Monday's pro-firearms rally at Virginia's state capitol is shaping up to be as bad as Charlottesville or worse, and police have already arrested domestic terrorists ahead of the planned armed demonstrations.
Three men linked to a violent white supremacist group known as The Base were charged with conspiring to kill members of a militant anti-fascist group, police in Georgia announced Friday, a day after three other members were arrested on federal charges in Maryland and Delaware.
A senior FBI national security official said police and federal agents intentionally moved to arrest the men ahead of Monday’s rally because they believed some of them intended to commit violence there. It was unknown if the men arrested in Georgia planned to attend the rally in Richmond.
The Base, a collective of hardcore neo-Nazis that operate as a paramilitary organization, has proclaimed war against minority communities within the United States and abroad, the FBI has said. Unlike other extremist groups, it’s not focused on promulgating propaganda — instead the group aims to bring together highly skilled members to train them for acts of violence.
There’s an intensified focus on The Base after the three members were arrested Thursday in Maryland and Delaware on federal felony charges. A criminal complaint included details of how some of the men built an assault rifle using parts, purchased thousands of rounds of ammunition and traded vests that could carry body armor.
“A big reason why we disrupted it now was based on the timing of the rally on Monday and the intent of some of the individuals to potentially conduct violent acts down in Richmond,” said Jay Tabb, the executive assistant director for national security at the FBI.
Speaking at a homeland security event in Washington, he said the FBI has “got a fair sense of worry” because agents “can’t account for everybody and everything.”
“We have a degree of interest of some individuals that we know are at least saying that they will be there and we have no way to predict where rhetoric turns to violence,” Tabb said.
Organizers of The Base recruit fellow white supremacists online — particularly seeking out veterans because of their military training — use encrypted chat rooms and train members in military-style camps in the woods, according to experts who track extremist groups.
The group, which has the motto “learn, train, fight,” brings together white supremacists with varying ideologies.
The arrests show an intensified focus on the group from law enforcement officials who are concerned that the supremacists may go beyond plotting to violent acts, a threat made more urgent ahead of a pro-gun rally Monday in Richmond, Va.
The arrests only added to rising fears that Monday’s rally could quickly devolve into violence, with thousands of protesters planning to descend on Virginia’s capital, and become a repeat of the 2017 white nationalist rally when a man drove his car into counter-protesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order banning guns from the state Capitol grounds for Monday’s rally, but pro-gun groups filed an appeal seeking to overturn the ban. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the ban Friday.
The people planning to show up in Richmond aren't just tiki torch carrying internet troll assholes, these are hardcore neo-Nazi domestic terrorists trained to fight and kill non-white folk. The worst of these scumbags are The Base, a group of white supremacist skinheads who have risen in the wake of Charlottesville and the Trump era.
Members of The Base allegedly spray-painted at least one synagogue in Racine, Wisconsin, with swastikas and anti-Semitic language, officials said. Authorities suspect the case is linked to the one in Michigan.
"We welcome the arrests," Holden said Friday. "As a first-hand witness to their mischief-making, I can easily believe law enforcement has good reason to be concerned."
But experts who track hate groups say the vandalism in Michigan is merely a tamer example of the larger, apocalyptic vision that members harbor: Their ideology supports a race war against minorities and the establishing of white ethno-states. The group's name is the English translation of al Qaeda, according to The Soufan Group, a nonprofit security intelligence firm.
"Just like al Qeada, The Base does not believe in any political solution to what they see as a threat to the white race," said Mollie Saltskog, an intelligence analyst with the firm. "Violence is the only option."
Saltskog said that while the ideologies of a white supremacist group such as The Base and a jihadist organization such as al Qaeda appear disparate, their shared desire for bloodshed only incites their followers.
"They feed off each other in a pretty sick way," she added.
The Base, which began about two years ago, maintains it is not a political organization and denies being a paramilitary group or militia with no formal membership or official leadership.
Its membership numbers are unclear, but Saltskog said The Base's chapters extend beyond the United States and Canada, with support in Europe and Australia.
One of those arrested in the U.S. this week is Canadian national Patrik Mathews, 27, who was allegedly a main recruiter for the group in Winnipeg.
These guys are straight up terrorists in every sense of the word. The have risen in the shadow of Trump's racism and in response to his rhetoric. Charlottesville was only the beginning. Richmond, on the federal MLK Jr. day holiday, could become deadly.
I pray that cooler heads prevail and the storm passes, but it won't. Trump will make sure of that.
If anyone is hurt on Monday, remember Trump did this.