Some U.S. far-right groups are warning members to avoid the armed rallies planned before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, alleging that the federal government or rivals may be seeking to incite them to violence and entrap them.
“Groups would love for us to show up and get violent in order to push their own agenda — whether it be a crackdown on militias, gun legislation or something else to charge Donald Trump with in this farce of an impeachment,” said Michael Lackomar, one of the 217 members of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia.
He said his group has reversed plans to air grievances at the state capitol in Lansing on Sunday ranging from the election of Biden to COVID-19 restrictions.
Other right-wing groups that just last week joined thousands of angry protesters in storming the U.S. Capitol in Washington are also urging their members to stay away from the events, which include an armed march on Capitol Hill from the Washington Monument to the White House.
“We’re not going to any ‘Million Militia March’ or any other fed honeypot event that’s being promoted,” Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the Proud Boys, wrote on Telegram. “We suggest none of you go to these events. We won’t sit on our hands for the next four years but we can pick and choose our battles moving forward.”
More than 25,000 law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel have been activated to provide security in Washington leading up to Biden’s swearing-in, a ceremony that will have far less pomp and fewer attendees than in past years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and last week’s riots at the Capitol.
In a posting on its website, the 3%-ers, an anti-government extremist group, said it believed the protests were “crafted by the left” so the FBI could label those in attendance as domestic terrorists and to provide a reason to take away citizens’ right to bear arms.
“Do not attend these rallies in any form and stay away from Washington, D.C. during this time at all costs,” the group said. “We are trying our hardest to NOT get our organization listed as a domestic terrorist organization.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation press office did not return a request for comment about the accusations from right-wing groups and militias.
A bulletin from the FBI and other agencies this week warned that extremists targeting the inauguration may exploit the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol breach by conducting attacks to destabilize and force a larger conflict in the U.S., according to a person familiar with it.
“We’re concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protests and rallies planned here in D.C. and at state capital buildings around the country in the days to come,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a security briefing on Thursday. “It could bring armed individuals within close proximity to government buildings and officials.”
Experts say it’s unlikely the government is behind organizing the protests but may be trying to gather intelligence due to concerns about violence.
“I would not be surprised if the government would use online honey traps, in other words posing at someone who is organizing something for people to contact, but the idea that the government would be promoting an armed rally is unlikely,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who serves as a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “They are trying to get their hands around what is going on.”
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