A group of vigilantes has vowed to take up arms to defend the city’s residents. During a rally in front of City Hall, an executive officer for the Genesee County Volunteer Militia announced the group is “not going to allow [the government] to step on the people of Flint any longer.”
“We’re here to defend this community,” said Matthew Krol, who was joined by approximately 30 supporters. The Detroit Free Press reported that the group carried “Don’t Tread On Me” signs and some of its members had pistols. “We’re not going to allow (the government) to step on the people of Flint any longer.”
So far, the group has passed out bottles of water alongside the Red Cross. But the militia has also promised to use armed defense if necessary.
Krol echoed criticism that the government covered up and ignored the poisoning of the predominantly African-American city. But unlike some of Gov. Rick Snyder’s critics, he insisted that the water crisis is not a race issue. He argued, instead, that the lead poisoning boils down to financial greed.
“This is not a racial issue, unlike some people last week tried to say. It’s a human issue,” he said at the rally.
Krol and his supporters belong to a regional branch of the Michigan Militia.
“A well-armed citizenry is the best form of Homeland Security and can better deter disasters, crime, invasion, terrorism, tyranny,” says the organization’s webpage. “Our intention is to inform, promote and facilitate the development and training of the militia. Everyone is welcome, regardless of race, creed, color, tint, or hue, religion (or a lack there of), political affiliation (or a lack there of), provided you do not wish to bring harm to our country or people.”
The group’s mission is similar to other anti-government militias in the news lately. Under the leadership of Ammon Bundy, a group of armed ranchers have occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a federal building, in Burns, Oregon. Since the beginning of January, the armed protesters have tried to “provoke a standoff with the federal government,” claiming ranchers’ land rights have been violated. With caches of weapons in their possession, members of the group have said they are willing to kill and be killed defending the land and ranchers’ freedom.
Last August, on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting, armed Oath Keepers also descended upon Ferguson when protesters were, once again, confronted by police in military gear. Carrying rifles in the street, members of the patriotic organization said they were there to defend their right to bear arms after a state of emergency was declared.
Little has been said of the Genesee militia’s presence, but other armed vigilante groups that say they are preserving constitutional freedoms have also fallen into a tone-deaf pattern: defending the rights of people who do not want their help. In Ferguson, demonstrators asked the Oath Keepers to leave, but the armed men did not listen. In Oregon, ranchers have denounced Bundy’s militia and tactics. Occupiers are also trying to forge an alliance with the local Paiute tribe, whose artifacts, the militia claims, are improperly stored and managed. But the tribe has repeatedly slammed Bundy and his cronies, saying they do not want to be defended.