Extremist group that called for Michigan guv Whitmer’s arrest puts Wolf on ‘watch list’ over pandemic management

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a Middletown child care center Tuesday, August 25 to roll out his fall agenda, including legal weed. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

(*Updated at 5:55 p.m. on 10/22/20, with comment from the Wolf  administration)

A right-wing group that’s advocating for the arrest of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, already the target of a foiled alleged kidnapping plot, has put Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on a “criminal watch list,” charging that he violated the U.S. Constitution with his COVID-19 shutdown measures.

The American Patriot Council is a Michigan-based group that organized anti-lockdown rallies during the pandemic that have drawn armed militia members and Proud Boys, a neo-fascist, male-only group that promotes violence against left-leaning demonstrators, the Beacon, a sibling site of the Capital-Star, reported Thursday.

The Wolf administration declined to comment when it was asked whether security had been stepped up around Wolf, who travels with a Pennsylvania State Police security detail, as a result of the watch list or the plot against Whitmer.

“While we do not discuss security details or concerns, the governor has total confidence in the preparations and ability of the Pennsylvania State Police,” spokeswoman Sara Goulet said in an email. “Everyone needs to speak out against domestic terrorism when it arises, stop politicizing the pandemic response, and put an end to this type of appalling behavior.” 

Two of the group’s rallies were attended by William Null, one of the 14 people associated with the Wolverine Watchmen militia that allegedly plotted to kidnap Whitmer. APC distanced itself from those involved in the plot after their arrests, saying they would “report any unlawful activity.”

“While we hold the view that many public officials are guilty of a litany of crimes, and it has been our goal to hold these officials criminally responsible, we must do so lawfully,” an APC statement on Oct. 13 reads.

Some observers in Michigan say APC was among the groups that helped to create the environment that stoked the failed kidnapping by accusing officials of crimes based on a distorted interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

The “Cases” section of APC’s website contains photos of Whitmer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson with the word “felon” over each picture.

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Wolf, a York County Democrat, already has faced pointed Republican criticism, and been the subject of Capitol protests, for his decision earlier this year to shutter schools and businesses, and confine Pennsylvanians to their homes, while the state tried to tame a virus that has so far cost the lives of 8,592 state residents.

Wolf’s pandemic management decisions have survived repeated court challenges by those who believe he exceeded his executive authority. This week, one of Wolf’s shutdown measures survived a veto override attempt by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, even as COVID-19 cases in the state spike.

The American Patriot group’s website also calls for the arrest of Michigan’s Nessel and Benson. Like Wolf and Whitmer, Nessel and Benson were both elected as Democrats.

Wolf, Benson and Nessel also have been singled out on Twitter by President Donald Trump for their management of the pandemic.

The group is currently planning over 40 “Freedom March” rallies in 20 states for Oct. 24. In Maine, rallies are planned in Portland and Augusta. An event in Michigan this weekend will find the group protesting opposite a local Black Lives Matter chapter, MLive.com reported.

“We expect millions of Americans to take to the streets and remind these terrorists who’s in charge,” APC said in an Oct. 11 Facebook post.

Dan Neumann, a reporter for the Beacon, a sibling site of the Capital-Star, contributed to this story.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press