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Warning of ‘III%’ militia plot, fueled by March 4 conspiracy theories, induces House to shut down

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The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a separate bulletin about an “unidentified group of [militia violent extremists]” who “discussed plans to take control of the US Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers” on Thursday.

Officials would not identify which militia group was linked to the intelligence, but the Associated Press’ Michael Balsamo, citing anonymous sources, reported that “Online chatter identified by authorities included discussions among members of the Three Percenters,” one of several militia groups whose members were identified among the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

The discussions included plots against the Capitol on March 4, “according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.”

March 4 already holds a certain cachet among “constitutionalist” conspiracy theorists because it was the original date scheduled for presidential inaugurations before 1933, when the 20th Amendment moved it to Jan. 20. Since many far-right “constitutionalists” claim that only the first 10 amendments are valid, the suggestion that Trump will claim his “rightful” inauguration today has caught on among a number of sectors of the conspiracist far right online.

The most prominent of these has been the authoritarian QAnon cult, which having had its multifarious predictions utterly demolished by the reality of Joe Biden’s election has instead begun doubling down, believing that at some point Trump’s real election will be made manifest. March 4 is the designated date.

In the QAnon sector of the far-right alternative universe, Trump’s rightful ascension will realize “The Storm,” which means it will happen along with the arrests of all those Democrats and liberal Hollywood figures who have been abducting children and stowing them in tunnels beneath pizza parlors where they can suck out their blood and harvest adrenochrome from it. Or something like that.

Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism in New York, told USA Today that the QAnon community was ignited by Trump’s speech Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in which he once again claimed groundlessly that he had been cheated in the election.

“There’s renewed hope,” Mayo said. “A lot of people believe, without talking about a specific date, that Trump will be president, and that the military will somehow be involved.”

However, QAnon is hardly the only sector of the far right that believes Trump was cheated by Democrats and the media—two-thirds of Trump voters voiced that belief in a recent poll. One of the conspiracist right’s responses to Trump’s election loss has been to build bridges across different sectors in similarly deep denial—including an apparent alliance between QAnon cultists and militia conspiracists.

The Three Percenters take their name from the afactual “constitutionalist” myth that only 3% of the colonist population participated in the American Revolution, thus inspiring a similar hope for the “second revolution” many of its militia-organizing members believe is imminent, as envisioned by the late Mike Vanderboegh, their primary founder. The presence of so many “Threepers” in the Jan. 6 mob—believing that it was their “1776 moment”—reflected that core conspiracist ethos.

‘III Percent Militia’ founder Mike Vanderboegh in 2015.

More of a movement than an organization, the Three Percenters are one of three core components within the antigovernment militia movement, along with the Oath Keepers and traditional militia groups. Most Three Percent groups are either local militia outfits, while some claim to represent entire states. A nationwide “Three Percenters National Council”—which primarily existed on Facebook and its website—garnered a large audience for many years, but as Vice’s Tess Owen reports, it recently announced that it was disbanding as a result of the Capitol insurrection.

Paranoia is likely to once again rule on Thursday. Several QAnon groups operating on Telegram warned their followers that any events on March 4 were a setup for Trump supporters, and to stay away.

“If there are groups out there planning and advertising events on or around March 4 anywhere in the country (DC included) we strongly urge everyone to avoid them entirely,” one Telegram user wrote in late February.

Capitol Police noted Wednesday that they had “already made significant security upgrades” at the Capitol, including establishing a fenced perimeter and increasing manpower.

Forbes’ Andrew Solender reported that House leaders decided on Wednesday it was “possible to finish all of the House’s legislative work for the week” that day. Before wrapping up, it completed debate on the Justice In Policing Act, and then voted on both that bill and election-reform bill H.R. 1.

Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, a Democrat, tweeted that while he is “grateful” for House leadership’s concern for the safety of members, he is “disappointed” by the decision to cancel the session.

“We cannot allow threats by misinformed, cowardly seditionists to impact our work in Congress,” he wrote. “Doing so only rewards such behavior and emboldens traitors who wish to harm our country.”

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