According to new reports coming from MilitiaWatch and ACLED, as many as five states are seen as high risk for election violence by armed civilian groups. The violence is expected around the November 3 election, and it may continue till the results are announced.
Five States At High Risk Of Armed Violence Around Election
The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project along with MilitiaWatch, has clearly warned about such activities around the election time in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Oregon. The state capitals and surrounding towns are high-risk areas for such activities along with suburban areas and medium-sized cities.
The report clearly mentions that militia groups and other armed non-state actors are a huge threat to American voters during this election as they have become more assertive during the last few months leading up to the presidential elections. The activities include intervening in several protests and also organizing kidnapping plots that target elected officials.
The report has been aptly titled “Standing By: Right-Wing Militia Groups and the US Election”. The name is inspired by one of the recent responses of Trump during a debate. When Trump was asked about the violence caused by militias and nationalist groups, he said to one such group name The Proud Boys to “Stand back and Stand by”. This was taken as an encouraging response by many right-wing groups.
The armed groups are often trained for urban and rural combat, and they also effectively try to use public relations and propaganda to act as “security operations” for such large events in the country. The report says that such groups are trying to supplement the work of law enforcement on their own and they are trying to work parallelly with the police department in certain areas.
Marcus Brown, Director of Pennsylvania Homeland Security, said that security is the main topic of discussion during this election and Homeland Security along with the Department of State and National Guard are working on it.
He added that Pennsylvania is an open carry state but the rights of voters and Second Amendment rights should be properly balanced so that none of them feels threatened or intimidated during the elections. The focus, however, is not so much on the Election day according to Brown and they are more concerned about the aftermath of elections particularly if there is no clear winner in the election.
The MilitiaWatch along with ACLED have identified as many as nine multi-state right-wing groups that may pose problems during the elections in Pennsylvania and several other states. The right-wing groups named in the report include Proud Boys. Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Light Foot Militia, American Contingency, Civilian Defense Force, People’s Rights, Boogaloo Bois and Patriot Prayer.
Spokesman of ACLED, Sam Jones said that they have worked along with MilitiaWatch and analyzed more than 80 armed groups since the beginning of this year. He added that even though there is some amount of risk associated with these right-wing groups, voters should not be intimidated by such threats and people should, in fact, use the data to secure their local environment and communities so that they can reduce the risk of violence.
Talking specifically about Pennsylvania, the report mentions that some of the groups that need to be watched include Boogaloo Bois, American Contingency, Proud Boys, Civilian Defense Force, Light Foot Militia and Mountain Top Watch which is an unaffiliated group in Pennsylvania.
Other groups under the watch include the Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia and the Domestic Terrorism Response Organization which was formed in response to Antifa movement along with Carlisle Light Infantry.
The Civilian Defense Force was started recently, and it is involved in training volunteers for potential combat according to the report. The Mountain Top Watch Militia also held a recruiting event recently outside Scranton in September.
It is interesting to note that such armed individuals and groups have frequently appeared at Black Lives Matter protests, and they claim to offer protection to residents and property from any possible rioting incidents. Even though their intentions are good, the police department is not comfortable with such groups coming in public to offer such protection for the common public as they pose a serious threat to the overall law and order situation.
The report mentions that such groups have appeared at several Black Lives Matter events at Berks County and Juniata County in summer this year. In July, when there were strong hoax rumors that Antifa was planning a flag-burning event at Gettysburg, the groups had gathered to protect Civil War Monuments.
Brown said that they were aware of all the movements of such groups and they are monitoring them carefully during this election season. Even as the groups spread across smaller towns and rural areas, they cannot escape the watchful eyes of the security agencies.
The problem comes with such groups taking the law into their own hands, and this can ignite more violence as counter groups may start attacking them. Finally, the responsibility of protecting everyone in the crowd falls on the police department. Given this situation, the police want such armed groups to stay away from conflict zones as they can cause more harm than good in such situations.
This was evident in the recent protests, and they pose a serious threat to otherwise common citizens who just want to run their businesses in a normal way. The presence of non-state armed groups is not a welcome sign for any society, and the governments must take some strict action to curb such groups in the long run.
The election-year has fueled many such groups, and they have become very active in recent months. Such level of activity was not seen in the last few years, and they are now coming into public space on a regular basis and trying to prove a point. The security agencies are more worried about the aftermath of the elections as there is scope for some conflicts if there is no clear winner. Even Trump has done nothing to stop such threats, and he has indicated that there may be some violence if Biden comes to power after the elections.