Mich. militia founder heads for Alaska

Norman Olson plans ‘strategic retreat’ after group casts him aside
AP, Aug. 28, 2002

TRAVERSE CITY — In the mid-1990s, Norman Olson lorded over the Michigan Militia, a brash, camouflage-clad preacher and gun dealer who railed at the government and trained his troops in the north woods.

By decade’s end, the militia’s main body had cast aside its founder, accusing Olson of being too radical and self-serving. Now the 55-year-old Olson has raised the white flag in his home state and plans a move to the Alaskan wilderness.

“Everybody understands what strategic retreat is all about,” Olson said Monday. “I would like to see a win (in Michigan), but I’m not seeing it. Alaska is a state that offers some hope.”

Olson’s 120-acre property near Alanson — formerly a Michigan Militia training ground — is for sale. He plans to move his family and followers to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula after the sale.

“I’m going to go up there and get involved in the Alaskan Independence Movement,” he said. “I may get involved in politics. I may run for governor.”

Lynn Van Huizen succeeded Olson as state commander of the Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines in 1996. Van Huizen blames Olson for negative publicity the militia received in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“He was just too far out there,” Van Huizen said. “He wanted a revolution. Fortunately, most of us had more sense than that.”

Lloyd Meyer, an assistant United States attorney in Grand Rapids who has successfully prosecuted militia-related cases in southwest Michigan, agreed.

“He was a false prophet who led people astray thinking the United States of America was the enemy,” Meyer said. “Since 9-11, he didn’t fit the times.”

Olson offered no apologies for his militia activities. Today’s militia is too complacent and Alaskans tend to share his suspicion of government and staunch desire for self-determination, he said.

“In Michigan, I thought we could establish a beachhead,” Olson said. “I’m afraid that over the last four years, the fire’s gone out in the bellies of the patriots. We no longer shake the guns in the faces of the (bureaucrats and politicians).”

Olson hopes to start a church and coax members of his Michigan congregation to follow him and his family. And he said he doesn’t fear Alaskan winters.

“I’ll take blinding blizzards as opposed to jackbooted thugs marching up my driveway any day,” he said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday August 29, 2002.
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