Law enforcement officials say the groups are "dangerous, delusional and sometimes violent, and they say that their numbers are growing amid a wave of anger at the government that has been gaining strength since 2008, a surge that coincided with the election of the first black U.S. president and a crippling economic recession," Sullivan writes. "Law enforcement officials and the watchdog groups that track the self-styled 'patriot' groups call them anti-government extremists, militias, armed militants or even domestic terrorists." Some even jokingly call them “Y’all Qaeda” or “Vanilla ISIS.”
There are currently about 1,000 such groups, up from 150 in 2008, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremism. "Potok and other analysts, including law enforcement officials who track the groups, said their supporters number in the hundreds of thousands, counting people who signal their support in more passive ways, such as following the groups on social media," Sullivan reports. "The Facebook page of the Oath Keepers, a group of former members of police forces and the military, for example, has more than 525,000 'likes.'"
"Much of the movement traces its roots to the deadly 1990s confrontations between civilians and federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and in Waco, Tex., that resulted in the deaths of as many as 90," Sullivan writes. "Timothy McVeigh cited both events before he was executed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, and he said he had deliberately chosen a building housing federal government agencies. Now a 'second wave' is spreading across the country, especially in the West, fueled by the internet and social media." (Read more)