Federal agents on Thursday arrested two men in Michigan with alleged ties to The Base, a white supremacist group, as part of an ongoing crackdown on extremism in the state following a foiled attempt to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release that the two suspects, 25-year-old Justen Watkins, the self-proclaimed leader of The Base, and an associated of the group, 35-year-old Alfred Gorman, face multiple felony charges. These are gang membership, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, unlawful posting of a message, and using computers to commit a crime.
The two were arrested when federal agents and state police troopers executed a warrant on Thursday morning at residences in Bad Axe and Taylor.
The Attorney General’s office said the two suspects were connected to a December 2019 incident in which, through a series of actions that allegedly included the two suspects lurking around the family home of Daniel Harper of the Antifa podcast “I Don’t Speak German” and taking a photo and posting it with a menacing message meant to “make the residents feel terrorized and emotionally distressed.”
“The photo of the Dexter home was used by The Base to encourage harassment by its members on the family,” the Attorney’s Office stated,
“Using tactics of intimidation to incite fear and violence constitutes criminal behavior,” Nessel said in a statement. “We cannot allow dangerous activities to reach their goal of inflicting violence and harm on the public. I am proud to work alongside law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels to safeguard the public’s safety from these serious threats.”
The Attorney General’s office also alleged leaders of The Base have used online networks to encourage people to take part in military training in preparation to overthrow the U.S. government.
Watkins, who the Attorney General’s office claims to be the leader of The Base, allegedly “ran a ‘hate camp’ for members of the group, where he led tactical and firearms training for participants with the goal of being prepared for the violent overthrow of the government,” Nessel’s office said.
The two suspects are being held at the Washtenaw County jail.
The Base has been on the authorities’ radar for some time, with three members that had been the target of FBI surveillance arrested ahead of a Virginia gun rally in January.
A criminal complaint filed on Jan. 21 (pdf) in a domestic terrorism investigation alleged that “within The Base’s encrypted chat rooms, members have discussed, among other things, recruitment, creating a white ethno-state, committing acts of violence against minority communities (including African-Americans and Jewish-Americans), the organization’s military-style training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices.”
Shortly after the arrests ahead of the Virginia gun rally, three other men linked to The Base were charged with conspiring to kill members of a militant anti-fascist group, according to Detroit News.