Say what you want about dear old Connecticut. Yes, we have our problems. We may have budget deficits as far as the eye can see, embarrassing income and education inequality, and – owing mostly to geography – an inferiority complex with Boston and New York. We have inspired embarrassing national headlines such as “How Did America’s Richest State Become Such a Fiscal Mess?” and “What on Earth Is Wrong With Connecticut?”
But you know what? We’re not Michigan – or at least not yet.
Few events have made me prouder to live in Connecticut than the revelation last week that federal authorities had nabbed a gang of dangerous goons who planned to overthrow the state government and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials.
It goes without saying that it was an enormous relief that Michigan authorities and the FBI had thwarted the schemes, one of which involved a Michigan militia known as the Wolverine Watchmen. The deranged militia members, whom Michigan’s attorney general says are linked to white supremacist groups, were enraged at Whitmer’s pandemic-related “lockdown” orders and had planned to take her to a remote location in Wisconsin to put her on “trial” for treason in advance of the Nov. 3 election.
The Watchmen conspiracy involved at least seven people. They and others had planned to recruit 200 men to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and kidnap the governor at her vacation home on Mackinac Island. Plans were made to demolish a nearby bridge on the island to make law enforcement response more difficult.
According to the Detroit News, some of the suspects are also “alleged to have called on the groups’ members to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them … [and] made threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse.”
The back story is equally chilling. Witnesses say some of those charged in the plot had attended a rally in April in which protestors, some of them armed with semi-automatic rifles, entered the Capitol and chanted, “Let us in!” outside the legislative chambers where lawmakers were meeting. Most disturbingly, on hearing of the incident, President Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”
When the story about the Wolverine Warriors broke, I immediately noted on Twitter that Trump and his allies in Congress and in conservative media would have us believe that the real threat is “antifa and violent, Marxist, anarchist mobs who want to abolish the suburbs and take away your guns.” This despite the fact that Trump’s own FBI director has stated publicly that white supremacist groups, whom Trump hates to condemn, pose the greatest domestic terror threat.
Could it happen here? Possible but highly unlikely. The last time I visited the Capitol in Hartford about four years ago, security was remarkably tight. Upon entering the visitors’ entrance, I was frisked, my bag was put on a belt and sent – TSA-style – through a screening machine. Finally, I had to walk through a metal detector. Amazingly, at the time of the protests in Lansing this spring, civilians could legally enter the Michigan Capitol carrying deadly weapons. That’s complete insanity.
There are certainly plenty of people in Connecticut who could be considered armed and dangerous. And we do have a history of white supremacy and anti-semitism. To wit, the Ku Klux Klan has been active here since at least 1924, when membership in Connecticut was estimated at 18,000. Who could forget the infamous Klan rallies in Meriden in the 1980s? And as I have noted before, Darien also has a history of racism and anti-Semitism dating back to the 1930s and ‘40s.
Driving through Connecticut’s Northwest Corner, I do run across the occasional confederate flag. I once had a neighbor in North Canaan who had a pick-up truck with a gun rack, a Confederate flag license-plate frame, a horn that played Dixie, and a bumper sticker that read, “God, Guns and Guts.”
Whether there are enough of these radical rednecks and racists in Connecticut to plan and carry out schemes like those hatched in Michigan remains to be seen. I really don’t think it could happen. There are simply fewer organized racists in Connecticut than in places like Michigan and Alabama, so if they became active here, they’d stick out like a sore thumb, and would be reported to authorities sooner.
I’m happy to live in a state where violent racist extremists are clearly the enemy of all, and where the racist in the White House will lose by at least 20 points.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at CTDevilsAdvocate and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at email@example.com.
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