Go inside the American militia movement on the next episode of “This is Life with Lisa Ling” Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.
After a massive resurgence of American militia groups following President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center – which tracks data on the anti-government movement – reported a decline in patriot groups in 2016.
In its annual report, the SPLC found that patriot groups dropped 38% last year and that militias within the patriot movement dropped 40%. The organization attributed this decrease to “(hope) that (Donald) Trump would become the new face of the federal government.”
So what about American militias not identified and analyzed by the SPLC in its annual report? The Southern Arizona Militia, which is not included in the report, is run by a welder who calls himself “Silverback.” In less than a year, he said the militia – which is based outside Tucson – approved more than 20 official members.
Last year, Silverback agreed to allow Lisa Ling to take part in a militia training day for her CNN show “This is Life” to correct what he says is a bad rap from the press.
Here’s an edited portion of his interview:
Lisa Ling: How often are you getting people inquiring and wanting to be part of your militia?
Silverback: All the time. It’s just continuous.
Ling: How often do you train?
Silverback: Every weekend. Every weekend except for the major holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, those sorts of things.
Ling: What exactly are you training for?
Silverback: Name it, I mean, it could be anything: civil unrest, economic collapse, a foreign government or American government threat. Anything that would endanger ourselves and the members of our groups and families.
We don’t cower in our homes, afraid to leave because something bad is going to happen. In case something bad happens, we do all this training.
Ling: You know, federal agencies consider militia groups and patriot movement groups to be extremists. Would you consider yourself an extremist?
Silverback: In a good way? Yes. Most certainly.
Ling: Like in what way would you consider yourself an extremist?
Silverback: The strict belief in the Constitution and the unwavering belief that the constitutional republic is what we should adhere to.
Ling: Why do you think there’s been such an astronomical increase in the number of militias and patriot groups in this country over the last eight years?
Silverback: I think a lot of it stems from an outgoing president that has been so outspoken against guns, an outgoing president that a lot of people feared was going to try to be a dictator and to stay in office –
Ling: You’re talking about President Obama?
Silverback: Yes, yeah. Um, you know—
Ling: That was a real fear?
Silverback: I’ve heard it … It may sound silly but every time a Democrat gets in office, people are afraid of their guns being taken away. They’re afraid their rights are under attack.
Ling: Are you open to people of different ethnicities joining?
Silverback: Sure. We’ve trained with people of all races and even religious beliefs before … Are there racist militias out there? Yes, there are. But we’re not one of them.
Ling: Do you think that now we have a new president in office, there will be fewer militia groups rising up?
Silverback: I really hope having the new president doesn’t let people put their guard down.
Ling: So you’re going to be as vigilant as you always have been?
Silverback: Most certainly. History has shown us that governments all over the world have turned tyrannical, and it’s quite easy for them to do it.