KEY POINTS

  • The FBI arrested 13 people allegedly involved in the plot, six of whom were named and directly involved with planning
  • The group's plot involved setting up their own isolated community using the Bill of Rights as its foundation
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been a target of right-wing groups since she instituted strict stay-at-home and lockdown measures to combat coronavirus in March and April

The FBI said Thursday it arrested six men who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part of a larger plot to overthrow several state-level governments across the U.S.

At least 13 people, total, were arrested and are facing multiple federal and state charges.

“Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor,” an FBI affidavit acquired by The Detroit News said. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”

The six men arrested Wednesday were identified as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta. All six men had ties to a Michigan militia group and were allegedly the driving forces behind the kidnapping and coup plot. The FBI said the men, along with the other accomplices whose names have not been released, monitored Whitmer’s home for most of the summer and were planning to kidnap her sometime in October.

When they were arrested Wednesday, the FBI said Fox was in the process of contacting other militias asking for help in the plot.

“Fox said he needed '200 men' to storm the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, and take hostages, including the Governor. Fox explained they would try the Governor of Michigan for 'treason,' and he said they would execute the plan before the November 2020 elections,” the affidavit said. It added the planned trial would have taken place in Wisconsin.

“All of us in Michigan can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever amount to violence,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said at a press conference Wednesday. “Violence has been prevented today.”

Along with the alleged kidnapping and coup plots, the FBI said plans were in place for the group to start its own isolated community.

“The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the affidavit said. “They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions. At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.”

Whitmer has been a target for right-wing groups since the first coronavirus lockdowns were instituted in March and April. Lockdown measures in Michigan were among the strictest in the U.S., In turn, several anti-lockdown protests took place outside the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing in April shortly after they were instituted. Confederate and Nazi imagery were seen regularly at these protests, including a noose with a fake body to represent state officials who supported lockdown.

The most notable incident came on April 30 when armed protesters made their way inside the Capitol. Some attempted to enter the legislative chambers but were held back by police. The rest lined the building in an attempt to intimidate state officials into lifting the lockdown.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has faced criticism for strict stay-at-home orders that are beginning to ease on better trends for the coronavirus in Detroit
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has faced criticism for strict stay-at-home orders that are beginning to ease on better trends for the coronavirus in Detroit GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / BILL PUGLIANO
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