Is there a place for militia groups in the U.S. anymore? My home town of Ann Arbor played a role in the recent arrests of members of an extremist militia. FBI lured members of Hutaree, a radical Christian militia, to a fake memorial service, according to news-media reports. The reason, officials said, was to make sure they were unarmed when arrested. Tree Town (one of Ann Arbor’s nicknames) was among the locations in the Midwest where arrests were made.
Nine members of the militia were charged with “seditious conspiracy.” According to the U.S. Code, this means conspiring “to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them,” and other offenses. Specifically, these members allegedly planned to kill a police officer and then bomb the officer’s funeral.
This is an example of an extremist fringe group, but it made me think about the role of militia in America today: Is there a place for militia groups anymore?
Militia—a military force made up of ordinary citizens—has a long history in America. It began, of course, with the militia that the British organized in the colonies and that eventually morphed into the local militia that opposed them. American militia fought in subsequent wars as well.
While the militias were once government-sponsored, today we associate “militia” with anti-government groups—those organized with the intent to overthrow the government or eliminate many of its institutions. Some advocate peaceful change, others do not.
Do the recent arrests indicate that militias are an outdated institution? Should there be some new legal limitations on militias? Should they be banned?
(Note on today’s photos: The group photo, above, and the emblem labeled “Hutaree flag” are from the group’s own Web site, prior to the arrests.)