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Failed plot to kidnap Whitmer shows danger of anti-government rhetoric

By Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

On June 11, 2001, I stood in a tight, gray-walled room at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, and watched through a window as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, expressionless and strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber, took his final breaths.

Despite my misgivings about the death penalty, it was hard for me to see it as anything but justice for the horrific act he committed, killing 168 people, including 19 children, in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Covering that execution and the anti-government movement that propelled McVeigh from a man with unhinged views on America to a mass-murdering terrorist left me with one key belief: You don’t feed these beasts.

Federal law enforcement, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, clamped down on the anti-government groups that fancy themselves “militias.” But the movement still ebbs and flows, and as we saw Thursday with the announcement of charges against six men who plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, it’s on the rise.

That’s because anti-government sentiment is being fed, often by right-wing squawkers making money hocking fear, but also by the very person in charge of our government.

The Whitmer kidnapping plot stemmed from restrictions she put in place to protect Michigan residents from the coronavirus. When armed protesters showed up at the statehouse to threaten her and other lawmakers over the COVID-19 lockdown, President Donald Trump egged them on, at one point tweeting: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

 

He also described protesters armed to the teeth in a state government building as “very good people” and went out of his way to show support and sympathy for them, something he does only for protesters who support him.

The problem is, those armed protesters and the men charged with plotting to kidnap the governor, along with seven other men charged separately Thursday under Michigan’s anti-terrorism law with plotting to target police officers, are fellow travelers. They’re Americans who view any governmental action they disagree with as tyranny.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued this statement regarding the charges against seven men associated with a group called the “Wolverine Watchmen”:

“The individuals in custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the Capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan.

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