Militia Extremists

  • US militia extremist groups are paramilitary organizations that view the federal government as an existential threat to the rights and freedoms of Americans. They judge armed resistance to be necessary to preserve these rights.
  • The militia movement is decentralized, with members who justify the use of violence to counter perceived threats or violations to the US Constitution.

  • Two early symbolic events for the movement are standoffs with federal agents in the early 1990s at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas. These confrontations provided the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Nevada Militia Trials

  • In 2014, approximately 200 militia members participated in an armed standoff in Nevada with federal authorities over cattle grazing rights. Cliven Bundy—along with his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy who subsequently led the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation in Oregon in 2016—initiated the standoff.

  • Beginning next month, 17 individuals will be tried for their participation in the Bundy Ranch Standoff in 2014. These trials will likely rally support within the militia movement throughout the year.

THREAT TO NEW JERSEY: MODERATE

Militia extremists pose a moderate threat to New Jersey because of fundraising and recruitment efforts in the state, involvement in protests and standoffs across the United States, and their ability to coordinate and organize on a national scale.

  • In November 2016, the founder of a national militia group hosted a webinar providing instructions on how to set up neighborhood “Kill Zones” after the US presidential  election—a response to his anticipation of “intruders…suspending the democratic process.” Examples of “intruders” included political, civil rights, terrorist, and race-based groups.
  • In 2015, Jon Ritzheimer, a militia extremist from Phoenix, issued threats against Muslim Day at Six Flags in Jackson (Ocean County). Additionally, he threatened to travel to Hancock, New York—a predominantly Muslim community commonly known pejoratively as “Islamberg”—and “stop at every mosque along the way.”

  • Robert Doggart—a Christian minister and former US Congressional candidate from Tennessee—solicited militia members’ support from multiple states and planned an attack in “Islamberg.” The plot required Doggart to travel through New Jersey to reach his destination.

US NEXUS

  • In January 2016, militia extremists occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, near Burns, Oregon, for 41 days to protest the convictions of two Oregon ranchers for arson on federal land. In October 2016, seven leaders were acquitted, and seven more await trial this year.
  • In October 2016, three members of a Kansas-based militia, “The Crusaders,” plotted to bomb an apartment complex housing a mosque containing Somali immigrants. That same month, a militia extremist, Robert Twiss, plotted to attack federal buildings in Albany, New York.
  • In June 2016, self-described militia leader William Keebler was arrested for attempting to detonate a pipe bomb at a federal building on the Utah-Arizona border. 

Additional Resources

Militia Extremists: Threatening the Muslim Community

Oregon Standoff Bundle



For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.