The FBI, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, thwarted an alleged attempt by radical militia members to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday that six men were arrested and federally charged for conspiring to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, and another seven were arrested simultaneously with state charges of providing material support to terrorists. Gov. Whitmer said during a press conference that the 13 individuals are from two different militia groups.
“As a mom of two teenage daughters, and three stepsons, my husband and I are eternally grateful to everyone who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our family safe,” said Whitmer. “So let me say this loud and clear: hatred, bigotry, and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan. If you break the law or conspire to commit heinous acts of violence against anyone, we will find you, we will hold you accountable, and we will bring you to justice.”
She then claimed that President Donald Trump “stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.”
“Stand back and stand by. Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” she said.
“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage and fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit,” Whitmer continued.
The men arrested and federally charged for conspiring to kidnap Gov. Whitmer include:
- Adam Fox
- Barry Croft
- Ty Garbin
- Kaleb Franks
- Daniel Harris
- Brandon Caserta
All of the men besides Croft are residents of Michigan.
The group had reportedly surveilled the governor’s vacation home on two separate occasions and inspected the underside of a bridge for spots to plant an explosive device intended to divert police from Whitmer’s home. The men were planning on kidnapping the Democratic governor and then taking her to a secure location in Wisconsin for “trial,” according to the criminal complaint.
Among other activities, the complaint accuses Fox of purchasing a taser for use in the kidnapping and says that the group successfully detonated an improvised explosive device wrapped with shrapnel. The complaint doesn’t provide specific names for the militia groups.
After the arrests were announced, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” became a trending hashtag on Twitter. Many people using the hashtag claimed that the militants were inspired by President Trump’s April “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” tweet.
If the president read his intel briefings and understood the dogma of white nationalist groups, he'd realize that language like "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" is read as tacit permission — if not explicit encouragement — for militias to take action. pic.twitter.com/SYH0QzTSXI— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) October 8, 2020
The political group Republican Voters Against Trump released an anti-Trump ad the same day the charges were announced, saying: “When Trump tweets ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN,’ extremists take that as a call to action.”
NEW AD: When Trump tweets "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," extremists take that as a call to action.— Republican Voters Against Trump (@RVAT2020) October 8, 2020
Today's revelations support Trump's former DHS advisor @neusummits testimony that his "divisive language is indirectly tied to attacks we've seen in the last two years."
Airing digitally. pic.twitter.com/KTDuUIGTVB
While many have claimed that the men took inspiration from the president, others have posted alleged videos of Caserta, who has an anarchist flag on his wall.
This is a video of Brandon Caserta, one of the ringleaders of the group of men arrested for a plot where the group planned to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Caserta has an anarchist flag behind him and in YouTube videos trashes police. He’s not a Republican, he’s an anarchist. pic.twitter.com/J1vE2qGYL7— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 8, 2020
“Every single person that works for the government is your enemy, dude,” he says in another video while calling Trump a “tyrant” and an “enemy.”
Wow! This is big. Brandon Caserta, one of the ringleaders of the group of men arrested for a plot where the group planned to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, hated President Trump too!— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 8, 2020
"Trump is not your friend dude"
He says Trump is "a tyrant" & calls President Trump an "enemy". pic.twitter.com/T5paEeTkiJ
Other reports suggest that Caserta may have been a member of the “Boogaloo Bois.” Boogaloo is an internet slang term for a violent uprising against the government.
Some sample content from Brandon Caserta's facebook page. Rittenhouse memes, Boog Memes, AntiCom memes.— Josh Russell (@josh_emerson) October 8, 2020
Guy is unhinged. This is your brain on facebook: https://t.co/QyJeUBP5ED https://t.co/8KoBWnlrcu pic.twitter.com/Hsz1nJxOIv