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Antigovernment militia groups grew by more than one-third in last year

The armed takeover of a federal government building in Oregon comes amid a renewed expansion of the far-right, antigovernment militia movement in the wake of the 2014 standoff between federal agents and heavily armed antigovernment activists in the Nevada desert.

In its annual count of militias, released today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) identified 276 militia groups – up from 202 in 2014, a 37 percent increase.

The number represents a renewal of growth after several years of declines. The movement grew explosively after President Obama was elected, from 42 groups in 2008 to a peak of 334 in 2011 before declining in recent years.

What’s happening in Oregon was entirely predictable. 

“We believe these armed extremists have been emboldened by what they saw as a clear victory at the Cliven Bundy ranch and the fact that no one was held accountable for taking up arms against agents of the federal government,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

Among the militiamen occupying buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, are Cliven Bundy’s sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy.

“When the federal government was stopped from enforcing the law at gunpoint, it energized the entire movement,” Beirich said. “The fact is, Bundy is still a free man and has not paid the money he owes to the federal government – and the militiamen who aimed rifles at federal agents have gotten away with it.”

The militia groups included in the SPLC count typically adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines and subscribe to groundless conspiracy theories about the federal government.

Additional information on the Oregon standoff and “Patriot” groups:

Hatewatch Blog: Bundy Sons Lead Antigovernment Extremists, Militia in Takeover of Federal Wildlife Headquarters in Oregon

SPLC Timeline: Patriot Groups and Land Use Disputes

SPLC Report: War in the West