US Presidential D-21. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Oregon ... As the November 3 election approaches, concern is mounting around these far-right activists who could come armed to polling stations to disrupt the ballot.
They are known as Oath Keepers, Wolverines Watchmen, Proud Boys or Three Percenters, they communicate with each other on internet platforms like Gab, Discord, 4chan and other channels. "Heavily armed and loyal to President Trump", many members of these far-right militias "want to go down to the polls on November 3," reports the Los Angeles Times.
Active surveillance and concealed weapons
The Oath Keepers group, for example, claims thousands of members across the country, including former police and military. Some have registered as observers in polling stations, others plan to come and “watch” the ballot by bringing their weapons if necessary, explains in the columns of the Californian daily the founder of the group Stewart Rhodes, a former parachutist of the army. He underlines :
"We will be there on polling day to protect the voters who come to vote."
Stewart Rhodes explains that members of the Oath Keepers will be actively monitoring polling stations, "as they did in 2016, reporting incidents they observed to police." He advises members of his group to “hide their weapons so as not to be spotted, to respect the law and not to intimidate voters”.
Finally, he points out that members of the Oath Keepers have done “voluntary surveillance at recent Trump meetings and have seen supporters of the president being attacked by counter-protesters”. He said he feared, suddenly, that “the president's voters, who will be more likely to come and vote in person because they are less afraid of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be attacked in the same way in the polling stations ”.
The "duty" to intervene
In Michigan, thirteen members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia "may have been arrested and charged on October 8," the Los Angeles Times recalls, in particular for having planned to kidnap the Democratic state governor, Gretchen Whitmer, that does not 'not prevent other militia members, which abound in Michigan, from preparing for November 3.
Adam Peisker of the Michigan Home Guard, one of the largest local militias with its 300 members, indicates for example that his group will not go to the polling stations.
“But if there is mayhem, riots, we will have to go out there to see the damage. We protect our members first, then we go to law enforcement to offer our help.”
In Georgia, Chris Hill, the leader of the Three Percenters militia, also explains that he does not encourage members of his group to go to the polling stations: “It could be taken as intimidation and I do not want to open this Pandora's box."
But he says he fears voter fraud and election day unrest and is preparing to step up just in case.
“If people are targeted by radical militants, I will be there to protect them. I don't need the government's permission for that […]. We will be there to defend the people and buildings in Georgia and we are ready to go to other states to do so. ”
Trump's victory or nothing
In September, at a rally near Portland, Oregon, members of the far-right group Proud Boys “announced that they intended to monitor the sites where postal votes are collected” , always, they say, for fear of fraud.
In the same state, "other extreme right-wing groups are calling to monitor polling stations from their vehicles parked in front of them, or by installing surveillance cameras used to track animals during hunting around polling places" .
Cassie Miller, associate researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an extremism and hate groups watch organization, says: “There is a real risk of seeing members of militias, armed groups or Trump supporters. come with their gun to the polling stations on November 3. Not only are these people hoping to participate in voter intimidation, they also hope to wreak havoc. "
And the researcher concludes:
"There is a real refusal among them to accept any outcome other than a victory for Trump."