The Most Powerful American Militia Groups Throughout History

The American militia movement had been mostly dormant during the Bush administration, but the election of Barack Obama gave it new life - and thousands of new members. There are currently hundreds of small local militias in the US, groups of "patriotic citizens" who own a lot of weaponry and spend a lot of time tramping through various wilderness areas training to use them.

These groups train to prepare for what they see as the inevitable consequences of a Democratic president, such as gun confiscation, martial law, imprisonment of dissenters, mass purges, and totalitarian fascism. Most of these groups are also opposed to federal law and feel they're somehow above the rules that the rest of us live by. This means many have been shut down and raided by police or the FBI - with some groups involved in plots to overthrow the presidency and other serious infractions.

Listed here are the more well-known militia groups operating in the US, both now and in the recent past. Read on to learn more about these groups and what drives them.

  • Pacific Patriots Network

    A loose conglomeration of groups based in the northwest, the Pacific Patriots Network wasn't well known until it stuck its collective nose in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff. A few days into the occupation, members of the group appeared at the refuge carrying rifles and wearing body armor. They presented the Bundy family with an "Articles of Resolution" asking them to "stand down" and leave before the FBI could move in.

    In an ironic twist, the Bundy family asked the PPN to leave, telling them they didn't need more people at the refuge and that the intense firepower the PPN brought would make the situation worse.

  • Michigan Militia

    While having only a few hundred members, the Michigan Militia is one of the best known militia groups in the US, due to its founder, Norman Olson, testifying before Congress in 1995. Among other lofty statements, Olson told the United States Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism of the Judiciary that, “Martial law shall not be possible in this country as long as the people recognize the bill of rights as inalienable.”

    He was later booted out of the group after blaming Japan for the Oklahoma City bombing, and the group has gone through a number of iterations since then.

  • Ohio Defense Force 

    A small but heavily armed group with 300 members, the Ohio Defense Force was the subject of a Time magazine photo spread. Members were shown training, posing with their guns, looking stern, and practicing to invade and hold a “terrorist command post.”

  • Montana Freemen

    Now defunct, the Montana Freemen achieved worldwide fame due to their standoff with the FBI in 1996. Rejecting any law made by the federal government, the Freemen drew liens against public officials and created realistic fake checks with which to defraud banks. The FBI moved in on their community, “Justus Township,” and the group surrendered after a bloodless, 81-day siege.

    Their leadership was convicted and jailed - where they continued their bogus lien schemes, this time bamboozling their fellow prisoners.

  • Posse Comitatus

    One of the earliest right-wing Christian Patriot groups, Posse Comitatus pioneered a number of tactics used by later groups. They were among the first to tie together Christian millennialism, anti-Semitism, tax refusal, and survivalist training. Posse members have been involved in a number of violent incidents against police, governmental officials, and union members.

    They also helped pioneer ideas that became popular in the “sovereign citizen” movement, where members believe they can use legal loopholes, frivolous lawsuits, and bogus tax liens to “free” themselves from federal laws.

  • Republic Of Texas

    This is a loosely organized group devoted to “freeing” Texas from the shackles of the federal government. Members believe that since Texas voted 4-1 to leave the Union in 1861, it's technically considered a “captive nation” under international law. Subsequent courts have disagreed. Internal strife broke the group up, and some of its founders had an armed standoff with police and Texas Rangers in 1997.

    Group members have threatened to assassinate President Bill Clinton, committed burglary, and taking multiple people captive, including former members of the group. The group is still active, having been raided by local police in February 2015.