'They want to take power away from us': Militias are stepping up as anti-maskers see lockdowns as the end of America
People take part in a protest for "Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine" at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing. AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY.

Those protesting the protections in place for the coronavirus see it as the beginning of the end of America itself. Some are ready to go to war to do what they think is saving the country.

An extensive New Yorker story with interviews of the anti-mask conspiracy theorists revealing their paranoia about the end of the world being ushered in not by a highly contagious disease, but by masks and restricted movements until the virus is under control or there's a vaccine.

Barber Karl Manke sees himself as a patriot for not wearing a mask and refusing to close his shop.

“My father was a barber,” a man in Manke's chair said. “He believed in everything you believe in. Freedom. We’re the last holdout in the world.”

“We did this in 1776, and we’re doing it again now,” Manke agreed.

"He had a weakness for pat aphorisms, his delight in them undiminished by repetition: 'Politicians come to do good and end up doing well'; 'You can’t fool me, I’m too ignorant,'" wrote the New Yorker's Luke Mogelson. "In the several days that I spent at the barbershop, I heard Manke give countless customers the same stump speech. Until the pandemic, he’d never witnessed such 'government oppression'; Whitmer was not his mother; he’d close his shop when they dragged him out in handcuffs, or when he died, or when Jesus came—'whichever happens first.' His admirers could not have asked for a better paragon of the mythical era when America was great."

That day Glenn Beck called to talk about his resistance. Manke said it doesn't even feel like "my country anymore."

Outside, the writer met 68-year-old Roger Ball, who claimed that all of it had nothing to do with the virus.

“This has nothing to do with the virus,” Ball said. “This has to do with power. They want to take power away from the people, and they want to control us.”

He threatened that he was "a trigger-pull away" from "where people have had enough."

When the founding fathers were writing the Constitution, they likely never prepare for a violent overthrow of the United States because people were asked to wear masks.

In Grand Rapids, Sheriff Dar Leaf was one of those who refused to follow the Michigan order to wear a mask. He said that he was looking to grand juries to indict people after protests at the state capitol went badly.

Speaking to a group at the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, Leaf addressed the tyranny of the mask order. The group "holds that county sheriffs retain supreme authority within their jurisdictions to interpret the law and that their primary responsibility is to defend constituents from government overreach. Cracking down on illegal immigration is also paramount," the report explained.

And at the close of his speech, the sheriff called up militia co-founder Phil Robinson

"With a shaved head and a graying beard spliced into long braids, Robinson lives up to his nom de guerre and Facebook handle: Odin Heathen," the story continued. "I saw him at several events, always in black cargo pants, a flak jacket, and tactical gloves, with a sidearm and a long gun."

“This is our last home defense right here, ladies and gentlemen,” Leaf said. He looked toward Robinson’s assault weapon, adding, “These guys have better equipment than I do. I’m lucky they got my back.”

“That’s right!” Robinson said with a laugh.

At another event, the American Patriot Council, organizers spotted a white man wearing black clothes and a face mask. "This is Antifa!" he shouted.

"At first, Phil Robinson and the rest of the Michigan Liberty Militia attempted to de-escalate tensions, urging people to give the counter-protesters space," said the report. "But when [liberal activist Paul] Birdsong and others raised their fists Robinson lost his equanimity."

“Coming here, disrupting our event?” he yelled. “They have no respect for anybody!”

When the pandemic all began, Trump tried to do the presidential thing, telling Americans, "We must sacrifice together because we are all in this together." But things changed.

"By the summer, Trump had set his sights on a different enemy. On the eve of July 4th, he addressed the country from Mt. Rushmore," wrote the New Yorker. "Barely mentioning the virus, which had killed more than a hundred and thirty thousand Americans, he instead warned of 'a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.' The people behind this scourge were agents of 'far-left fascism' determined “to overthrow the American Revolution.” He intimated civil conflict: 'Tonight, before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did two hundred and forty-four years ago, that we will not be tyrannized—we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people.'”

That language came directly from the far-right anti-government extremist group, the Boogaloo Movement or Boogaloo bois.

Read the full story of how the anti-mask protesters began working with anti-government militias at the New Yorker.