US Elections 2016: Final countdown

US militias gear up for civil unrest if Donald Trump loses

Mrs Clinton greeting the crowd at a rally in Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday. Early voting tallies indicate that Democrats are turning out in greater numbers than Republicans in some states, an advantage for her, experts say. But the turnout is lagging
Mrs Clinton greeting the crowd at a rally in Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday. Early voting tallies indicate that Democrats are turning out in greater numbers than Republicans in some states, an advantage for her, experts say. But the turnout is lagging among young people and African Americans, key constituencies that helped elect Mr Barack Obama in 2008.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Trump having a picture taken with law enforcement officers after a campaign event in Orlando on Wednesday. His populist campaign has energised militia members who admire his promises to deport illegal immigrants, stop Muslims from entering the cou
Mr Trump having a picture taken with law enforcement officers after a campaign event in Orlando on Wednesday. His populist campaign has energised militia members who admire his promises to deport illegal immigrants, stop Muslims from entering the country and build a wall along the Mexican border.PHOTO: REUTERS

JACKSON (Georgia) • Down a Georgia country road, camouflaged members of the Three Percent Security Force have mobilised for rifle practice, hand-to-hand combat training - and an impromptu campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"How many people are voting for Trump? Ooh-rah!" asked Mr Chris Hill, a paralegal who goes by the code name Bloodagent. "Ooh-rah!" shouted a dozen militia members in response, as morning sunlight sifted through the trees last weekend.

As the most divisive presidential election in recent memory nears its conclusion, some armed militia groups are preparing for the possibility of a stolen election next Tuesday, as well as civil unrest in the days following a victory by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

They said they will not fire the first shot, but they are not planning to leave their guns at home either.

Mr Trump's populist campaign has energised militia members like Mr Hill who admire the Republican mogul's promises to deport illegal immigrants, stop Muslims from entering the country and build a wall along the Mexican border. Mr Trump has repeatedly warned that the election may be "rigged" and said that he may not respect the results if he does not win.

At least one paramilitary group has called on members to monitor voting sites for signs of fraud.

Armed paramilitary groups first gained prominence in the early 1990s, fuelled by confrontations in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, culminating in a militia sympathiser's 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.

Their numbers dwindled following that attack but have spiked in recent years, driven by fears that President Barack Obama will threaten gun ownership and erode the power of local government.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks extremist groups, estimated that there were 276 active militias last year, up from 42 in 2008.

Many fear Mrs Clinton will push the country further to the left. "This is the last chance to save America from ruin," Mr Hill said. "I'm surprised I was able to survive or suffer through eight years of Obama without literally going insane, but Hillary is going to be more of the same."

The Oath Keepers, a prominent anti-government force that sent gun-toting members to the 2014 race riots in Ferguson, Missouri, called on members last week to monitor voting sites on election day for any signs of fraud.

Over the past week, some prominent Trump supporters have hinted at violence. "If Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket," former Illinois representative Joe Walsh wrote on Twitter last week. Conservative commentator Wayne Root fantasised about Mrs Clinton's death while speaking at a Trump rally in Las Vegas on Sunday.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'US militias gear up for civil unrest if Trump loses'. Print Edition | Subscribe