The militias, which are dotted throughout the US and, according to recent figures, are growing rapidly in numbers, claim they are bulwarks against tyranny. The US Department of Homeland Security takes a dimmer view, warning of a ‘rise in Right-wing anti-government extremist activity’ as far back as April 2009 and a ‘phenomenon of violent radicalisation’.
Indeed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), which tracks extremist groups, the US has seen a dramatic spike in attempted domestic terrorism ever since Barack Obama started his campaign for office, including: two skinhead plots to assassinate him; a plan to set off a dirty bomb packed with radioactive materials during the inauguration; and a lone assassin, Keith Luke, who began murdering black people in Massachusetts.
Of course, militia activity is hardly new to the US. The very first article of the Constitution granted Congress the power to call on ‘the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions’ and the subsequent Militia Act of 1792 defined the militia as every able-bodied male citizen over 18 and under 45.
It’s an act that has been embraced by a fair number of American citizens ever since, whether loners or disparate groups of armed, disgruntled civilians. In 1992, Randy Weaver, a former US Army Green Beret, moved himself and his family to an isolated cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, to escape what they saw as a corrupt world. Rather than a peaceful nature-lover, officials claimed Weaver was a member of a race-hate group and he was charged with weapons violations. When he failed to appear in court, they stormed the cabin, resulting in the fatal shooting of Weaver’s wife, Vicki, and 14-year-old son, Sammy.