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U.S. election – possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places

Will Trump’s Call for Poll-Watchers Bring Paramilitaries to the Voting Booth?   TruthOut, BYKenny Stancil, Common Dreams, October 11, 2020  

Following President Donald Trump’s refusal last month to denounce white supremacists along with his longstanding pattern of undermining democratic norms — and in the wake of the FBI’s interception of a plot by right-wing domestic terrorists to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the state government — fears are mounting about the danger posed by far-right paramilitary groups heeding Trump’s call to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”

Two weeks after Donald Trump Jr. took to social media in an attempt to recruit an “army for Trump’s election security,” and with early voting already underway, Republicans this week have begun dispatching thousands of volunteers to in-person voting locations and mail-in ballot drop boxes, part of a desperate “effort to find evidence to back up Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints about widespread voter fraud,” Reuters reported Thursday.

According to more than 20 officials involved in the effort, “the mission… is to capture photos and videos Republicans can use to support so-far unfounded claims that mail voting is riddled with chicanery, and to help their case if legal disputes erupt over the results of… the contest between Republican incumbent Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.”

But critics of the Trump campaign’s operation — which revolves around baseless presumptions of fraudulent electoral activity committed by supporters of Democratic candidates — argued that the president’s “call for his supporters to serve as self-appointed” poll-watchers “sounded more like an incitement to voter intimidation and violence than an endorsement of the role election observers play in protecting democratic norms.”

Given the White House’s alarming normalization of violence against political foes, voting rights experts, civic officials, and citizens are increasingly concerned about the negative consequences that could ensue if tensions escalate and the president’s most militant supporters — white nationalist gangs, so-called “patriots” donning Confederate and Nazi regalia, and other heavily armed pro-Trump factions — follow his authoritarian cues.

Steven Gardiner, a scholar at the progressive think tank Political Research Associates, told The Guardian on Friday that “the militias will absolutely seize on” Trump’s comments.

“The possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places is very troubling,” Gardiner added……..

As Common Dreams reported on Thursday amid the revelation that 13 suspects had been arrested on kidnapping and terrorism charges after law enforcement officials foiled a right-wing plot to attack the Michigan State Capitol and hold Gov. Whitmer hostage, many observers have made connections between Trump’s demagogic rhetoric and his followers’ violent actions.

“I wonder where they got their motivation from,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) noted sarcastically on social media, referring to an incendiary message Trump shared in April — during the height of anti-lockdown protests in the state — to “Liberate Michigan!”

“This is a pattern: Trump paints a target. An attack or plot follows,” tweeted Washington Post national security correspondent Greg Miller.

Gardiner told The Guardian that “the relationship between the militias and the current administration is call and response.”

“It’s not always clear who’s leading the chant,” he added. “Sometimes it’s coming from the militias, sometimes it’s coming from the president.”

Another worrisome development is that gun sales nearly doubled between summer 2019 and 2020, meaning that the U.S. is further arming itself with “deadly weaponry [that] is increasingly finding its way onto the streets, borne by self-styled private militias, and culminating in violent clashes that have caused bloodshed in several U.S. cities,” as The Guardian explained.

The New York Times estimated last month that the number of active militia members hovers around 20,000 people in 300 groups, with military veterans constituting one-fourth of those. But a new investigation by The Atlantic magazine into the Oath Keepers, one of the most prominent far-right paramilitary groups, revealed a list of nearly 25,000 current or former members, two-thirds of whom had military or law enforcement backgrounds, suggesting that the number of Americans with ties to extremist factions is larger.

As Common Dreams reported last month, armed white supremacists pose the greatest domestic terrorism threat in the U.S., according to the FBI, despite efforts by the Trump administration to downplay the risks associated with right-wing militias. ………..

Rivas explained that “militia groups such as the Montana branch of the United States Freedom Protectors were positioning themselves to be vigilante outriders of law enforcement on Election Day,” and that “the possibility of interventions by armed members of the group had to be taken seriously.”

“They present themselves as protectors of property and law and order, and are now starting to talk about the election,” Rivas said. “They may show up at polling places claiming to want to protect voting rights, but their impact will clearly be intimidatory.”……….

Rivas stressed that the threat of voter intimidation “really is top down.” Far-right paramilitary groups “are repeating word for word what they hear from President Trump,” she said. https://truthout.org/articles/will-trumps-call-for-poll-watchers-bring-paramilitaries-to-the-voting-booth/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=614ce999-9844-4d61-a600-169db0c99052

October 12, 2020 - Posted by | election USA 2020

1 Comment »

  1. […] U.S. election – possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling pla… […]

    Pingback by U.S. election – possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places — nuclear-news | EricVoc New Media | October 18, 2020 | Reply


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