As armed supporters of President Donald Trump prepare to converge on state capitals and Washington, D.C., this weekend and Inauguration Day, some experts want authorities to enforce longstanding laws outlawing organized groups that act as citizen-run, unauthorized militias, reports USA Today. Federal law, state constitutions and criminal statutes in 29 states outlaw groups that engage in activities reserved for state agencies, including acting as law enforcement, training and drilling together, and making shows of force as armed groups at public gatherings. Hundreds of armed groups, organized under the insignia of the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and others, do exactly that.
The popularity of these groups has surged since the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. Over the last four years, most have pledged their allegiance to Trump. Some of these groups are planning to come out in force before Joe Biden’s inauguration. “It’s clearly time to dust off these tools,” said Mary McCord of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University. Individuals affiliated with these groups, including the leader of the largest, the Oath Keepers, were present during last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. People identifying as Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and similar groups were present at violent protests at state capitals in recent months, including those who provided what they called security at protests against COVID-19 lockdowns in Michigan, Trump rallies, and events organized by far-right extremist groups. These groups have shown up at counter-protests against police brutality, claiming they were protecting private property from vandals and looters. Sometimes they are small, ragtag groups of men bearing rifles and insignia with no clear affiliation. Other times, the armed men could be mistaken for National Guard or other troops, wearing fatigues and tactical vests and carrying assault rifles.