The FBI announced it arrested three alleged members of an extremist group in Maryland—about a day after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency at the state capitol amid alleged threats during a rally at the capitol next week.
According to a statement from the Department of Justice, the FBI arrested Brian Mark Lemley of Maryland, William Garfield Bilbrough of Maryland, and Canadian national Patrik Jordan Mathews and charged them with the interstate commerce of weapons and, in the case of Lemley and Bilbrough, transporting illegal aliens.
The three were part of a group called “The Base,” which the FBI described as a “racially motivated violent extremist group.”
The three men had discussed traveling to a pro-gun rally Monday in Richmond, Virginia, and were preparing for a potential race war, law enforcement officials told The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, and other news outlets.
The Department of Justice has not responded to a request for comment about the suspects’ plans to travel to the Richmond rally.
The FBI said it had monitored encrypted chats among Base group members, where they talked about creating a white “ethnostate” and carrying out violent acts against minorities and other groups.
They also discussed starting “military-style training camps and ways to make improvised explosive devices,” the FBI said, while noting that Lemley previously served as a Cavalry Scout in the U.S. Army. Mathews, who was in the United States illegally, was a combat engineer in the Canadian Army.
Officials said that in December, Lemley and Mathews obtained firearms parts to manufacture an assault rifle, and later, the three “allegedly attempted to manufacture a controlled substance, DMT, at Lemley and Mathews’s apartment.”
“Furthermore, Lemley, Mathews, and Bilbrough discussed The Base’s activities and spoke about other members of the organization. Mathews also allegedly showed the assault rifle to Bilbrough, who examined the assault rifle and returned it to Mathews,” the statement added.
It comes a day after Gov. Northam declared a state of emergency to ban firearms and other weapons on the state capitol grounds ahead of the gun-rights demonstration next week.
“We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday,” Northam told reporters on Wednesday. “Intelligence shows the threat of armed militia groups storming our capitol,” he added.
Northam said officials received reports of “out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence” and “are coming to intimidate and to cause harm.”
According to a statement on the governor’s website, the emergency declaration prohibits weapons on the grounds of the capitol for several days, ending on Tuesday, Jan. 21.