BIPP: Extremist rhetoric and the kidnapping attempt on Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Nicole Reddig, BIPP Intern

This month, the FBI revealed there had been a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer by two anti-government extremist groups. Since the Oct. 8 revelation, 14 people have been charged with various felonies related to the attempt, including supporting acts of terrorism. Despite the gravity of such an attempt, U.S. President Donald Trump has continued to stoke fear and violence often directed toward Whitmer. This behavior from our Commander in Chief is wholly unacceptable.

Using undercover agents, the FBI discovered transactions of explosives and tactical gear, exposing the plot to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home with a taser and send her out on a boat into Lake Michigan. They further plotted to place explosives on bridges to delay police response. Eight of the men are allegedly members of the Wolverine Watchmen; the other six are allegedly members of the Three Percenters. Both of these groups are right-wing, anti-government extremist militias that have promoted a “boogaloo,” or civil war, to stop the governor’s “uncontrolled power.” These sentiments are a reaction to Whitmer’s strong and decisive action against the coronavirus, requiring mask-wearing and closing parts of the economy. Three of the extremist agitators involved in this plot engaged in the armed demonstrations at the Michigan Capitol building earlier in the summer. The militias had been plotting the kidnapping of Whitmer and a subsequent raid on the Capitol since at least June.

Since this plot was revealed, Trump has refused to dial back his extremist rhetoric, instead choosing to use it against Whitmer. At a campaign rally last week, Trump compared the governor to a prison warden for locking down her state through restrictive measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. His supporters proceeded to engage in a “Lock Her Up!” chant, perpetuated by the president stating, “Lock them all up!” Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump said the rally was a “fun, light atmosphere” and that he meant no harm to Whitmer. Whitmer, however, disagrees. In a strong rebuke of Trump, Whitmer said that she issued a “rallying cry and call to action” to the two militia groups involved in the kidnapping plot.

By failing to condemn domestic terrorists and continuing to stoke violence, Trump is certainly damaging the already fraught camaraderie among the American people. Trump tweeted that Whitmer was doing a “terrible job” and must open the state. He further supported protestors at the Michigan State Capitol earlier in the summer, tweeting again to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” These words promote violence. During the first debate, Trump refused to condemn white supremacy. He told these groups to stand back and stand by. The Wolverine Watchmen and Michigan Three Percenters certainly did.

This behavior is not democratic. It is not American. It is not acceptable. Our elected leaders set an example for the American people. This example cannot be one that encourages right-wing, anti-government, white supremacist, extremist militia groups to “liberate” anything. Domestic terrorism has no place in America. We deserve elected officials who take these matters seriously. We deserve elected officials who confront heavily armed militias of domestic terrorists. We deserve elected officials who condemn extremist hate groups rather than encourage them under the guise of freedom.

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