The case of this weekend's busts of seven militiamen in the Midwest, all affiliated with the Hutaree "Christian militia" -- apparently on bomb-making charges, though more factual details are expected today -- is deja vu all over again.
It very much reminds me of the Washington State Militia, the group whose bust and subsequent federal trial I covered in 1996-7. The WSM was a lot like the Michigan Militia in that it liked to sell itself as a civic-minded group whose main purpose was to defend citizens from government oppression and to perform various civic function. I'll never forget John Pitner, the WSM's "commander," telling reporters outside a meeting hall in Mount Vernon in January 1996 that he and his members had been heavily involved in sandbagging efforts to combat the floods that had hit local rivers the week before.
That was how they behaved when out in public, trying to recruit mainstream conservatives to their cause. Then we discovered that what they were saying in private was quite a different thing altogether.
Pitner and six of his comrades were arrested in July 1996 and hit with a variety of charges, most notably for making pipe bombs. At the trial, it emerged that the FBI had videotaped many of the militiamen's meetings, and so both the trial audience and the jury got to hear Pitner and his cohorts planning various acts of violence, including bombing a local reporter's home and a nearby train tunnel.
The Hutaree group -- which made the above video sometime last year, demonstrating their tactics for attacking an outpost of the oppressive blue-helmeted United Nations, at the culmination of which they burn the U.N. flag and raise the flag of the "CCR" -- the Colonial Christian Republic, which the Hutaree folks promote.
Interestingly enough, the authorities in Bridgewater Township actually asked local militias to help them search for a couple of missing persons. Among them were members of the Hutaree militia:
While the SMVM training is public, Hutaree, a Christian-oriented group, shies away from public attention.
Wendy Lineweaver, 43, of Manchester Township, a Hutaree member, participated in both searches in the township.
She joined the tightly-knit unit after meeting several members at a Ron Paul rally several years ago in Ann Arbor. Lineweaver opposes surveillance cameras on streets, the use of body scanners at airports and fears the government may microchip people.
“If you really want to try and install a police state in this society, you’re going to hit a brick wall, meaning us,” she said. “That’s what we’re preparing for.”
Militia members are politically active, but have the same concerns as everyone else, said Rivka Pratt of Hamburg Township, who is Schiel’s fiancée. The mother of two is a member of Schiel’s unit.
“We all live normal lives,” she said. “We all worry about paying the bills. How the kids are doing in school…You don’t live your life worrying about the government.”
You even had the local Republican councilwoman whose brilliant scheme this was praising them afterward:
“Based on what I have observed of our local militia’s efforts, I highly recommend that other municipalities coordinate with and get to know their local militia members."
Meanwhile, their fellow militiamen are now busy throwing the Hutaree folks under the bus:
Mike Lackomar, of Michiganmilitia.com, said both The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and the Michiganmilitia.com were not a part of the raid.
Lackomar said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations.
"Last night and into today the FBI conducted a raid against homes belonging to the Hutaree. They are a religious cult. They are not part of our militia community," he said.
Lackomar said he was told there were five arrests Saturday and another five early Sunday. The FBI declined to comment.
One of the Hutaree members called a Michigan militia leader for assistance Saturday after federal agents had already began their raid, Lackomar said, but the militia member -- who is of Islamic decent and had heard about the threats -- declined to offer help. That Michigan militia leader is now working with federal officials to provide information on the Hutaree member for the investigation, Lackomar said Sunday.
"They are more of survivalist group and in an emergency they withdraw and stand their ground. They are actively training to be alongside Jesus," he said.
Of course, they'll all be clamoring to assure us that they're really just a bunch of civic-minded folks, honest. They just happen to be a little paranoid is all.