Story at a glance

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was the target of a kidnapping plot by a militia group that sought to overthrow the state government.
  • In a continued investigation of extremism in the state, the FBI has arrested the local leader of a white supremacist group.
  • The state has charged the leader and another man after a family was terrorized at their home.

Police have charged the self-proclaimed leader of a national white supremacist group and an associate with multiple felonies after the men allegedly terrorized a family at their home last December. 


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“Using tactics of intimidation to incite fear and violence constitutes criminal behavior,” state Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “We cannot allow dangerous activities to reach their goal of inflicting violence and harm on the public. I am proud to work alongside law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels to safeguard the public’s safety from these serious threats."

Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, and Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor, were charged with gang membership, unlawful posting of a message and using computers to commit a crime, involving intimidation tactics and messages to other members of "The Base" targeting the home. The white supremacist group with violent inclinations shared photos on their Telegram channel indicating that Daniel Harper, host of a podcast about white nationalism in the United States called "I don't speak German,” lived at the home, according to state authorities. Harper has never lived at that address.


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"Founded in 2018, The Base is a White supremacy organization that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S., and purports to be training for a race war to establish White ethnonationalist rule in areas of the U.S., including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The group also traffics in Nazi ideology and extreme anti-Semitism, at one point requiring its members to read neo-Nazi books that urge the collapse of Western civilization," said authorities in a release. "The Base leaders have used online chatrooms to encourage members to meet in-person and engage in military training to prepare for the insurgency against the U.S. government."

The charges were announced just weeks after the FBI arrested 14 suspects in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and overthrow the state government. No ties have been revealed between the two groups; the New York Times has reported on the ways in which Michigan's gun culture and divisions between urban and rural populations has made the state "fertile" ground for anti-government extremists. 

“There have been militia-type groups in Michigan even before we started using the phrase domestic terrorism,” Bill Ballenger, a former Republican state senator who represented a rural area, told the New York Times. 


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Published on Oct 29, 2020