Michigan’s history of self-styled militia groups has long vexed law enforcement

William Null, right, stands in the gallery of the Michigan Senate Chamber during an April rally seeking the reopening of businesses closed by the pandemic. Null was charged this past week in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Speaking to a crowd gathered in Grand Rapids, Mich., in May to protest coronavirus restrictions, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf pointed to William Null, a beefy man in tactical gear carrying a big gun, and declared, “This is our last home defense right here, ladies and gentlemen.” Leaf’s declaration, which drew chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd of hundreds that day, highlights Michigan’s unique history as a hotbed for self-proclaimed militia groups that blend a variety of ideologies and grievances but share an overarching antipathy toward the government, a sentiment that is sometimes shared even by local law enforcement. This past week, Null and a dozen other men were arrested on a variety of charges ranging from supporting terrorist acts to plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) — bringing new attention to such groups of well-armed men. According to court papers, Null was part of a group that called itself the Wolverine Watchmen, and they engaged in regular firearms training and discussed a variety of potential attacks on law enforcement, the state capital complex, and the governor. Leaf — who knew Null to be the founder of a different group called the Michigan Liberty Militia — said he was generally supportive of self-styled militias, which he said […]

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