In a Californian town, a militia is greeted by some, warned by others

The H&L Lumber parking lot in Mariposa, Calif., was buzzing with activity on Sunday as members of a local militia wearing military-style uniforms distributed pancakes and steak sandwiches to evacuees from the nearby oak fire. Along with the breakfast, they distributed business cards with QR codes and instructions to join their militia.

PICTURED: Militiamen in military fatigues eat breakfast in the H&L Lumber parking lot on July 24, 2022 in Mariposa, California. Children's faces were covered by NBC News.
Militiamen in military gear eat breakfast in the H&L Lumber parking lot on July 24, 2022 in Mariposa, California. Children’s faces were covered by NBC News.on Facebook

Some say members of the Echo Company militia served as a de facto checkpoint or publicity for the group during the crisis, according to witnesses who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified.

“They had their whole setup with military-style trucks, and they were in their uniforms and stuff,” said Rain Winchester, a manager at nearby Mariposa’s Monarch Inn. “I think it’s okay for them to help with relief efforts as long as they don’t start putting up roadblocks or doing any security work. I don’t want them doing the sheriff’s job.”

The militia is becoming a steady presence in rural Mariposa County southeast of Sacramento with a population of 17,131 scattered across 14 cities according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Providing emergency aid in military garb during an emergency is a statewide recruitment tactic used by militias and is not limited to Mariposa County. As climate change fuels more wildfires and adverse weather events, putting a further strain on local law enforcement and fire departments, militias across the country have used the disasters as an opportunity to meddle in politics and the emergency services of small communities.

After the Oregon fires of 2020 Militias set up civilian roadblocks, who stopped at least one fleeing black family and were ignored by local police. members of the Oath Keepers have created a “community protection team”.“, six of them were arrested for violating a curfew during Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Image: A recruiting card issued by the California State Militia.
A recruiting card issued by the California State Militia.Received from NBC News

Joshua James, an Oath Keeper who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, met and joined the militia during relief efforts for Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Wildfires in the United States have burned 5.6 million acres this year. The oak fire destroyed at least 116 homes and burned more than 19,000 acres. according to the local fire department.

Serving as de facto charities is a common recruitment and fawning tactic used in rural areas to gain support and acceptance during emergencies, said Rachel Goldwasser, a research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Although help is always needed in difficult times, it’s incredibly important to remember that militias give her an agenda,” she said.

“That agenda is to recruit members of the community, including victims, into their organizations, legitimize them, and radicalize people into harboring grievances against the government that they may well express through intimidation or violence.”

According to a 2016 tally by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Echo Company is one of hundreds of militia active in the United States whose numbers have steadily increased in recent years. Experts have warned it was militias Encouraged by ex-President Donald Trump and other Republican Party leaders.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many members Echo Company has. In times when there are no disasters, it is best known for holding training courses for its members and participating in protests, common practices for US militias.

However, the Echo Company is well known among California militias.

It has been supplanted by the larger ones California State Militia organization in 2020 for exploiting larger, fictitious fears of Antifa marauders and “for conduct that has been interpreted as potentially inflammatory and militant.”

The Echo Company joined the Central Valley Proud Boys in a 2020 Straight Pride rally.

But there are signs that its efforts to provide services have worked. The group has gained traction with some in the community in recent years, as evidenced by a response to a Facebook post from the sheriff’s office warning residents to “watch out for a local militia in the Mariposa metropolitan area.”

The post was soon flooded with support for the militia. Hours later, the sheriff’s department issued an “update” that softened their stance.

“Clearing confusion and responding to the large volume of comments on this original post,” the updated post reads. “We are not opposed to community groups helping those affected by the Oak Fire, but it is important that we educate the community about the resources that the incident and Mariposa County have available to them.”

The sheriff’s office then added that it “appreciated” the militia’s efforts.

“We had received several notifications asking why we had ‘activated’ this militia. [and] This post should clarify that we have not enabled them, they are acting out of their own courtesy,” the post reads. “We appreciate their efforts and everyone [of] the efforts of other private groups or entities that help our community.”

Echo Company leadership did not respond to an emailed request for comment. The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment.

Forest fires were on particularly active period for militias, including Echo Company, often based on misinformation that Antifa or looter groups were coming to exploit their communities. In 2020, law enforcement in California and the Pacific Northwest struggled to contain false rumors that Antifa was intentionally setting wildfires so “Antifa buses” could rush into cities and loot local businesses.

Mickee Hernandez, a leader in the larger California state militia, said Echo Company was kicked out of the group for offering private security to companies fearing the fake Facebook rumors that Antifa was capturing looting stores in Atwater, California.

“We sort of had a fight. We have officially deactivated the device by ourselves. They keep using our nickname,” he said.

The QR code, given to Mariposa locals on Sunday, directed those who scanned it to a cloned website of the California State Militia, 2nd Infantry, unaffiliated with Hernandez’s larger group.

Before the group was banned from Facebook amid a broader crackdown on militias, the Echo Company released images of the group in uniforms providing community security, including “guys standing on the roof with guns,” Hernandez said.

“Militia groups, especially in California, can’t loan things like this with guns, especially because of California law. It’s raising public doubts about what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Before the regiment was banned from Facebook, Echo Company posted a logo of the Three Percenters, an extremist movement campaigning for a second American Civil War.

Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services, said there were no circumstances under which California would “activate” a militia.

“California has a National Guard. We have a military. We don’t have a state militia,” he said. “It’s something we take very seriously. This has nothing to do with the state and we do not condone it.”

Although militias can currently provide help, there is a risk that they will be taken over by official aid organizations after emergencies, said Goldwasser.

“There is no easy way to regulate how militias conduct their volunteer work during or after natural disasters,” she said. “Because they are not invited to participate and are not managed by a legitimate agency, they can be discriminatory about whom they choose to help or, worse, discriminate against victims whose ideologies or skin color differ from their own.”

Comments continued to pour out on Facebook in support of Echo Company, thanking the group for pancakes, with many insisting it was “a good thing to stop looters”.

“Thank you for your service. The police cannot be everywhere, they have little enough in our areas. Don’t loot and we won’t shoot!!” reads a top comment citing a Facebook post by Trump from May 2020.

Others who responded to the sheriff’s office post insisted their community did not need the militia’s help.

“There is a spacious park with a shady pavilion. Completely empty. You would imagine this would be the perfect place for evacuees to eat and relax, but no, they chose a few parking spots in the middle of town, prominently so they could advertise,” replied one commenter.

“You have no authority. They are in costume and want attention. That’s all. Otherwise they would move their charade somewhere meaningful.” In a Californian town, a militia is greeted by some, warned by others

Fry Electronics Team

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