From the Northwest Beacon, February 1995, Number 23
Northwest Beacon is a publication of theNorthwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment
PO Box 16776
Seattle, WA 98116
Telephone: (206) 233-9136
The NWCAMH formed in response to the last wave of anti-democratic terrorism in the 1980’s. If you are concerned about bias crimes, intimidation, harassment or other attacks on civil and human rights, they should be your first point of contact.
The Northwest Imperative: Documenting a Decade of Hate is available from NWCAMH for $17.50 + $3.00 s/h. This extensive and comprehensive report details many of the organizations and individuals who have been central to the creation of militias in the Northwest United States.
In January 1995, the NWCAMH hosted a two day meeting of 25 researchers, community organizers and representatives from organizations in the Northwest and around the country. The agenda included sharing information about militia makeup and activity, assessing the implications of the rapid increase in militia formation, and developing strategies for addressing the threat and potential for violence from militia groups.
The rapid increase in militia activity in the Northwest and the country has raised concern among a number of organizations recently. In May, 1994, the Montana Human Rights Networkpublished a booklet titled A Season of Discontent: Militias, Constitutionalists and the Far Right in Montana.
Late in 1994, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote a letter to United States Attorney General Janet Reno that called for the Justice Department to be alert to the danger posed by the growing white supremacist involvement in these rapidly growing militias. The SPLC also announced the formation of a Militia Task Force, which will use its expertise and experience to monitor citizen militias and highlighted the issue in the lead article of the December 1994 issue of the Klanwatch Intelligence Report.
In October, 1994, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith issued a fact finding report titled Armed and Dangerous: Militias Take Aim at the Federal Government.
Northwest Beacon readers are encouraged to report militia activity from their area to the NWCAMH office.
The following article is a summary of the January meeting hosted by the NWCAMH.
Responding to an invitation from the NWCAMH, 25 researchers, community organizers and representatives from organizations in the Northwest and around the country came together in Issaquah, WA for two days of dialogue about militias. All present were concern about the rapid increase in militia activity, the potential for violence and the ideology underlying the militia movement.
While militias are showing up in a variety of forms, they can generally be described as organized groups of people, often at the county level, that study and train with weapons to “defend” themselves against what they perceive as the enemy.
OBSERVATIONS ABOUT MILITIAS:
- Militias are forming and conducting weapons training in the Northwest and many areas of the country.
- People are being drawn to militias around a number of issues including gun control, anti-government sentiment, property rights and various conspiracy theories.
- In many locales there is a growing “pre-militia” atmosphere of discontent and unrest.
- Some militias have ties with organized white supremacist organizations.
- Some militias have ties with the religious right.
- Some of the violence around abortion clinics has been tied to people with militia connections.
- Wise Use, property rights groups, and militias are forming around the same issues and in some cases involve the same people.
- Anti-government sentiment is a major driving force of the militia movement.
IMPLICATIONS OF MILITIA ACTIVITY:
- Violence has already taken place in connection with militias; there is every reason to expect the violence to increase.
- The militia movement is predominantly an expression of the Christian Patriot segment of white supremacy. While some individual members of militias are not racists, and most leaders claim that they are not racists, the militia movement is built on and promotes ideas that deny basic rights and create second class citizenship for people with whom they disagree.
- Many of the militia movement’s themes are rooted in white supremacist states rights arguments and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
- People are turning to militias because they have real and deep fears for themselves and the country.
- Militia organizers are manipulating these fears and grievances by pointing to scapegoats:
- federal officials and law enforcement officers,
- minority groups and Jewish institutions,
- abortion providers and pro-choice supporters,
- environmentalists and conservation activists,
- gay/lesbian rights organizers,
- welfare recipients.
- The militia movement claims to be a “people” movement, but thwarts democratic process by intimidation and the threat of violence, such as the disruption of public meetings and the intimidation of public officials with guns.
- As the militia movement organizes around mainstream issues such as gun control, it is no longer productive to simply tag members as racist. The discussion must go to the issues and the ideology behind the rhetoric and activity which deny basic human rights.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO MILITIA ACTIVITY:
- Law enforcement officers are often the first targets of militias; information and trainings are needed to prepare law enforcement to address recruitment efforts from militias as well as potentially violent incidents with militias.
- A short publication for mass distribution is needed. This pamphlet would challenge people to look critically at the ideology behind the militia movement.
- We must be willing to acknowledge mistakes made by government and address real fears and questions of people.
- Those who are targeted and harmed by militia activity must be provided support. We should launch a media campaign around what it means to be targeted.
- Grassroots groups need information and support from research groups.
- Where constitutional provisions, anti-paramilitary training laws or other legal provisions are applicable, encourage their enforcement.
- Find ways to focus media attention on issues, not personalities.
- Find effective ways to engage students of all ages in the ideas of fairness, quality and the democratic process.
- Engage mainstream denominations and religious leaders in serious dialogue on the issues.
The meeting participants concluded by agreeing to share information about militia activity, and to cooperate with each other as programs are developed to address the threat posed by militias.