, which further infuriated protesters and increased their anti-government sentiments.
Then retaliation came, in the form of terrorism.
In 1995, a federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed by Timothy McVeigh, a veteran of the Iraq War. One hundred and sixty-eight people died, including around a dozen children from the building’s daycare center. McVeigh, who wasn’t part of any militia, said he did the attack in response to the government’s actions in Ruby Ridge and Waco.
McVeigh was executed for his crimes later that year, unrepentant to the very end.
After the Oklahoma City bombing, there was the Montana Freeman standoff in 1996, which ended with no violence, but several arrests. Other than that, the anti-government militia movement mostly faded away. In 2002, less than 100 armed militia groups were on the radar.
But when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, those groups began to increase again.According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 1,368 anti-government groups in 2012, compared to 858 in 1996. Nowadays, that number is 576. Notice how the numbers rise under a Democratic president, and decrease under a Republican.
Despite the number of these groups dipping in recent years, they cannot and should not be ignored — and not because of their actions in Michigan. This year is the presidential election, and the fear of a Democrat winning the election could likely add fire to militia groups, as it did in 2016. Back then,a Georgia-based militia groupbegan military training for the possibility of Hillary Clinton winning, and even considered an armed march in DC if she did win. Who’s to say similar groups didn’t think of the same? Who’s to say they aren’t planning the same things now?
Even if Trump is re-elected this year, these groups aren’t going to fade away, and Michigan proves that. It doesn’t help that our country is headed for a terrible economic crisis. Economic woes and disdain for leftist beliefs is a dangerous mix in this country.
What can other Americans do about this? For one thing, laughing and referring to the protesters as “uneducated” or “inbred” is not really the answer. Because even if it were true, it doesn’t stop the fact that such anti-government militia groups are capable of causing chaos, and even violence.
Which is why anyone who is appalled by these groups and their actions needs to be educated about them. Understand what their beliefs really are, and what they’re rooted in. Understand what frustrates them to the point of causing disturbances in American society. Knowledge is power, after all.
The simple fact is that these protesters are not going away any time soon — and with the coming economic troubles and a presidential election on the cards, the actions of a few armed protesters in Michigan may just be the beginning.