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Right-wing 'patriot' groups girding for actual class warfare, report says

The Southern Poverty Law Center says an 'explosive' growth in the number of antigovernment 'patriot' groups is tied to fears of economic cataclysm and civil war between rich and poor.

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Along with the rise in patriot groups has been a marked increase in gun sales and concealed carry permits, which experts peg in part to crime fears, but also “a basic fear of government, particularly the national government, and what it might do,” says Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas, in Austin.

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The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have warned recently about the rise of right-wing extremists and so-called “sovereign citizen” groups, which believe that most US law doesn't apply to them. But those warnings have also served to stoke paranoia among patriot group members.

The idea that the US government has patriot groups in its sights was taken up by Republican US Senate candidate Jamie Radtke of Virginia, who in February called on the US House leadership to launch a formal investigation into whether the Internal Revenue Service is targeting tea party and patriot groups.

Those within the largely rural patriot movement agree with the SPLC that tensions are rising ahead of the presidential election in November.

“The worse the economy gets, the more the groups are going to grow,” August Kreis, a former Aryan Nations leader, told the Intelligence Report. “White people are arming themselves – and black people, too. I believe eventually it’s going to come down to civil war. It’s going to be an economic war, the rich versus the poor. We’re being divided along economic lines.”

In his press conference Thursday, Potok quoted League of the South president Michael Hill at a recent talk, where he reportedly said, “We're already at war, what would it take to get you to fight?”

He also quoted William Gheen, head of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, as saying that to save “white America” it may be necessary to engage in “extrapolitical activities that I can't really talk about because they're all illegal and violent.”

“I think the growth of patriot groups is a symptom of some very hard times economically and some disturbing political trends,” says Mr. Hill, reached by the Monitor Thursday. “I'm really concerned about the level of animosity between the two sides out there, and that's why I'm saying that people should take advantage of the Second Amendment and make sure they learn to safely use firearms, just to protect themselves in this kind of environment.”

The real concern behind the rise in the number of patriot groups, however, is not always the prospect of crime and violence, but their effect on the political system, says Ms. Gallaher, who is also a professor at American University.

Within these groups, “it's not about race or class, it's always race and class all blended together,” she says. “So we can get caught up on whether or not we label them racist or not, but that's a semantic issue. The real issue is, what are they espousing, and what would it do to minorities and immigrants and the poor?”

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