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 as 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 that killed 168 individuals and injured more than 680 others.
Threat to New Jersey: Moderate
Militia extremists pose a moderate threat to New Jersey because of fundraising and recruitment efforts in the State, violent involvement in protests and standoffs across the United States, and their ability to coordinate and organize on a national scale.
Throughout 2017, the New Jersey-based chapter of a national militia extremist group that advocates for the use of violence solicited feedback “to determine the best approach to solving our fundraising needs in order to grow our numbers.” A survey asked participants if they would purchase merchandise, donate toward newspaper or magazine ads, or help raise funds for billboard advertising. As of January 2018, an additional militia group in the State claims on its social media site to conduct weekly weapons training.
In August, white supremacists and militia members from at least 35 states—including New Jersey—traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the “Unite the Right” rally, according to the Anti-Defamation League. In April, after a rally in Berkeley, California, a national militia leader declared victory against anti-fascist protesters in an after-action report posted to YouTube, predicting violence will escalate at such events.
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.
United States Nexus
Throughout 2017, militia extremists have attempted to act as security at protests and rallies as a way to “assist” law enforcement, often confusing the public and putting first responders at risk.
On August 12, armed militia members wearing military uniforms participated in protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in an effort to “maintain order.” The Virginia National Guard, which responded to the Governor’s state of emergency, issued a tweet describing how to differentiate National Guard soldiers from militia members.
On June 4, militia extremists attempted to corral, tackle, and handcuff protesters on behalf of local law enforcement officers at a “Trump Free Speech” rally in Portland, Oregon. Six days later in Houston, Texas, a militia member acting as security at a demonstration choked a neo-Nazi protester before ejecting him from the protest.
In April, a militia group leader at a rally in Berkeley, California, stated its members vowed to fight any protesters who crossed police barricades, claiming, “I don’t mind hitting [the counter-demonstrators]. In fact, I would kind of enjoy it.”