The FBI says it has thwarted a plot to abduct and overthrow Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Mrs Whitmer has become a target of coronavirus sceptics after enacting strict mitigation measures that were overturned by a judge last week.
Officials say the kidnapping plot involved six men who planned to hold a “treason trial” for her. Mrs Whitmer’s office has yet to comment.
In May, armed protesters opposed to lockdown stormed the state capitol.
According to a sworn FBI affidavit, an undercover law enforcement source attended a June meeting in Dublin, Ohio, where a group of Michigan-based militia members discussed overthrowing state governments “that they believed were violating the US Constitution”.
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” the charging document states.
Those arrested include Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Casert and Ty Garbin, whose home was raided by authorities on Wednesday.
The group wished to gather about “200 men” to storm the capitol building and take hostages, including the governor. They hoped to enact their plan before the November presidential election. If that failed, they planned to attack the governor at her home, officials say.
The accused “co-ordinated surveillance of the governors’ vacation home”, said the US Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, adding that they also planned Molotov cocktail attacks on police officers, purchased a taser, and pooled their funds to purchase explosives and tactical equipment.
The men – five of whom are from Michigan and one from Delaware – allegedly planned to hold a “treason trial” against Mrs Whitmer.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, said that in addition to the kidnapping charges, several of the members of the “wolverine watchmen” militia will be charged with gang affiliation and providing material support to terrorists. Mrs Nessel said the militia members hoped to start a civil war.
The militia members held weapons training in several states, and at times attempted to create bombs that were faulty, the FBI says, adding that their training was captured on video.
Numerous violent incidents have been linked to citizen militia groups across the US in recent years. Adherents, who are often white men, sometimes brandish weapons during protests.