Gretchen Whitmer: why a group of militiamen tried to kidnap the Michigan Governor - and Wolverine Watchmen explained

The FBI has thwarted a plot to kidnap a Democratice Governor – here’s everything you need to know

Friday, 9th October 2020, 10:20 am

A militia plot to kidnap and usurp Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been thwarted by the FBI.

Thirteen people were arrested by investigators, the latest wild news story to come from the US as the country gears up for its November elections in just a few weeks’ time.

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the virtual Democratic convention in August 2020 (Photo: Handout/DNCC via Getty Images)

Here is everything you need to know.

Who is Gretchen Whitmer?

Gretchen Whitmer is an American politician, and currently the 49th governor of Michigan since 2019, a seat she was elected to in the state’s 2018 gubernatorial race.

Born and raised in the state she now represents, Whitmer previously served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006, and in the Michigan Senate from 2006 to 2015.

Protestors tried to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber in April 30, upset with Whitmer's mandatory closure to curtail Covid-19 (Photo: JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

She made headlines in 2013 for a powerful speech from the Senate floor during a debate on abortion, in which she shared her experience of being sexually assaulted.

A self-declared progressive Democrat, Whitmer’s policy focuses have been on healthcare and infrastructure, and earlier this year was selected to give the Democrat’s rebuke to Donald Trump's 2020 State of the Union Address.

Why did people want to kidnap her?

In an America as divided as the one we see today, Whitmer’s position as a high-ranking Democratic sees her regularly drawing the ire of Republicans and those with differing political views.

As Donald Trump’s unhinged rhetoric continues to increase in bombast throughout his first term, so too are we seeing the emergence of far-right groups like the Proud Boys, as well as modern armed militia movement.

These militia groups are believed to be particularly rooted and active in the state of Michigan, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League.

It's believed Whitmer was targeted mainly in protest at her response to the spread of coronavirus in her state.

Unlike many Republican controlled states, where lockdown measures have been moderate to non-existent, in Michigan, Whitmer imposed more stringent measures.

The stricter lockdown prompted vehement protests in April and May of 2020 – many will remember the infamous images of armed protesters storming the State Capitol building.

President Trump would offer his support for the protests, provoking his followers to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" on social media.

What happened recently?

Last week, Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled that Whitmer did not have the authority to issue emergency executive orders. Following the ruling, the attorney arguing the case recommended that citizens burn their masks.

In a press conference, Whitmer said the President’s words had played a part in "stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division".

In response to the kidnapping plot being foiled, Trump – who is still recovering from Covid-19 in the White House – said Whitmer should thank him for federal investigators eliminating the alleged threat.

"Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist - while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities," he tweeted.

Who are the suspects?

Thirteen people were arrested by investigators.

The suspects named in the federal indictment charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping were Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta.

The other seven face charges of terrorism and gang-related offences in state court, and have been named as Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico, and Joseph Morrison.

Who are the Wolverine Watchmen?

All of the suspects have been tied to a militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen.

The group was co-founded by suspects Musico and Morrison, and is linked with “boogaloo”, an American far-right extremist movement which seeks to prepare for the coming of a second civil war, with the intention of triggering societal collapse.

They’ve used Facebook as means of recruitment since late 2019, and are believed to train with firearms for an uprising against the government.

The suspects are thought to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers with the aim of threatening them with violence and inciting unrest.

The Wolverine Watchmen deny their members are racist, terrorists or anti-government on an inactive website.

How were they rumbled?

According to an FBI charging document, the men met in a basement accessed by a trapdoor hidden under a rug.

In June, an undercover source attended such a meeting in Ohio, at which a group of Michigan militia discussed overthrowing state governments they believed were “violating the US Constitution".

Their phones were gathered and placed in another room to avoid secret recordings, though the FBI’s agent was wearing a secret recording device of their own.

"Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," says the statement.