The men were associated with a militia group trying to instigate a civil war. It’s a situation law enforcement agencies here at home have been warning against.
As CBS2’s Kevin Rincon reports, violent extremist groups like the one in Michigan have been popping up throughout the country, including here in the Tri-State Area, and police say the coronavirus pandemic in many ways has made things worse.
The 13 people charged this week in the Michigan plot were part of a group that dislikes government, is anti-police, and showed a willingness to use violence.
It’s similar to groups that showed up this summer to the Michigan capitol in Lansing, armed.
It’s a growing problem in the age of COVID.
“One of the great laws of unintended consequences from the pandemic are that people were trapped at home in many places across the country, including New York, where there was nothing else to do but stare at the computer screen,” said NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
Miller says hate has been growing across the internet, so the NYPD created a special unit to keep tabs on that.
“While we haven’t had a significant number of arrests in those conspiracies here in New York, which is a good thing, we have also been instrumental in assisting a number of other jurisdictions and the FBI in some of the cases around the country,” Miller said.
Miller says the concern is someone coming in from somewhere else and trying to carry out an attack here, similar to what happened in El Paso last year, when a gunman drove more than 600 miles to shoot up a Walmart.
Last February, New Jersey’s Homeland Security issued a report labeling white supremacist extremists the biggest threat here at home.
Director Jared Maples says cases have been on the rise.
“I will tell you that they’ve increased almost tenfold. We’re talking exponential increase in suspicious reporting, in incidents happening,” Maples said.
He says oftentimes these groups seem innocent.
“For example, the Boogaloo group wearing Hawaiian shirts, or some of the rhetoric you on stickers of these memes out there, we’re seeing a lot of that. We’re seeing a lot more of that,” Maples said.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security put out a report in which Acting Director Chad Wolf also expressed concern over extremists who’ve been, in his words, exceptionally lethal.
Commissioner Miller says one way to help fight the problem is “see something, say something.”
“You follow that rule, that should translate pretty well into any extremist movement. Which is, are they trying to buy weapons? Are they asking odd questions about security? Are they renting a particular piece of equipment or a truck?” Miller said.
Another concern expressed by law enforcement is bad actors overseas, who see this polarized moment as the perfect time to fuel the fire and stoke chaos.
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