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Hate Groups Active In Ohio Long Before Plot To Kidnap Michigan Governor

About 75 people wearing masks and carrying signs protest outside the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
About 75 people wearing masks and carrying signs protest outside the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.

Federal authorities have charged more than a dozen men with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the government. Authorities say that group did some of its planning this summer in Ohio, where extremist groups have been active since at least 1994.

The group was apparently angry about pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions. There have been demonstrations against restrictions designed to slow COVID-19 in several states, including a few in Ohio. One in July brought a few hundred people to the Statehouse, with "security provided by hundreds of Ohio milita [sic]."

Mark Pitcavage researches extremist groups for the Anti Defamation League. He said though there are such groups in Ohio, he doesn’t think Gov. Mike DeWine is in danger for imposing similar restrictions.

“If you are targeted for violence by a militia group, you have sort of won the 'bad luck lottery' because obviously that would not happen for most people. So it is theoretically possible. But I would not want to raise any alarm bells for the governor or for any of his supporters," Pitcavage said.

There have been complaints from those who oppose DeWine's pandemic related policies, including state lawmakers such as Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) calling him a "dictator" and Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati) filing paperwork to have him impeached as well as arrested on terrorism charges.

Pitcavage said those postings and actions aren’t helping when it comes to extremist groups, but the opposition to shutdowns isn’t coming just from extremists any more.

"And that's the problem. I mean, it was only coming from extremists that would be worrying, but they would be a relatively small number of people," Pitcavage said. "The fact is, that's also coming from large numbers of people who essentially fall still within the political mainstream.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports it's tracking 31 hate groups in Ohio, and said last year there are 32 anti-government movements and 13 militias in the state.