The birth of a militia: how an armed group polices Black Lives Matter protests
By Nicolle Okoren
The Utah Citizens’ Alarm is only a month old, and yet it already boasts 15,000-plus members.
The citizen militia’s recruits wear military fatigues and carry assault rifles. Their short-term goal, they say, is to act as a physical presence of intimidation to deter protesters from becoming violent and destroying the state of Utah. Their long-term goal: to arm and prepare the state of Utah against underground movements they believe will incite civil war.
The group was conceived in reaction to a Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality organized by different groups in Provo, Utah, on 29 June. That day, a white protester pulled out a gun and shot another white man, who was not protesting but driving his vehicle into the protest route. Two shots were fired, and one hit the driver in the arm. Protesters claim the shooting was in self-defence because the driver was hitting marchers; the police found this claim to be unsubstantiated.
When Casey Robertson, 47, watched a video of the incident, he felt outraged that this could happen in his “little town of Provo”. He posted on his Facebook page and a local yard sale page that “protesters descended on downtown Provo and terrorized citizens and SHOTS WERE FIRED.” He explained that Insurgence, one of the organizing group, was planning another protest for the next night and he rallied “concerned citizens” to come together, armed and ready to do their part in protecting downtown businesses.
This was a call to arms. Utah Citizens’ Alarm was born.