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Feds arrest leader of white supremacy group who ran 'hate camp' in Michigan

By Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — The leader of a national white supremacist group who ran a "hate camp" in Michigan and one of his cohorts were charged Thursday with multiple crimes as extremist groups continue to land on the FBI's radar nationwide.

The latest suspects were arrested at their homes at 6 a.m. Thursday for their alleged roles in a December 2019 incident in Dexter, where police said a husband, wife and their infant child were terrorized by two white supremacists who showed up on their porch in the middle of the night and took photos of their house, thinking someone else lived there.

The suspects, police said, were targeting a podcaster who is critical of the neo-Nazi movement and has expressed concern about the rise in white supremacy in the United States.

Police identified the suspects as Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, and Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor — both members of The Base, a white supremacy organization that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S., and purports to be training for a race war to establish white rule in areas of the U.S., including the Upper Peninsula.

Attorney General Dana Nessel charged them with multiple felonies, including gang membership, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

Their arrests come three weeks after 14 other anti-government individuals were charged in a sensational but foiled plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Five days before the kidnap suspects were arrested, a Madison Heights man who authorities said hated police and was preparing for a revolt was killed in a shootout with the FBI as they tried to arrest him outside a Texas Roadhouse on an outstanding warrant.

 

The suspects arrested Thursday were not part of the kidnap plot, though their neo-Nazi group has come under increased scrutiny over the last year, if arrests are any indication.

In January, three members of The Base were arrested on federal charges in Maryland and Delaware. The next day, three more members with ties to the same group were charged in Georgia.

Javid Ali, the former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, warns that The Base presents a very different and more serious threat than the local militias we've seen thus far. He said The Base more closely resembles international terrorist groups in that it has more capability, structure, and members with military or law enforcement backgrounds who are proficient at using weapons and building explosives.

Ali also noted the origin of the group's name: The Base takes its name from al-Qaida, which translated into English means "the base."

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