Lancaster County elected officials must condemn three percent movement and other dangerous extremists [editorial] | Our opinion


THE PROBLEM

“Members of a militia movement that views the US government as tyrannical and promises to oppose it by force of arms, if necessary,” met on December 11 at a Lancaster County restaurant in full view of other patrons , according to witnesses, LNP | LancasterOnline’s Carter Walker reported on Wednesday. A group of 20 to 25 people, “some wearing badges associated with the Three Percenters militia, gathered at Miller’s Ale House in Harrisburg Pike and held what appeared to be an introductory meeting for potential recruits, said officials. witnesses “. One witness said those present rose one by one to say where they were from – they mentioned places as disparate as Wilkes-Barre, York, Maryland and Montreal – and to describe their military experience.

It’s tempting to dismiss the actions of militia movements such as the Three Percent as mere plays by mostly white guys who like to look tough, wear bulletproof vests, and wield guns.

A witness told LNP | Walker of LancasterOnline that some of the men seen at Miller’s Ale House wore a crest emblazoned with the Roman numeral III, with the letters AP above it and surrounded by a circle of stars which was itself encircled by the phrase: “I’m going downhill. men who would not be ruled.

It’s not exactly a subtle message.

The three percent, however, are real threats to democracy and American society.

In June, Canada declared the three percent a “terrorist entity.” The Canadian government’s Public Safety Agency website notes that the three percent “have been linked to bomb plots targeting United States federal government buildings and Muslim communities.” In November 2015, a Three Percenter was arrested and ultimately convicted of shooting and injuring five men during a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And Three Percenters was affiliated with the violent 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, this website noted.

Like TNL | Walker of LancasterOnline reported that a joint FBI and US Department of Homeland Security assessment earlier this year identified anti-government and militia extremism as one of the top three threats to domestic terrorism; the report cited terrorist attacks planned by Three Percenters.

According to the US Department of Justice, the three percent designation is “based on the myth that only three percent of American settlers took up arms against the British during the American Revolution.” It is not so adopted by a “single and global group”, explains the Department of Justice, but rather by the followers of a “common belief in the idea that a small force with a just cause can overthrow a tyrannical government if it is armed and prepared ”.

Thus, the Three Percent are not only terrible in history, but grandiose and violent.

And it should worry all of us that they see Lancaster County as a convenient place to meet.

Other extremists may insist that this three percent rally was too public to be real, that it must have been a trap set by the FBI. We certainly hope the FBI knew this had taken place. But the fact remains that this meeting at Miller’s Ale House attracted about twenty people, according to the management of the restaurant chain.

In a statement sent to LNP | LancasterOnline, Miller’s Ale House executive vice president Jim Kuehnhold, has confirmed the restaurant can accommodate a party of 25. “The group behaved well, did not build relationships with or disrupt other guests, and as far as we can tell, did not engage in any activity other than dinner and socializing. At the end of the meal, they paid their bill and left without incident, ”Kuehnhold said.

These “wise” individuals, however, upset other customers who were alarmed by their presence. And no wonder.

Prepare for conflict

As Sam Jackson, an assistant professor at the University of Albany who studies anti-government extremism, told Walker, the activities of the three percent movement can range from community service and traditional political activism to training. tactics for an anticipated conflict with what he sees as a tyrannical US federal government.

“(At the group level) they present themselves a lot as preparing for a conflict that is already slowly occurring or as a long term eventuality, but for most of them it’s much more imminent,” said Jackson. . “This is something they are really worried about and they are in a rush to get ready.”

Anyone who thinks such a conflict is a distant and implausible scenario must have slept on January 6, when violent insurgents – three percent of them – stormed the United States Capitol.

According to the Washington Post, Barbara F. Walter, professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego and a member of the CIA’s Political Instability Task Force, believes that we are “closer to civil war than we are. ‘none of us would believe it. “

In a book due for publication in January, she writes that “if you were an analyst in a foreign country studying events in America… you would make a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make a civil war likely. And what you would find out is that the United States, a democracy founded over two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory. “

So it is incredibly disturbing to read yet another example of a meeting of extremists in Lancaster County.

Extremist rallies here

Lancaster County has been the scene of other militia and extremist activity in recent years.

– In June 2020, members of the Carlisle Light Infantry and Domestic Terrorism Response Organization, armed with rifles, stood guard in Elizabethtown as a Black Lives Matter protest took place.

– The county is home to dozens of former or current Oath Keepers, another anti-government group. (Oath Keepers was pictured among leaders of “patriotic groups” who gathered near Quarryville on January 3 to plan Donald Trump’s rally in Washington, DC, three days later.)

– In August 2020, some of the country’s most notorious white nationalists gathered in a Lancaster Township barn to launch a political party whose declared enemy is “Zionism and the International Jewish Oligarchy.” The barn is owned by pro-Russian Holocaust denier and January 6 insurrectionist Charles Bausman.

And now, it looks like Three Percenters met at a chain restaurant here.

Amy Cooter, a sociology professor at Vanderbilt University who studies the militia, told LNP | Walker of LancasterOnline that when such groups get together in very public places, they often “try to present themselves as part of the community and not as extremists”.

“It’s unusual,” she said, “when people travel this far so it looks like they’re trying to create a small network and maybe trying to share tips for recruiting closer to home. them at the local level. “

The possibility that a meeting here could lead to the spread of the cancer of anti-government extremism should dismay all elected officials. Once again, we implore those elected to public office in Lancaster County to take a firm stand against such extremism, to make it clear that such twisted beliefs are not welcome here.

We shouldn’t have to keep making this plea.

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