Right-wing so-called libertarian militias and many other Second Amendment advocates have long argued that their primary desire to own firearms – often, many of them – is rooted in a need to protect themselves and their families from a tyrannical federal government, or to discourage the government from becoming tyrannical in the first place.
But with the mayor of a major U.S. city warning that “tyranny and dictatorship” have already arrived on the streets – in the shape of unidentified federal troops using questionable tactics – militia groups appear reluctant to throw their lot in with protesters. In fact, many have been supporting government action to suppress peaceful demonstrators.
The situation in Portland have alarmed civil liberties groups.
Heavily armed and camouflaged federal officers, wearing no name tags or other insignia, are on the streets of Portland, Oregon, and have teargassed and arrested seemingly peaceful protesters with little or no provocation. President Donald Trump has said similar forces are coming to other cities. it may look exactly like what the militias have been warning of. Some, often calling themselves the “boogaloo movement,” see the current political unrest as an opportunity to wrest power from an overbearing federal government. These groups who “back the boogaloo” imply, or even outright declare, that the U.S. is no longer a free country, and generally call for supporters to oppose, violently if necessary, federal forces and the government they represent.
Yet others support police and their enforcement of strict law and order, even if that means authorities using powerful weapons and overwhelming force. There are still many militia members who support police, often called “back the blue” groups. Commentators have observed that silence from them and other Second Amendment supporters certainly seems to be hypocritical, at best, and possibly supportive of tyranny in the current context.
That’s not the way they see it. They argue that one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government is to protect citizens from others who might infringe on their rights or safety. They support police who say that Portland authorities have failed to protect regular people from violent protesters.
That’s also what these groups claimed happened in Seattle’s autonomous zone – though they rely on news sources that describe the protesters as inherently dangerous and hampering business and free association. They seemingly ignore or discount other reports that these characterizations are exaggerated. Militia members were likely to exclusively trust sources like Fox News or even more conservative sites for their information, and recent data confirms that such sources may strongly shape viewers’ understanding of political and other events. This view of protesters as violent is amplified by some “back the blue” members’ belief that the demonstrators are “Marxist” members of antifa, a mostly non-violent leaderless collective movement generally opposing fascism. They use anti-communist language to cast political opponents as not real Americans who have thus have forfeited any protections U.S. citizens should have.