Seven members of the militia group Wolverine Watchmen were charged with domestic terrorism. Additionally, six more individuals were charged for conspiring to kidnap Whitmer.
Reactions question the language of domestic terrorists vs. militia groups
After news of the alleged conspiracy spread, Twitter users began questioning the language surrounding it. Several called for the term domestic terrorist to be used instead of militia.
"They’re not 'militias.' They’re domestic terrorists endangering and intimidating their fellow Americans," Whitmer said. "Words matter."
"Stop calling them a militia group," MSU alumni and journalist Jamele Hill said in a Twitter post. "It legitimizes them. These are domestic terrorists."
FOX Anchor Jim Lokay also said "Call it what it is. Domestic terrorism," in a Twitter post.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also questioned the language surrounding the incident.
"Genuine question for the media / law enforcement: why are you calling these armed neo-nazi groups breaking the law “militias” instead of “gangs” or “domestic terrorist groups?" Ocasio-Cortez said.
Michigan Rep. Joe Tate said these individuals fit the criteria of domestic terrorism, and therefore, should be labeled as such.
"I think raising awareness and calling it what it is, is extremely important for us," Tate said. "And, it does present a national security threat because the last thing we need to have is organizations attempting to overthrow the government, our rule of law and our way of life."
Michigan politicians, political groups react
Tate, who is a political partner with the Truman National Security project, said U.S. leaders, especially President Donald Trump, need to take action to condemn extremist groups and put preventative resources in place.
"I think when many Americans think of terrorism as something that happens abroad more times than not," Tate said. "Obviously, we've had our experiences here of terrorism, but they're not always labeled that way. I think that's the wrong approach."
Trump posted a Twitter thread regarding the incident, which began "Gov. Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone except her husband's boating activities."
"My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. Rather than say thank you, she calls me a white supremacist," Trump said in the tread.
Additionally, Trump said he does not tolerate any extremism and encouraged Whitmer to open Michigan, its schools and churches.
In response, several replies mentioned Trump's April Tweet, which he posted after an Operation Gridlock rally. The post said "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!"
Replies to the post were mixed. Some said the April tweet caused violence, others agreed with his statements and some questioned his language.
Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott pointed toward the Republican Party after the incident.
“Leadership gets set from the top," Scott said in a statement. "There’s no question that the prolonged, ill-natured effort by Republicans to strip away the governor’s power that kept Michiganders safe during the coronavirus pandemic has created a toxic and dangerous environment."
Scott referenced Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who she said remained silent in previous instances where groups called for violence against Whitmer.
"The words and actions of Republicans have created tangible threats against our elected officials and we can no longer trust Republican leadership to act in the best interest of all," Scott said.
Shirkey said those who threatened Whitmer are not patriots, but are instead criminals and traitors, according to a Twitter post.
"A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all. We condemn those who plotted against her and our government," Shirkey.
Speaker of the Michigan House Lee Chatfield said violence has no place in politics in a Twitter post Thursday. Additionally, Chatfield said those who targeted both Whitmer and police officers are un-American.
"Justice should be swift and severe," Chatfield said. "It’s time to send a message that violence will not be tolerated."
Michigan Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II also referenced Shirkey in the caption of a post to Instagram.
"Just a few months ago, in the Senate Chamber, militia groups stood just a few feet above our heads in the gallery carrying semi-automatic weapons that could've wiped out dozens of legislators, staff, and journalists in cold blood in a matter of seconds," Gilchrist said in the post.
Gilchrist said during this incident, Shirkey talked to the militia groups "...as peers. He legitimized their behavior. He gave them comfort, cover, and encouragement."
Michigan democrats are ready to work with republicans, Gilchrist said, but will not negotiate when it comes to doing what is right.
Tate also mentioned weapons in the Capitol, which he said should be prohibited.
"Members of those extremist groups were in the Capitol earlier this year with their weapons intimidating legislators," Tate said.
MSU College Republicans added a Twitter comment to a story about the incident, which said "Lock these terrorists up for a LONG TIME."
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