Far-right groups are planning to patrol polling sites on Election Day, some of them armed, causing experts to worry about the possibility of violent clashes and voter intimidation.
They go by names like Oath Keepers, Wolverine Watchmen and the Three Percenters. They chat on Gab, Discord, 4chan and other social media. Heavily armed and loyal to US President Donald Trump, many vow to descend on polling places November 3 in a far-right show of unity.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of a far-right group called the Oath Keepers, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday that his members would “be out on Election Day to protect people who are voting.” He said some would be carrying concealed weapons.
A QAnon-affiliated group has also been talking on Telegram, describing “heavily armed MAGA patriots” preparing for Election Day, according to the Times. The Times in turned cited the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremists online.
“The militias will absolutely seize on [Trump’s comments],” said Steven Gardiner, who tracks militias at the progressive thinktank Political Research Associates “The possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places is very troubling.”
Devin Burghart, the director of the anti-bigotry organization the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, had a similar sensation when he heard Trump’s words. “My first thought was ‘Here we go’. This is the stuff of our worst nightmares.”
He told the Times that his group believed far-right groups would be standing by at polls in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and that “the act of showing up armed is certainly a deterrent to folks showing up to vote.”
Burghart said people could report such groups via his group’s app, which is designed to alert local legal observers.
“The chances are really high that we’re going to see militia members, armed groups or Trump supporters who are armed at the polls,” said Cassie Miller, a senior researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Not only are these people willing to participate in voter intimidation, but they’re hoping to create this chaotic moment. There’s an unwillingness to accept anything but a Trump victory.”