© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What's The Connection Between Civilian Militias And The Police?

A member of the Proud Boys fires a paint ball gun into a crowd of anti-police protesters as the two sides clashed on August 22, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
A member of the Proud Boys fires a paint ball gun into a crowd of anti-police protesters as the two sides clashed on August 22, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Across the country this summer, we’ve seen vigilante militants incite violence at protests for racial justice. We talk to a former FBI agent who went undercover with right-wing militants in the 1990s about the groups’ overlap with law enforcement.


Michael German, former FBI special agent. Fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security program, focused on law enforcement and intelligence oversight and reform. Author of a new report from the Brennan Center, “Hidden in Plain Sight.” (@rethinkintel)

Jonathan Levinson, reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting. Audion fellow, covering guns and America. (@_jlevinson)

LaFleur Stephens-Dougan, professor of politics at Princeton University. Author of “Race to the Bottom.” (@LaFleurPhD)

From The Reading List

Excerpted from a 2006 FBI Counterintelligence Report, “White Supremacist Infiltration Of Law Enforcement”

PBS NewsHour: “What legal standing do armed civilian groups at protests have?” — “This summer has seen mass protests stretch across the United States, some of them yielding vandalism and violence.”

The Guardian: The FBI warned for years that police are cozy with the far right. Is no one listening?” — “For decades, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has routinely warned its agents that the white supremacist and far-right militant groups it investigates often have links to law enforcement. Yet the justice department has no national strategy designed to protect the communities policed by these dangerously compromised law enforcers. As our nation grapples with how to reimagine public safety in the wake of the protests following the police killing of George Floyd, it is time to confront and resolve the persistent problem of explicit racism in law enforcement.”

The Intercept: The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias And Police” — “The videos that preceded Anthony Huber’s killing on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, are jarring. Among the most chilling is one from the parking lot of an auto repair shop. Several shots ring out. In the distance, you see the gunman in jeans and a green T-shirt. A man rushes up behind him. The gunman turns. More shots ring out and the man collapses to the ground. The gunman circles a parked car, then comes back to the man laid out on the pavement. He looks down at him and pulls out his cellphone. ‘I just killed somebody,’ the shooter says, before jogging off. The man on the ground twitches and stares up at the sky, gasping deeply as bystanders work desperately to put pressure on his wound. Some cry, others yell for someone to call the police.”

The Atlantic: The Violence Could Get Much Worse” — “On June 2, amid the nationwide demonstrations to protest the killing of George Floyd, officers in Philadelphia allowed men armed with bats to linger outside a police station past curfew, then looked on while members of the group beat protesters. Around the same time, authorities in Curry County, Oregon, seemed to welcome ‘local boys’ defending the community against a rumored appearance from the left-wing group antifa. A constable in Texas called on members of a far-right paramilitary organization called Oath Keepers to guard a hair salon from threats of looting and arson. A police officer in Salem, Oregon, was filmed politely asking a group of armed men to disperse ahead of curfew ‘so we don’t look like we’re playing favorites.'”

The Brennan Center For Justice: Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement” — “Racial disparities have long pervaded every step of the criminal justice process, from police stops, searches, arrests, shootings and other uses of force to charging decisions, wrongful convictions, and sentences. As a result, many have concluded that a structural or institutional bias against people of color, shaped by long-standing racial, economic, and social inequities, infects the criminal justice system. These systemic inequities can also instill implicit biases — unconscious prejudices that favor in-groups and stigmatize out-groups — among individual law enforcement officials, influencing their day-to-day actions while interacting with the public.”

The Intercept: Armed Vigilantes Antagonizing Protestors Received A Warm Reception From Police” — “A former Albuquerque City Council candidate who ran on a tough-on-crime platform shot a protester at an anti-police brutality demonstration on Monday and was arrested alongside members of a right-wing militia group. The shooting is an extreme example of a trend that has played out across the country as armed vigilantes pledging to protect property have shown up at protests — in many cases with encouragement or even explicit collaboration from law enforcement.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.