Mili­tias not ready to lay down arms

Even un­der Trump, groups train to sur­vive ex­treme con­di­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY LISA MARIE PANE

In the woods south of At­lanta, John and Yvette DeMaria are with about a dozen cam­ou­flage-wear­ing, heav­ily armed Amer­i­cans huff­ing and puff­ing as they scram­ble to nav­i­gate the sprawl­ing piece of prop­erty where they train, one week­end a month, to ward off en­e­mies — for­eign or do­mes­tic.

The DeMarias are with the Ge­or­gia Se­cu­rity Force mili­tia, whose mem­bers are re­lieved that Don­ald Trump won the pres­i­dency but be­lieve it would be a mis­take to lay down their arms just be­cause he is in the White House.

So they con­tinue to take to the woods to be ready for what­ever may come, whether it’s an eco­nomic cri­sis that spawns un­rest or Is­lamic ex­trem­ists car­ry­ing out at­tacks on Amer­i­can soil.

“I started to re­al­ize that I got very an­gry be­cause the sys­tem has been so abused over and over and over again, mak­ing rights out of thin air for peo­ple who don’t de­serve to get any­thing,” said John DeMaria, who goes by the nick­name Rooster J.

While it is im­pos­si­ble to track all the groups that of­ten are no more than a hand­ful of men gath­er­ing in woods, ex­perts says that mili­tia ac­tiv­ity tends to fall off un­der Repub­li­can pres­i­dents and ramp up un­der Democrats. But just as last year’s elec­tion up­ended con­ven­tional mod­els, those who watch mili­tias say life in the Trump era may not fol­low the same pat­terns.

If any­thing, it could be a po­ten­tial pow­der keg, if those feel­ings of hav­ing a kin­dred spirit in Mr. Trump erupt into a sense of be­trayal if he fails to de­liver on his prom­ises.

“What would con­cern me is that no­body gets more an­gry than a fan spurned,” said James Cor­co­ran, a pro­fes­sor at Sim­mons Col­lege in Bos­ton who has watched mili­tias closely for decades and has writ­ten ex­ten­sively about the move­ment.

The leader of the Ge­or­gia Se­cu­rity Force, Chris Hill, re­mains deeply skep­ti­cal of Congress and wor­ries the law­mak­ers will un­der­mine Mr. Trump’s agenda: pre­vent­ing him from build­ing a wall on the Mex­ico bor­der, re­peal­ing “Oba­macare” and ful­fill­ing his prom­ise to “Make Amer­i­can Great Again.”

“Even if Pres­i­dent Trump is able to do the things that he wants to do, he’s still got Congress to con­tend with. Congress is the same old do­gand-pony show. All they do is fight. They’re never go­ing to grant us more free­dom,” said Mr. Hill, who goes by the nick­name Gen­eral Blood­A­gent.

“A lot of peo­ple have let their guard down be­cause he was elected, and I would whole­heart­edly say that is a big mis­take. … If any­thing we should use this time wisely. Like the Good Book says, a wise man pre­pares, a fool takes his chances.”

Mod­ern-day mili­tias be­gan to surge in the 1990s dur­ing the Clinton ad­min­is­tra­tion, then ebbed dur­ing the Bush years. Fol­low­ing a dra­matic spike af­ter the 2008 elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Obama, there are now an es­ti­mated 165 mili­tias in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to Ryan Lenz, a se­nior in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter with the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter.

For Mr. Hill and his group, the 2008 elec­tion was their defin­ing mo­ment, the one that sig­naled the U.S. was on the wrong track. They be­lieved Mr. Obama wanted to re­strict gun rights and for­ever al­ter their way of life.

Yvette DeMaria said she and her hus­band were look­ing for “like minds” and found the Ge­or­gia Se­cu­rity Force through Face­book and a pas­tor friend who had trav­eled to Gatlin­burg, Ten­nessee, with the mili­tia to help out af­ter fires in the Smoky Moun­tains dev­as­tated the re­gion. That act of char­ity had moved her.

Even be­fore Mr. Obama was elected, the DeMarias felt the coun­try was head­ing down the wrong path, with the mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment no longer cher­ished or revered. Yvette DeMaria said she be­lieves pro­test­ers have been al­lowed to get out of con­trol af­ter po­lice shoot­ings.

Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness has run amok, she said, with politi­cians and the courts carv­ing out con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tions that strayed far from the in­tent of the na­tion’s fore­fa­thers. She laments, for ex­am­ple, the le­gal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riage and the trans­gen­der bath­room is­sue, be­liev­ing they amount to a war on her Chris­tian faith.

She and her hus­band found some like-minded peo­ple in the mili­tia, which is part of the Three Per­centers move­ment. It de­rives its name from the be­lief that just 3 per­cent of the colonists rose up to fight the Bri­tish. They have vowed to re­sist any gov­ern­ment that in­fringes on the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Mili­ti­a­men gather near the end of train­ing in the woods of Jack­son, Ge­or­gia. Armed mili­tias are still wary of per­ceived for­eign and do­mes­tic threats.

Chris Hill is the leader of the mili­tia, Ge­or­gia Se­cu­rity Force. He re­mains deeply skep­ti­cal of Congress. “Even if Pres­i­dent Trump is able to do the things that he wants to do, he’s still got Congress to con­tend with,” Mr. Hill said.

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