Subcommittee Held Hearing on the Rise of Militia Violent Extremism
Washington, D.C. (May 27, 2021)— Yesterday, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, held a hearing examining the role that far-right militias have played in the recent surge in domestic violent extremism, including their role in organizing the insurrection on January 6, 2021.
Chairman Raskin opened the hearing by calling for a more robust federal response to combat militia extremism, especially in the wake of militia coordination leading up to the insurrection.
“The so-called ‘Patriots’ who stormed the Capitol are domestic extremists whose paramilitary activities are not protected by any part of the Constitution of the United States,” he said. “We need a coherent strategy that provides state law enforcement with adequate resources to coordinate regional responses to this threat and appropriately addresses the sweeping dangers of this organized paramilitary movement against American democracy.”
Prior to the hearing, the Subcommittee sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas asking for more information about the Department’s strategy to combat militia extremism.
The Subcommittee heard testimony from Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey Attorney General; Mary B. McCord, Executive Director of the Georgetown University Institute of Constitutional Advocacy and Protection; Peter Simi, Professor of Sociology at Chapman University; and Michael Gonzalez, Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Witnesses warned the Subcommittee about escalations in militia group activities and rejected the idea that militia extremists are wholly separate from white supremacists.
- “Recently we have seen private militias engaging much more frequently and openly with the general public,” Ms. McCord testified. She added: “Operating under a command and control structure, armed with assault rifles, and often dressed in full military kits, private militias have conducted armed assaults on state houses in opposition to public health measures and in the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”
- “Groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, in my experience, have a range of beliefs consistent with those found among groups more commonly defined as white supremacist,” Professor Simi testified. “Further, there is cross-fertilization among individuals associated with militia and white supremacist groups with some individuals going back and forth and other individuals simultaneously affiliated with both types of groups. The high degree of overlap can render clear delineations artificial and misleading.”
Witnesses also explained the dangers of militia extremist networks that recruit law enforcement and military personnel, an issue the Subcommittee has previously examined.
- Professor Simi testified that militias like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, “represent a broader problem which is the infiltration of right wing extremism into law enforcement ranks.” Professor Simi added, “we need to have a national tracking initiative to try and identify this and root it out.”
- Attorney General Grewal described his state’s efforts to do a survey of white supremacist groups, including the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, to help police chiefs formulate policies—such as background checks and social media reviews—to prevent extremists from entering law enforcement, “because we think that has no place in law enforcement and people with these ideologies have no place in law enforcement.”
Mary McCord also called for a federal anti-paramilitary statute to “effectively combat” extremist militia networks.
- Ms. McCord testified that the threat of militia extremists “requires federal government attention and, critically, a civil enforcement mechanism that would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek injunctive relief and civil forfeiture against armed paramilitary actors and their organizations.”
Chairman Raskin also introduced into the record statements by the Attorneys General of Michigan, Virginia, and Oregon calling for further federal resources to combat militia extremism. At the close of the hearing, he committed to examining the viability of federal anti-paramilitary legislation and vowed to press for more transparency about the federal government’s response to this worsening threat.