The Wolverine Watchmen: who are the militia 'behind the Michigan kidnap plot'?
Michigan has long been a hotbed of the militia - an open carry state with a deep divide between Democratic cities and Republican rural areas.
The election of a Democratic governor, aged 40, in November 2018, Gretchen Whitmer, to succeed 62-year-old Republican Rick Snyder did more to join their ranks.
Their decision to impose a strict lockdown in the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic only attracted more "freedom-loving" residents to their cause.
On Thursday, charges were brought against seven members of one of Michigan's most prominent militias, the Wolverine Watchmen, who were charged with plotting to kidnap Ms. Whitmer and violently overthrow the state government.
The Wolverine Watchmen are believed to be an offshoot of another Michigan militia known as the Wolverines.
Michigan is called the Wolverine State.
Founded in 1994 by Norm Olson, a former U.S. Air Force corporal, the group claims, according to The Irish Times, to have more than 80 brigades in nine divisions across the state.
Experts say membership tends to dwindle depending on the current political climate, but could reach several thousand at the same time. The current membership was unclear.
Training sessions with tactical and survival role-play and weapon use usually take place once a month.
The militia’s 31-page handbook claims that the group is not a racist or right-wing organization but welcomes everyone "regardless of skin color".
However, they emphasize "the Judeo-Christian influence that is rooted in our Founding Fathers".
The seven militia members charged on Thursday are charged with attempting to "start a civil war and kidnap officials, including the governor."
On their website, the militia said: "A well-armed citizenship is the best form of internal security and can better deter crime, invasion, terrorism and tyranny."
It adds, "If you are a US citizen (or have declared your intention to do so) who is capable of bearing arms, or has the right to do so, then YOU ARE THE MILITIA!"
The manual says they are "not racists who are" waging the great race war to destroy the Mudmen ".
Nor do they say they are "terrorists advocating violence or destroying buildings in Oklahoma full of men, women and children" - a reference to Timothy McVeigh, America's worst domestic terrorist, who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and 168 people killed and 680 injured.
"Only madmen do that," they say.
The manifesto continues to rail against taxes, stating that they are taking up arms to protect the freedom of US citizens.
“We Americans have lost the concept of true freedom because we no longer know exactly what our rights are. In today's United States, the word 'rights' has been so completely corrupted that few Americans know the difference between procedural rights and civil rights and our inalienable rights and freedoms, "they say.
Members take part in training courses that develop marksmanship and survival skills.
The militia issue has come to the fore in a heated legislature and with a president refusing to condemn the armed gangs who are generally ardent supporters of his campaign.
In at least 45 open-carry states, militiamen can walk armed and equipped in public as if they were legally waging war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The consequences were fatal.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, two Black Lives Matter protesters were shot dead by Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old self-appointed militia member, on August 25.
In Portland, Oregon, a member of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, which shows up at heavily armed rallies, was shot dead by a right-wing gunman.
And in other cities in the United States - Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere - ugly scenes of militia members confronting protesters were common this summer.
Many fear the tension will only increase as the elections approach and immediately afterwards if Mr Trump does not win.
The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group of former Republicans, released a new campaign video this week highlighting Mr Trump's wooing of militia and other far-right groups.
"This is not a dog whistle," says the voice. "It's a siren."
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