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FBI Thwarts Attempt to Overthrow Michigan Government, Kidnap Gov. Whitmer –– Everytown Responds


The News Comes One Week after President Trump Encouraged a Right-Wing Hate Group to “Stand Back and Stand By” and Just Months After he Tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

WASHINGTON — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, responded to the FBI’s announcement that the agency thwarted, “a plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” as reported by the Detroit News. This news comes just a few months after armed extremists swarmed the Michigan Capitol to protest social distancing orders during the pandemic, which led President Donald Trump to tweet: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” Just last week during the first presidential debate, President Trump added even more fuel to the fire by refusing to condemn white supremacists and encouraging a far-right hate group to “stand back and stand by.” NRA leaders have also amplified the dangerous vilification of Governor Whitmer and her state’s efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.

Please reach out to [email protected] to speak with one of our experts. Additional resources include this newly-released Everytown report on the rise of violent, right-wing extremism in America and its connection to the gun lobby and the President’s rhetoric, and this fact sheet on armed intimidation

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Trump has not only refused to condemn threats against Gov. Whitmer –– he’s encouraged them,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “It’s clearer than ever that the safety of the American people depends on getting him out of the White House this November, then disarming hateful extremists like the men who plotted to kidnap Gov. Whitmer.” 

“Make no mistake: President Trump’s rhetoric and the NRA’s enabling led us to this moment,” said Nick Suplina, managing director of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “President Trump cheered on armed extremists who stormed the Michigan Capitol, he told his supporters to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” on Twitter, and now, he’s issuing calls to action to right-wing hate groups from the debate stage. Simply put, his rhetoric is a threat to public safety –– and we must end this presidency before more of his dangerous speech turns into violence.” 

“These gun extremists and anti-government activists are not representative of true Michiganders,” said Megan Dombrowski, a volunteer with the Wayne State University group of Students Demand Action and member of the Students Demand Action National Advisory Board. “Gov. Whitmer has always put the health and safety of Michigan residents first, whether that’s protecting us from coronavirus or gun violence, and we are proud to stand behind her today and every day.”

According to the Detroit News, the conspiracy allegedly involved at least six people and the investigation “dates to early 2020 when the FBI learned through social media that individuals were discussing the violent overthrow of several state governments and law enforcement.” The New York Times added that the men were charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and that “one of the men said the group should take Gov. Whitmer hostage and move her to a ‘secure location’ in Wisconsin for a ‘trial.’” The criminal complaint details how the members of the alleged conspiracy regularly discussed the need for violence in response to the supposed “tyranny” of Governor Whitmer and other leaders. Some of the individuals also attended one of the armed protests at the Michigan State Capitol.

Throughout recent months, NRA officials have similarly vilified Gov. Whitmer and encouraged the armed protests at the Michigan Capitol: 

  • NRA Second Vice President Willes Lee: According to Media Matters, Lee “wrote ‘Liberate America! The stupidity of lock down when we want to produce.’ Lee also compared the stay-at-home orders to ‘tyranny’ and called the Michigan governor’s decisions ‘stupidity’ in an April 15 tweet about the anti-social distancing protests in Michigan.” 
  • NRA Board Member Ted Nugent: As reported by Media Matters, “Nugent enthusiastically exclaimed that the Michigan protesters ‘are my people’ and encouraged them to ‘never backdown never giveup never givein!’” 
  • NRA Board Member Bob Barr: Barr added in a tweet, “Go Michigan!!!!! Finally people are standing up to mini-despots like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Citizens in other states need to similarly make their voices heard. #standwithmichigan.”

Though there is not yet any evidence of these conspirators being motivated by President Trump, the president’s rhetoric does have a history of inspiring violence. A few weeks ago, one of his supporters shot and killed two protestors in Kenosha and last year, the El Paso shooter’s white supremacist manifesto echoed President Trump’s anti-Latino racism. In all, a May 2020 investigation from ABC News found 54 cases invoking Trump in connection with violence, threats, and alleged assaults. Meanwhile, the SPLC reports that the number of hate groups in the U.S. has increased by 55% since 2017. 

Everytown’s newly-released report details the gun lobby’s decades-long amplification of far-right rhetoric and advocacy for laws that enable right-wing extremists in the United States to arm themselves. The report, which can be found in full here, also examines the toxic mix of conspiracy theories, guns, and far-right extremism in America.

Additionally, Everytown released an open letter in September in which 10 mayors called on President Donald Trump to condemn armed intimidation and vigilantism by anti-government militias and other extremists, highlighting the risks to public safety posed by private citizens openly carrying firearms under the guise of upholding law and order. 

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