In a California town, a militia is welcomed by some, cautioned by others
The parking lot of H&L Lumber in Mariposa, California, was host to a flurry of activity Sunday as members of a local militia sporting military-style fatigues
The parking lot of H&L Lumber in Mariposa, California, was host to a flurry of activity Sunday as members of a local militia sporting military-style fatigues handed out pancakes and steak sandwiches to evacuees of the Oak Fire raging nearby. Along with breakfast, they doled out business cards with QR codes and directions to join their militia.
Militia members in military fatigues eat breakfast in the parking lot of H&L Lumber in Mariposa, Calif., on July 24, 2022. Children's faces have been obscured by NBC News.via FacebookSome say the members of the Echo Company militia served as a de facto checkpoint or an advertisement for the group during the crisis, according to witnesses who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified.
“They had their whole setup with military-style trucks, and they were in their fatigues and whatnot,” said Rain Winchester, a manager at Mariposa’s nearby Monarch Inn. “I’m fine with them helping out with relief efforts as long as they don’t start to set up roadblocks or do any security work. I don’t want them doing the work of the sheriff’s office.”
The militia is becoming a consistent presence in rural Mariposa County southeast of Sacramento with a population of 17,131 scattered across 14 towns, according to the 2010 U.S. census.
Providing immediate assistance in military-style garb during an emergency is a recruiting tactic used by militias nationwide, and not confined to Mariposa County. As climate change creates more wildfires and adverse weather events, further straining local law enforcement and fire services, militias around the nation have seized on the disasters as opportunities to entangle themselves into the politics and emergency services of small communities.