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Feds arrest leader of white supremacy group who ran ‘hate camp’ in Michigan

The leader of a white supremacy group called The Base was arrested in Michigan Thursday on multiple felony charges involving threats and intimidation. (Michigan Attorney General's office/TNS)

The local leader of a national white supremacist group called The Base and one of his associates were charged in Michigan Thursday with multiple crimes as part of a federal and state crackdown on extremist groups.

The suspects are linked to a December 2019 incident in Dexter, where authorities say a family was terrorized at their home after white supremacists allegedly used intimidation tactics and posted messages to other members targeting the home.

Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, and Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor were charged with multiple state felonies, which were announced Thursday by Attorney General Dana Nessel. They are not part of the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

According to Nessel’s office, The Base is a white supremacy organization that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S., and purports to be training for a race war to establish white ‘ethnonationalist’ rule in areas of the U.S., including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The group also traffics in Nazi ideology and extreme anti-Semitism, at one point requiring its members to read neo-Nazi books that urge the collapse of Western civilization.

The Base leaders have used online chatrooms to encourage members to meet in-person and engage in military training to prepare for the insurgency against the U.S. government, Nessel’s office said

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Watkins claims to have been appointed leader of The Base, and reportedly ran a “hate camp” for members of the group, where he led tactical and firearms training for participants with the goal of being prepared for the violent overthrow of the government. The photo of the Dexter home was used by The Base to encourage harassment by its members on the family.

According to Nessel, here is what led to their arrests:

On Dec. 11, 2019, at around 11:30 p.m. Watkins and Gorman were seen in dark clothing shining a light and taking pictures on the front porch of a Dexter family’s home. The photos were then uploaded to The Base’s channel on the social media platform Telegram with the caption: “The Base sends greetings to Daniel Harper of the Antifa podcast ‘I Don’t Speak German’.”

Nessel said that Watkins and Gorman intended to threaten and intimidate Harper, whom they mistakenly believed to reside at the victims’ home. However, Harper never lived at that address. The photo was taken without the victim family’s consent. Watkins and Gorman’s posting of the message was intended to cause conduct that would make the residents feel terrorized and emotionally distressed.

Watkins and Gorman are charged with:

Gang membership, a 20-year felony. Unlawful posting of a message, a two-year felony and/or a $5,000 fine. Using computers to commit a crime, a four-year felony and/or $5,000 fine.

The FBI and State police arrested the suspects at 6 a.m. at their homes. Watkins and Gorman were taken into custody and transferred to the Washtenaw County Jail. Their arraignments are pending.

“Using tactics of intimidation to incite fear and violence constitutes criminal behavior,” Nessel said. “We cannot allow dangerous activities to reach their goal of inflicting violence and harm on the public.”

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(c) 2020 the Detroit Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.