What They Believe: A militia is a group of citizens who come together to protect the country, usually during an emergency. Some militia extremists, however, seek to violently attack or overthrow the U.S. government. Often calling themselves “patriots,” they believe the government has become corrupt, has overstepped its constitutional limits, or has not been able to protect the country against global dangers.
Who or What They Target: Violent militia extremists mainly target those they believe could violate their constitutional rights, such as police officers and judges. In one 2010 case, a Michigan militia group planned to kill a police officer and later attack the parade of cars in the funeral, hoping to start a large battle. The FBI and its partners stopped them from carrying out their plan.
Sovereign Citizen Extremists
What They Believe: Sovereign citizens believe they are separate or “sovereign” from the United States even though they live here. They think they don’t have to answer to any government authority. Sovereign citizens use their beliefs to justify fraud and other non-violent crimes. But some sovereign citizen extremists turn to violence and commit murder, threaten public officials, and destroy property as part of their anti-government, anti-tax beliefs.
Who or What They Target: Sovereign citizen violent extremists usually target members of the government—including judges, police officers, and tax officials. In 2010, for example, a sovereign citizen extremist killed two Arkansas police officers during a routine traffic stop.
What They Believe: Some abortion extremists believe that violence and bloodshed are justified to support their different beliefs on abortion. These violent extremists have turned to murder, bombings, assault, vandalism, kidnapping, and arson. They have also made death threats and sent hate mail and suspicious packages.
Who or What They Target: Violent anti-abortion extremists have targeted women’s reproductive clinics and the health care professionals and staff who work in these facilities, including doctors, nurses, receptionists, and even security guards. In one case in 2009, for example, a Kansas doctor who performed abortion services was shot and killed in his local church by an anti-abortion extremist. Those who use violence to defend abortion rights have murdered, threatened, and attacked those who oppose abortion.
White Supremacy Extremists
What They Believe: White supremacy extremists are motivated by a hatred of other races and religions. Some try to achieve their political and social goals through violence. These violent extremists often wrongly believe that the U.S. government is hurting the country or secretly planning to destroy it.
Who or What They Target: White supremacy violent extremists target the federal government and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Their methods have included murder, threats, and bombings. As just one example, white supremacists attacked a pair of Middle Eastern men on New Year’s Eve in 2011, punching one victim in the face and head.
What They Believe: Anarchist extremists believe that society should have no government, laws, or police, and they are loosely organized, with no central leadership. Violent anarchist extremists believe that such a society can only be created through force.
Who or What They Target: Violent anarchist extremists usually target symbols of capitalism they believe to be the cause of all problems in society—such as large corporations, government organizations, and police agencies. They damage property, cause riots, and set off firebombs. In some cases, they have injured police officers.
Animal Rights Extremists and Environmental Extremists
What They Believe: Some animal rights and environmental extremists believe violence is needed to stop those they think are hurting animals or the environment. These violent extremists usually don’t seek to kill or injure people, but their crimes—which include property damage, vandalism, threats, cyber attacks, arson, and bombings—have caused millions of dollars in damages and disrupted the lives of many Americans.
Who or What They Target: Violent animal rights extremists attack those they believe are linked to the abuse of animals. Typical targets include the fur industry, companies and individuals involved in animal research, and businesses that ship animals. Violent environmental extremists target those they believe are destroying the environment, such as businesses and individuals involved in construction or automobile sales.