CLARENCE — Before Michael B. Hari’s arrest Tuesday on federal charges in connection with a bombing in Minnesota and an attempted bombing in Champaign, his anti-government militia group planned to hold a protest on Saturday in Hari’s hometown of Clarence, opposing "the FBI and local law enforcement abuse" of the community’s citizens.
"We plan to cook out and serve food," said a March 10 post on mymilitia.com under the screen name Illinois Patriot. "Please come and let the FBI know that breaking in doors, coercing searches and seizures, wiretaps and other such action is not acceptable in America. We are desperately hoping for some size to the crowd."
Less than a week earlier, Hari’s organization — the White Rabbit 3 Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia, also known as the White Rabbits — posted a YouTube video in which its ski-mask-wearing members requested other militia groups across the nation to join them in helping them "take our town back."
Ford County Sheriff Mark Doran said he was aware of Hari’s organization and its contacts with other militant groups. Doran said Wednesday he remains concerned about the organization, even though Hari and three other members, all from Clarence, had been taken into federal custody for possession of a machine gun, a charge intended to hold them while the government seeks additional charges.
"Yeah, I’m still concerned about it because you have no idea (what could happen)," Doran said. "I know (Hari has) had contacts in several different states, and we are aware of his contacts with other militia groups. So it is a concern that other people, not knowing the situation, may come to the Ford County area to conduct operations, militia-type operations, here in Ford County. That is a concern, but we are aware of it."
Doran added that if the protest goes on as planned, "we’ll head over that way and make sure things stay peaceful."
Hari, a former Ford County sheriff’s deputy and one-time Libertarian candidate for sheriff, is believed to have been the leader of the White Rabbits, whose members wear ski-masks, boots, olive-colored shirts and pants and a round patch depicting a white rabbit and the phrase "Ain’t No Fun When the Rabbit Got the Gun."
The group practices "armed resistance" — "anything from simply marching or protesting with a weapon in hand to actively resisting government authority" — but the group claims it does not condone acts of violence such as terrorism, lynching or rioting.
"We don’t do terrorism. We don’t do assassination. We don’t murder policemen. That’s not the kind of revolution this is," a White Rabbits member says on one YouTube video.
"You don’t necessarily have to have a weapon to belong," the member continues. "If you’re brave and you’re committed to liberty, that’s all we’re going to require of you."
Ironically, the four White Rabbits members charged by the U.S. government — the 47-year-old Hari, along with Michael McWhorter, 29, Joe Morris, 22, and Ellis "E.J." Mack, 18 — are believed to have been responsible for at least two acts of terrorism — the Aug. 5, 2017, firebombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., and the Nov. 7, 2017, attempted firebombing of the Women’s Health Practice at 2125 S. Neil St. in Champaign.
Hari is also suspected of placing "multiple explosive devices" at a neighbor’s property on Main Street in Clarence in February and sending an anonymous tip to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Hari is currently charged in Ford County Circuit Court with the assault of the man on whose property the devices were found.
It was following that February incident that Hari and his group went to YouTube to express their frustrations with the federal and local law enforcement agencies that were investigating. Calling it "The Clarence Crisis," the White Rabbits said the constitutional rights of their members and Clarence’s citizens were violated when agents would not allow them onto their own properties as the investigation was under way.
"They sealed off the north end of town," a White Rabbits member says on a YouTube video. "They searched a lot of properties with no consent — no warrant, no nothing. They told property owners to get lost. They blockaded driveways, wouldn’t let people get home.
"They claimed it was because of some kind of bomb scare. They claimed to have detonated some devices up there. But we don’t really know of any such thing to be a fact. It’s just what we were told.
"But definitely people in the community were alarmed at the intrusion. People were definitely upset over what happened."
Federal authorities then visited Clarence again, this time seizing some weapons and cell phones from a White Rabbits member’s home, according to the YouTube video.
"We’re asking for militia support to come and help us with this situation, because we feel like, first off, it’s really bad precedent, and, secondly, all of our liberties are on the line. If they can come into a town like ours and just rule it like they have, then they can do this anywhere. ... We need you to come and stand with us."
The White Rabbits claim that about half of the homes in the small rural community of Clarence have at least one household member who belongs to their group. The organization claims that the federal government used "this whole pipe-bomb situation" at Hari’s neighbor’s property "solely as a pretext to go after our organization."
"They became aware of our organization; they became aware that it was gaining some power and some traction and that our little community actually represented a lot of the people (in the organization), and they decided to crush that, to put an end to that, by terrorizing the people," a White Rabbits member says in a YouTube video. "And that just absolutely cannot stand.
"We need to at least have some kind of protest to show that this doesn’t stand in America. We need to have some kind of protest to come out of this whole situation. That’s really what we need — some way that we can speak back to this and say, ‘Hey, this is not acceptable. You don’t come into our communities and threaten our mothers; you don’t come in here and threaten out fathers; you don’t come in here and threaten people; you don’t seize their cell phones; you don’t just run wild over a whole town.’"
The White Rabbits member who appears on all of the group’s YouTube videos never discloses his name, but he does disclose that he is a former police officer in one of the videos. Meanwhile, the writer with the user name Illinois Patriot on mymilitia.com says on one post that he was a 1998 Libertarian Party candidate for sheriff and served on the Ford County Board of Assessments as a Libertarian, while also being a Waco protestor. All of those are elements of Hari’s storied past.
The White Rabbits believe socialism and Marxism is encroaching upon America.
"You can read what we believe on our website," a White Rabbits member says on one YouTube clip. "There’s some kind of inflammatory language on there, but if you read what we’re really about, it shouldn’t be controversial to any Americans. We stand against corruption. We stand against the regulation and taxation that’s taken over this country, the political correctness, just plain socialism that’s creeping up everywhere we look. ...
"If you feel like your freedoms are being curtailed and every day you’re getting a little further away from the country you grew up in, then probably you’re already one of us."