Militia founder disbands faction

TRAVERSE CITY _ Norman Olson, a founder of the independent militia movement in Michigan, said Monday he was disbanding the faction he leads.

He blamed declining interest. "We haven't had a good Waco lately to fuel the engine," he said, referring to the 1994 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that ended in the fiery deaths of some 80 people.

But Lynn Jon Van Huizen, the Muskegon gun shop owner who defeated Olson for president of the statewide militia group, insisted Michigan's militia movement is still operating. "We have not disbanded," he said today.

Olson, who owns a gun store in Alanson, said he had "deactivated" the Northern Michigan Regional Militia on Sunday _ seven years to the day after he and colleague Ray Southwell established it.

The group expanded statewide in 1994 and was renamed Michigan Militia Corps, and later Michigan Militia Corps Wolverine. Olson broke with the Corps in 1995, saying it was growing soft, and re-established the Northern Michigan faction.

The militia movement drew wide attention after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, who is scheduled to be executed May 16.

Terry Nichols, serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing, is believed to have attended at least one meeting of a Michigan militia group but leaders say he was asked to leave and never became a member.

Olson said his group still had about 100 members but that few were interested in the paramilitary survival exercises he considers essential.

The militia movement, which believes citizens should arm themselves to repel tyranny from a "one-world" government, is fading nationally, Olson said. That is happening in part because the election of President Bush has convinced many supporters the danger has passed, he said.

"The militia grew because of fear and without fear, the militia will recede. ... The stock market is going up and people have the feeling George Bush is America's savior. They have cable TV and the beer's cold and we get that lackadaisical carelessness."

Olson and Southwell claimed the Japanese government had masterminded the bombing, prompting other militia leaders to oust them.

Olson later sought re-election as statewide militia head but lost to Van Huizen. Olson re-established his Northern Michigan Regional Militia.

Tom Wayne, executive officer of the Wolverines, said Monday Olson had only a few loyalists after losing the election. "He wasn't a team player," Wayne said.

He said the Wolverines were still active and were gaining support, learning survival skills and remaining vigilant.

"It hasn't faded," Wayne said. "A lot more people are aware of what's going on today than they were six years ago."