Monthly: Nov 23

Seasons greetings, reader of MilitiaWatch! Here’s yet another MW Monthly, this time covering November 2023. Here are some hors d’oeuvres about what is covered here:

  • Updates on cases related to a couple of patriot movement leaders
  • Continuing issues of state complicity in paramilitary activity
  • Even more legal updates, including on III% groups at J6

The previous MW Monthly (October 2023) can be read here:

Patriot Leader Cases: Updates on two major sagas

First off, much has happened in the Pawlet, Vermont case involving militia training site owner Daniel Banyai. As discussed in previous MW Monthlies, local police refused to serve a warrant for Banyai’s arrest following a spat between him and local authorities over practices at Slate Ridge, his training site. Here’s a quick timeline of everything that happened in November: 

  • 10 November: Vermont Supreme Court gives the state’s environmental court permission to decide on renewing the warrant for Banyai’s arrest
  • 20 November: pending renewal of his arrest, Banyai consents to an official inspection of Slate Ridge
  • 27 November: town officials visit the West Pawlet site, touring for less than an hour
  • 29 November: town officials claim that they are reviewing their visit ahead of a December 1 deadline to report back to the court
  • 1 December: town officials report to the court that Banyai failed to comply with the court order, meaning the court will decide whether or not to issue a warrant for his arrest once again

Just to jog everyone’s memories, this whole ordeal dates back to 2017, the year when town officials allege Banyai founded and started operating an unlicensed training facility on his 30-acre property. In court, a judge ordered Banyai to remove about 20 unpermitted structures used on the property, which he appealed. In July 2023, Banyai submitted photos claiming he was in compliance but refused access to town inspectors. He has since shouted at meetings and continues to rack up fines. Also, MW wants to take a second to comment the VTDigger for their dogged tracking of all of this. Their coverage has been crucial for all militia observers, MW included. 

In happenings that might also sound familiar, Ammon Bundy skipped his trial on November 14 in Idaho. Following this and many other poor decisions by Bundy in this and other related cases, Judge Nancy Baskin revoked Bundy’s $10,000 bond and ordered his arrest on a fresh bond of $250,000. Bundy has indicated he has no regrets, and it now seems extremely likely that Bundy has fled the state of Idaho.

State Complicity Updates: A few case examples

On October 27, Michigan Representative Rachelle Smit (a Republican representing Martin) made an official state proclamation honoring the Null brothers in the wake of their “not guilty” verdicts on the Whitmer kidnapping case. The Null brothers have been crucial public faces for the Michigan Liberty Militia and are well-connected in Michigan’s insurrectionary Patriot Movement core. Smit’s proclamations, offered to each man, described them each as “an outstanding example of the kind of person who is not content to sit idly while the forces of tyranny attack our Republic”, adding that “We all benefit from the patriotism and courage of a man like Michael Null.” 

Also in Michigan, Holton Township passed a resolution on November 14 to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” with a resolution that established a township militia to accomplish this. These types of resolutions are extremely common in right-leaning areas of states that pass legislation to restrict access to firearms, and the establishment of a town militia happens in a few. It is pretty unlikely that an actual boots-on-the-ground militia will form in Holton and many legal experts say such policies have no legal authority. These types of legal loopholes are still worth noting because they could be foreseeably abused in the way that paramilitarism of the past has been used to encourage direct racist violence or suppression of voter turnout. The SPLC, for example, has this month once more decried Florida’s new state militia, activated under related legal pretenses towards a materialized state-associated formation. 

On October 30, the Daily Mail ran a puff piece alongside the Arizona Border Recon, wherein they joined AZBR lead Tim Foley at the border to watch trailcam footage and walk along the barrier at the US-Mexico border with him and a few other men armed with rifles. The Daily Mail uncritically repeated the extremely dubious claim from Foley that he has 250 volunteers he can activate. Notably, Foley usually operates solo on the border in most of his public footage. Foley also used the opportunity to tell journalists that the “rank and file” of border patrol and other police departments have generally met his followers with appreciation.

Legal Updates: III% and more

This month, the ongoing cases against J6 participants and supporters bore several militia-related developments worth noting.  III% participation in J6 is rarer than most observers expect. So far, III% involvement in J6 mostly includes individual supporters. These two updates, however, break that pattern: 

  • First off, on November 8, a DC jury convicted the four remaining III% adherents from CA charged as part of a small network from California implicated in the riot. They joined J6 as members of “California Patriots”, a III% network whose leader Alan Hostetter (a police chief turned yoga instructor) faced a similar conviction in July. They also coordinated with the Oath Keepers cadre who have also been convicted. 
  • Secondly, on November 24, federal prosecutors announced they were seeking 13 months in prison for Joseph Pavlik, an ex-Chicago firefighter who joined the Capitol riot as a member of the III%-aligned “Guardians of Freedom”. Prosecutors, citing messages attributed to Pavlik, joined as part of a combat group claiming to serve as “security” for right-wing protesters and public figures. After the riot, he posted on social media saying, “It’s past time. We need an insurrection or a revolution and it has to be so convincing that the left will never raise their had above ground again.” On December 1, the judge sentenced Pavlik to 2 months in prison.

A major throwback here, but in early November, a SW Florida district court denied a recent appeal by Kevin Foster, who is in line for lethal injection following a 1998 conviction for murder as the leader of the self-proclaimed militia “Lords of Chaos”. The LoC did not appear exactly like most modern militia groups and seems to have been interested in violence for the sake of violence (and also a personal feud with a schoolteacher). However, they cited the ATF Waco siege of 1993 as an important driver for their violence and notably blew up a Coca-Cola bottling plant on the 3rd anniversary of Timothy McVeigh’s attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City prior to the murder of Mark Schwebes.

Further Reading

  • For MilitaryTimes, Nikki Wentling writes about the ineffectiveness of an extremism stand-down in the US military
  • For the Religions journal, Damon Berry published a study on Oath Keepers’ relationship to Christianity