Authorities in Michigan are demonstrating that they are taking the threat of white nationalist violence seriously: Today the FBI, working with the state’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, arrested two leading members of the domestic terrorist group The Base for their attempt to threaten an anti-Nazi podcaster at what they thought was his home, but instead was occupied by an unaffiliated family terrorized by the group’s threats.
The December 2019 incident, as The Informant’s Nick Martin reported at the time, was chilling in its implications: The two men showed up late at night to the Dexter home of a family with a newborn infant. The men were dressed in black with one wearing a skull mask. They took photos and video of the family’s home from the porch and yard, intent on making the family aware of their presence. They then posted some of the photos on Telegram with the message: “The Base sends greetings to Daniel Harper of the Antifa podcast ‘I Don’t Speak German.’”
In fact, the home had recently been sold to the family by a man named Daniel Harper, but he was not the person the fascist terrorists were seeking. That Daniel Harper, who lives in Michigan but not anywhere near Dexter, had been alerting law enforcement for months that a group of online neo-Nazis were wrongly targeting the house, believing it belonged to him. After the December incident, state and federal investigators became involved.
One of the two men arrested Thursday—Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe—had previously proclaimed himself the leader of The Base after the online-organized accelerationist terror group’s founder and nominal leader, Rinaldo Nazzarro, aka “Norman Spear,” had been exposed as an operative associated with Russian intelligence living in Russia. His associate, Alfred Gorman, 35, was arrested in his hometown of Taylor.
The two men are charged with multiple felonies: Gang membership (which carries a potential 20-year sentence), unlawful posting of a message, and using computers to commit a crime. Both are in the Washtenaw County Jail pending arraignment.
“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 arrests are the latest in a string of cases involving far-right extremists in Michigan. Two weeks ago, some 14 militiamen were arrested by the FBI and Michigan authorities for plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her summer home. On Oct. 2, a self-described “Boogaloo Boi” who had played a minor role in the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho, was killed by FBI agents during a shootout in the parking lot of a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Madison Heights. The fight erupted as the authorities were serving an arrest warrant to the man on a federal weapons offense.
“I think this shows the range of bad actors that are operating in the United States, which should be a cause of concern,” Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told the Detroit News.
“Members are alleged to have engaged in firearms training at camps similar to what we saw in the Whitmer kidnapping case,” Lewis added. “These guys want societal collapse. They don’t just want to target government folks,” Lewis said. “They want the race war.”
Since its origins in the world of online white nationalist organizing in 2018, The Base has been openly committed to acts of terrorist violence for the purpose of accelerating the collapse of modern society, which they believe needs to be displaced by global white supremacist rule. And indeed, The Base, as Jason Wilson reported earlier this year, has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.
According to the FBI, The Base’s paramilitary operations are part of a declared war against minority communities within the United States and abroad. Unlike such white nationalist groups as Patriot Front or Identity Evropa, the group’s focus is not on promulgating propaganda. Rather, its stated purpose is to bring together highly skilled operatives under the umbrella of their white supremacist ideology and train them for acts of violence.
It already has been associated with several high-profile domestic-terrorism cases. In January, three members of The Base were arrested as they were planning to engage in lethal violence at anti-gun control protests in Virginia, including a Canadian reservist who had been a fugitive in the U.S. Less than two weeks later, three members of The Base were arrested in Georgia for conspiring to kill members of an antifascist group.
Watkins claimed other members of The Base appointed him its leader. He reportedly operated a “hate camp” for members involving paramilitary training with firearms, all with the goal of preparations to lead a violent overthrow of the government. It’s unclear whether that camp took place at the remote wooded property in northeastern Washington State that had previously been purchased by Nazzarro for the group, and had been used previously for similar training camps.
“While law enforcement has really disrupted their ability to commit acts of domestic terror, these arrests still show a significant threat to the homeland,” Lewis said.