A former FBI agent says a white supremacist group that is planning to attend a pro-gun rally in Virginia on Monday is as dangerous as Islamic State militants.
The group, called The Base, recently had six alleged members arrested.
Three were arrested Thursday in Maryland and Delaware and were believed to be planning to attend the rally in Richmond, Va., according to an official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. One of the three was Canadian Patrik Mathews, a former Manitoba army reservist who has been missing since August. The Winnipeg Free Press reported he had been recruiting for The Base.
Another three were arrested Friday in Georgia and charged with conspiring to kill members of the militant anti-fascist group, Antifa.
The rally planned for Monday is to protest gun restrictions proposed by Democrat lawmakers after they won a majority in the state’s legislation in November, and since a Virginia Beach city employee opened fire on co-workers in May, killing 12 and injuring four.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency earlier this week due to the rally and issued an executive order banning all weapons from Capitol grounds in Richmond, citing credible threats of “armed militia groups storming our Capitol.” Gun-rights groups sued and appealed the ban, but the state’s Supreme Court upheld the ban on Friday.
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Friday night that “your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.”
“That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away,” he said.
Twenty-seven year FBI veteran Jack Cloonan says that the recent arrests reflect the FBI’s strategy of “pre-emption.”
In order to make some of the recent arrests, the FBI went undercover into The Base group, which organizes itself online.
Cloonan says the FBI “infiltrates” the group online and follows them for a “long, long time” in order to know their plans before they happen.
Prior to Friday’s arrest, an undercover FBI agent went to the mountains of northern Georgia with the group to do shooting drills in preparation for a perceived impending collapse of the U.S. and the race war that would follow, according to The Associated Press.
Cloonan says that The Base’s members believe the white race could be considered a minority in the near future — a notion they “can’t stand” and which they believe justifies a race war.
Cloonan says that The Base’s goal of destroying the U.S.’s government as it exists today matches up with the goal of international terrorism, so it might be a matter of time until domestic and international terrorism is working together. He points out that al-Qaeda translated into English means The Base.
To him, it is an existential threat to the U.S. and a threat to its stability.
He says that while there is a lot of rhetoric within the group, there is a “small minority in this universe of hate that will take action.”
“That’s what the FBI is trying to prevent,” he said. “This is a hate that is transnational. It’s every bit as threatening as what ISIS might purport to do in the coming months.”
-With files from Jackson Proskow, Kerri Breen, and the Associated Press