(JTA) — The leader of a white supremacist group has been arrested after trying to harass a podcaster — but accidentally targeting someone else instead.
The Michigan State Police and the FBI have charged Justen Watkins, the self-proclaimed leader of The Base, and another member of the group, Alfred Gorman, with belonging to a gang and two other charges, according to the Michigan attorney general’s office.
The Base, a neo-Nazi group founded in 2018, advocates for violent rebellion against the United States and the establishment of a white ethno-state. Watkins allegedly ran a “hate camp” for members where they engaged in firearms training. The group’s ideology, like other neo-Nazi groups, includes extreme anti-Semitism. According to the Detroit Jewish News, the group spray-painted a swastika and the Nazi SS logo on a synagogue in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 2019.
The arrest, announced Thursday, comes as officials warn of increasing extremism in the United States ahead of next week’s election. And it comes weeks after a group of men was arrested for plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
In the December 2019 incident that sparked the arrest, Watkins and Gorman allegedly dressed all in black and took pictures of a family at their home that they then posted on The Base’s channel on the social network Telegram, which is popular with the far right.
They thought the home belonged to Daniel Harper, who hosts an anti-white-supremacism podcast called “I Don’t Speak German.” The Michigan attorney general’s office calls it an “Antifa podcast.”
But Harper never lived at the house that was targeted.