Pa. has 5th most anti-government extremist groups among U.S. states | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pa. has 5th most anti-government extremist groups among U.S. states

click to enlarge Iron City Citizens Response Unit members at an anti-quarantine protest in Pittsburgh in 2020. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Iron City Citizens Response Unit members at an anti-quarantine protest in Pittsburgh in 2020.
With 23 active anti-government extremist groups, Pennsylvania ranks fifth among U.S. states for the most anti-government extremist groups in the nation, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. This puts the Keystone State only behind California, Ohio, Texas, and Florida, but also well ahead of some states with similar populations like Illinois and Georgia, which have 13 and two active anti-government extremist groups respectively.

SPLC reports 566 active anti-government groups throughout America in 2020, which is marginally down from 576 groups in 2019. There were 169 militia groups among the anti-government extremist groups. SPLC compiled the list from field reports, group publications, the internet, law enforcement sources, and news reports, but did not document activities of groups that take place solely online.

According to SPLC, anti-government groups engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines, but don’t necessarily advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, though some have. Many warn of impending government violence or the need to prepare for a coming revolution. They believe the conspiracy theory that government groups are spearheading a “New World Order” to take away citizens’ property rights.

Of the 23 anti-government groups in Pennsylvania, three are currently active specifically in the Pittsburgh region and 10 are active on a statewide level. In the Pittsburgh region, active groups include in Pittsburgh, Civilian Defense Force in Fayette County, and Iron City CRU (Citizens Response Unit) in Pittsburgh.

Iron City CRU was present with assault-style weapons, fatigues, and military-style gear at an anti-quarantine protest in April 2020, which justified their activity to “protect and defend” protesters who opposed the restrictions imposed on Pennsylvanians early in the pandemic. The group was also sporting Valknots, a symbol that has some association with white nationalism.

When Pittsburgh City Paper asked about the Valknots, a CRU member, who refused to be identified, shouted “do your research” and then called CP “communist.” Later, CRU issued a statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they “publicly denounce any form of racism and will stand with any minority group should the need arise.”

SPLC reports that the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and the 2020 elections have contributed to the increased activity of paramilitary groups.

Later in the summer, CRU was hired by a gym owner in Ambridge to “stand guard” over the property during a small Black Lives Matter protest that was held in the Beaver County town after the death of George Floyd.

Pennsylvania is also home to a few active Three Percenters groups, and CP saw people sporting Three Percenters patches at a pro-gun rights protest in Pittsburgh in 2019. The SPLC designates the Three Percenters as an extremist group who vow to resist gun control laws with force if necessary, and SPLC says the group is a core component within the anti-government militia movement. Their symbol is a Roman numeral three surrounded by a circle of stars.

There has been an increase in crackdowns on some of these anti-government groups, whether it be QAnon groups getting banned on social media platforms, or increased scrutiny from law enforcement following the insurrection on the Capitol. But SPLC says it expects anti-government activity to continue, given many of these groups' opposition to President Joe Biden, the current impeachment trial of Donald Trump, and the false belief that the 2020 election was stolen.

“The anti-government threat is likely to grow even worse in the months ahead, with the real possibility of new acts of domestic terrorism in response to Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, new health and safety measures to combat COVID-19, and more,” said SPLC president Margaret Huang to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

A full list of active anti-government extremist groups in Pennsylvania is listed below. Asterisks indicate an active militia group.

III% United Patriots*
A.R.M.E.D. Riding Club
American Patriots Three Percent*
Berks County Patriots
Carlisle Light Infantry*
Civilian Defense Force*
Fayette County
Constitution Party
Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Militia*
Emergency Non-Profit Assisting Communities Together (ENACT)*
Freedom Patriot Defenders*
Gun Owners of America
Iron City CRU (Citizen Response Unit)*
Maulitia Bikers MC
Oath Keepers*
Pennsylvania Homeland Shield*
Pennsylvania Oath Keepers*
Pennsylvania Patriots United
Pennsylvania State Militia*
Three Percent Liberty Defenders*
Three Percenters Original, The
Northumberland County
We Are Change

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