Man who headed white supremacist group in Michigan sentenced

Justen Watkins

A Michigan man described as a leader of a white supremacist group was sentenced to nearly three years in prison Tuesday for conspiring to train for civil disorder, the attorney general’s office said.

Investigators said Justen Watkins and two other men entered vacant state properties in Tuscola County in 2020 to assess whether they could be used as "hate camps" for paramilitary training.

Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe was associated with The Base, a group that has pushed a fringe philosophy advocating mass violence to hasten society’s collapse.

He was sentenced to at least 32 months in prison. A message seeking comment was sent to Watkins’ attorney.

Four members of The Base have been convicted in Tuscola or Washtenaw counties since charges were filed in 2020.

RELATED: Members of neo-Nazi group The Base convicted in domestic terrorism probe in Michigan

"Securing these convictions on the conspiracy to train for civil disorder creates a historic precedent in our state’s court system and conveys the real danger domestic terrorism poses here and around the country," Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

What is The Base?

The Base is a small militant neo-Nazi organization that formed in 2018. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the group embraces "Hitlerian ideology coupled with a mission to prepare for an impending race war."

The Base, which is the English translation of "Al-Qaeda" has largely operated in the virtual space, the ADL said. But actions by its members increasingly show a presence on the ground. Some of those actions have included criminal activity in recent years.

"The group sees non-white people as enemies of the white race and envisions a coming race war, which will be sparked by 'non-European races.'," the ADL said. 

Criminal charges have been brought against members in Georgia, Wisconsin, and now Michigan.