Nessel tells Congress Michigan is ‘no stranger to the threat of domestic terrorism by violent militia extremists’

By: - May 26, 2021 4:39 pm

Conservative protest at the Capitol against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, April 30, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

Ahead of a congressional subcommittee’s hearing Wednesday on the rise of white supremacist violence and militia extremism, Attorney General Dana Nessel submitted a statement laying out Michigan’s historical ties to militia activity and asking for more federal help on the issue.

Dana Nessel
Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Planned Parenthood summit, April 16, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties streamed testimony virtually and was led by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)

“Michigan is the original home of the militia movement and no stranger to the threat of domestic terrorism by violent militia extremists,” Nessel said in her written testimony, noting that in 2020 her department charged members of the white supremacist milia group “The Base” along with eight leaders and associates of the extremist militia “Wolverine Watchmen.”

The latter had plans to kidnap and possibly execute Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, take public officials hostage in the state Capitol and more.

“Legitimizing militias, combined with the toxic partisan rhetoric of today and fed by misinformation and disinformation, has led to a marked rise in militia extremism,” Nessel said.

“… In my home state, we saw this when politicians held closed-door meetings with extremist militia members and stood with them on stages at rallies,” she continued, apparently referring to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

Nessel said that in April 2020, some of the same militia members who aided in the Whitmer murder plot also “conducted a dress rehearsal” for Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol when they entered the Michigan Capitol with assault weapons and appeared to intimidate state lawmakers during session.

Nessel said that she is concerned that a bipartisan consensus has not been reached on the growing problem of domestic extremism.

During the hearing, Republican members on the subcommittee interjected comparisons between white supremacist extremism and groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Democratic members firmly rebuked the characterizations and said the conversation should focus on addressing violent militia groups.

“We cannot even agree to call it domestic terrorism let alone reach consensus on ways to solve it,” Nessel said. 

She added that many other states and federal prosecutors do not have a robust array of domestic terrorism laws to address these crimes like Michigan does, which should be changed. She also recommended more federal funding for state law enforcement offices and better coordination at all levels of government.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.