The number of extremist anti-government militias in the United States witnessed a one-third increase in 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a report Thursday.
There were at least 276 militia groups active in the U.S. last year, compared to 202 such groups in 2014, according to the report. The rise in groups marks a 37 percent increase.
— SPLC (@splcenter) 4 января 2016
The report comes as an armed anti-government militia continues to occupy a government building in rural Oregon, in what they say is a protest against the federal government’s wildlife policies.
The militants are led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who became famous for a seperate standoff with the federal government in 2014 over not paying US$1 million in taxes.
Armed with assault rifles, several militants have been occupying the government building for five days now and are demanding that the federal government give local wildlife refuge to private citizens.
Laskhar-e-Bundy has broken into and taken over a federal building in Oregon. They won’t rule out violence if provoked by law enforcement.
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) 3 января 2016
“We believe these armed extremists have been emboldened by what they saw as a clear victory at the Cliven Bundy ranch and the fact that no one was held accountable for taking up arms against agents of the federal government,” Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence project, said as he announced the report.
Analysts at the Southern Poverty Law Center say anti-government activists have been on the rise since President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.
In 2014, Bundy refused to pay taxes to the government and became infamous for several racist statements. However, he has still never been arrested or forced to pay the outstanding fees that he owes to the government.
Bundy’s actions and the government’s inability or refusal to hold him to account “energized the entire movement,” Beirich said. “The fact is, Bundy is still a free man and has not paid the money he owes to the federal government — and the militiamen who aimed rifles at federal agents have gotten away with it.”
Last summer, the Southern Poverty Law Center expressed concern over a white supremacist massacre at an historic African-American church, which they argued was treated differently than other, less serious cases involving Muslims.
Critics and rights groups also criticized last week the mainstream media and the U.S. government over their failure to label Bundy’s militia in Oregon as domestic terrorists.
It’s cute how Washington Post calls the armed militants who want to overthrow the government “activists” https://t.co/Kz9q2K26oy
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) 4 января 2016
The militia groups included in the report’s count typically adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines and subscribe to groundless conspiracy theories about the federal government, Southern Poverty Law Center said in a press release.