Washington, D.C., October 30, 2020 - On Brady’s Shorty-nominated podcast, Red, Blue, and Brady, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer explained how the threat of violent right-wing "militias," the preventable danger of allowing guns at polling places, and President Trump’s heated rhetoric has led to grave concerns regarding public safety this election. Gov. Whitmer spoke with Brady President Kris Brown; Brady Director of Racial Justice Kelly Sampson; Brady Vice President of Policy Christian Heyne; and Red, Blue, and Brady host Jillian Janflone about her experience safeguarding Michigan’s election and the recently foiled plot to kidnap and likely execute her.
Gov. Whitmer shared:
"There's such a divide in this country right now. It's been exacerbated by inhumanity and the maybe natural tendency to not look at that data as representing human lives. 225,000 people have died from COVID-19. Those people are much more than data points, very much like the data surrounding gun violence that we continue to experience in this country.
It shouldn't have to happen to you to see the problem in it. That's what leadership is, seeing the humanity and others that you serve, and having the humility to seek out the smartest people to resolve the problems."
Brady President Kris Brown shared:
“All Americans have been horrified this year by the increasing activity, spurred by hateful rhetoric in the highest offices of our country, of armed extremists, insurrectionists and domestic terrorists undermining our democratic institutions. Against this backdrop and even as the target of a foiled plot to kidnap and execute her, Gov. Whitmer has continued to lead the charge and call out those who fuel hate-filled individuals. As a fellow mother of two daughters of similar ages to Gov. Whitmer’s, I cannot imagine that experience and I share the admiration of all Americans for the Governor’s continued strength and moral clarity on this issue, even as the President of the United States continues to speak out against and attack her.
Gov. Whitmer has stood firm in the truth that we cannot accept armed intimidation of lawmakers, citizens or voters. It is imperative that we follow her example and oppose these extremist forces in our country.”
About the Alarming Increase in Insurrectionism and "Militias"
As covered in recent episodes of Red, Blue, and Brady, throughout 2020, there has been an alarming increase in coverage of and actions by groups of individuals posing as militias or insurrectionists, often with links to white supremacy.
We should call this what it is, terrorism. And, this threat is real. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concluded violent white supremacists represent the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland through 2021.” This insurrectionist mentality and mindset isn’t novel and has been percolating for decades. It has been seeded, aided, and abetted by the gun lobby through inflammatory rhetoric for years and has found a megaphone in President Trump.
From commentary about “liberating” Virginia and Michigan to describing white supremacist protestors as “very fine people” in Charlottesville, to telling a white supremacist militia group to “stand by” during a nationally televised Presidential debate, President Trump has signaled and stated that this behavior is acceptable.
It isn’t and it’s dangerous, as we’ve seen evidenced by the plot to kidnap and likely kill Gov. Whitmer. As she notes, very forcefully in the podcast, the threats increase daily as hateful rhetoric is spewed by those holding the highest offices in the land. It is no surprise it fuels a boiling over of hatred such as those advanced against Gov. Whitmer herself. We all know this intrinsically. But it is important to emphasize again. As Gov. Whitmer said, leadership, humility, and humanity should be at the core of who we seek in elected office.
Extremist views have long fomented protests and demonstrations. Add firearms to the mix of racial conflict and this is a situation that calls on national leadership to de-escalate, not foment. On top of these issues, we know that weak state and federal gun laws enable followers of violent ideologies to obtain high-powered arsenals without submitting to background checks. By taking advantage of the gun show sales, which in many states are riddled with loopholes for private sellers, and internet sales, aggravated by the complete circumventing of all laws that ghost guns allow, “the worst actors amongst boogaloo groups possess a distinct advantage over government officials and law enforcement: They already realize that they are at war.”
About Armed Intimidation at the Polls
Voter intimidation, including armed intimidation, is not only unlawful, but it also fundamentally threatens our shared constitutional right to freely participate in elections. Under federal law, voter intimidation is defined as the use of threats, coercion, or attempts to intimidate for the purpose of interfering with the right of another person to vote or to vote for the person of their choosing.
Armed intimidation at the polls is voter suppression, plain and simple. Visit Brady's website, DisarmElections.com, for tools and resources on how you can advocate for gun-free polling places and ensure safe voting in your state.
Voter intimidation can take on multiple forms, including verbal aggression, disrupting voting lines, or spreading false election-related information about details like voting deadlines and polling hours. It also includes asking voters for “documentation” and challenging a person’s voting eligibility based on race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, or disability as an attempt to disenfranchise them.
Voters who experience or witness armed voter intimidation should call 866-OUR-VOTE, a national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Learn more at 866ourvote.org.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.