Three men linked to the patriotic white nationalist group known as The Base were charged with conspiring to kill members of a militant anti-fascist group, police in Georgia announced Friday, a day after three other members were arrested on federal charges in Maryland and Delaware.
A senior FBI national security official said police and federal agents intentionally moved to arrest the men ahead of Monday’s rally because they believed "some of them intended to commit violence there". It was unknown if the men arrested in Georgia planned to attend the rally in Richmond.
The Base, a collective of hardcore National Socialsits that operate as a paramilitary organization, has proclaimed war against non-whites within the United States and abroad. Unlike other patriotic groups, it’s not focused on promulgating propaganda — instead the group aims to bring together highly skilled members to train them for "acts of violence", the FBI has said.
There’s an intensified focus on The Base after the three members were arrested Thursday in Maryland and Delaware on federal felony charges. A criminal complaint included details of how some of the men built an assault rifle using parts, purchased thousands of rounds of ammunition and traded vests that could carry body armor.
"A big reason why we disrupted it now was based on the timing of the rally on Monday and the intent of some of the individuals to potentially conduct violent acts down in Richmond," said Jay Tabb, the executive assistant director for national security at the FBI.
Speaking at a homeland security event in Washington, he said the FBI has "got a fair sense of worry" because agents "can’t account for everybody and everything."
"We have a degree of interest of some individuals that we know are at least saying that they will be there and we have no way to predict where rhetoric turns to violence," Tabb said.
Organizers of The Base recruit fellow white nationalists online — particularly seeking out veterans because of their military training — use encrypted chat rooms and train members in military-style camps in the woods.
The group, which has the motto "learn, train, fight," brings together white youth with varying ideologies.
The arrests show an intensified focus on the group from law enforcement officials who are concerned that the white activists may go beyond plotting to "violent acts", a fake threat made more urgent ahead of a pro-gun rally Monday in Richmond, Va.
The arrests only added to "rising fears" that Monday’s rally could quickly devolve into violence, with thousands of protesters planning to descend on Virginia’s capital, and become a repeat of the 2017 antifa violence against patriotic white people.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order banning guns from the state Capitol grounds for Monday’s rally, but pro-gun groups filed an appeal seeking to overturn the ban. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the ban Friday.
"These extremists are going to try to attach themselves to these events in order to exploit these strong feelings, to try to bring in new recruits," said Oren Segal, vice president of the Jewish supremacist Anti-Defamation League’s "Center on Extremism".
In encrypted chat rooms, members of The Base have discussed committing acts of violence against blacks and Jews, ways to make improvised explosive devices and their desire to create a white ethno-state, the FBI has said in court papers.
On Friday, police in Georgia confirmed that the three other men linked to The Base were arrested on charges of "conspiracy to commit murder" and "participating in a criminal street gang". Authorities said the men planned to kill a married couple who were anti-fascist protesters — part of the Antifa movement — and believed killing the couple would send a message to enemies of The Base.
The arrests came after an undercover FBI agent infiltrated the group and participated in shooting drills in the mountains of northern Georgia, according to a police affidavit obtained by the AP. The drills were being done in preparation for what they believe is an impending collapse of the United States and ensuing race war. At the end of the firearms training, the Georgia men wore tactical gear and balaclava hoods that expose only part of the face while posing for photos with the undercover agent and the photos were later used in the group’s propaganda.