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Anti-vaxxers assemble for message of ‘war’ against democratic society

Alpha Men Assemble says it is harmless, but there is a sinister edge to the UK group’s boot camp


Covid-sceptic and anti-vax group Alpha Men Assemble meet and 'train' with a tug-o-war

Covid-sceptic and anti-vax group Alpha Men Assemble meet and 'train' with a tug-o-war

Covid-sceptic and anti-vax group Alpha Men Assemble meet and 'train' with a tug-o-war

The dog-walkers around Chasewater Country Park near Wolverhampton couldn’t believe their eyes. Next to the playground there were 200 people, dressed in black, doing military-style drills. Part of the group were in a giant rolling scrum, practising moving as a unit through police lines. Another group were doing boxing drills. The rest were standing in a line, arms by their sides, listening to an ex-soldier, dressed in fatigues, barking out instructions.

From a distance it all looked suitably ominous. Up close, the atmosphere was actually quite friendly part team-building exercise, part paramilitary cosplay.

The group is called Alpha Men Assemble. They were formed a couple of months ago online, and have about 7,500 people on their Telegram channel. This was one of a number of training sessions organised around Britain recently. Although the majority of the group were white men, there was a degree of diversity in terms of background, ethnicity and politics.

What brings them together? A belief the pandemic is an orchestrated exercise in curtailing freedom and that vaccinations are a supra-state instrument of control. The other thing that binds them together, as with similar groups in America, is a profound distrust of almost all institutions: central and local government, the media, and the legal system.

But, why the military-style high jinks? We got mixed messages. Myself, my producer and our cameraman had been invited to the session and the group’s leaders were "on message” in front of the camera. We were told part of the reason for the training was to teach people how to handle themselves when they came up against the police at anti-vax street demonstrations.

Another reason: they were vetting potential candidates for some form of “direct action” in the weeks to come, to see whether they had what it took for some unspecified, high-profile act of protest. Gary Ross  one of the trainers, wearing his green Royal Irish Regiment beret — also explained it was about bringing people together.

“At the end of the day we’re a number of individuals who don’t know each other and like any military unit you have to bond and come together to work as one. There’s no unarmed combat, ninja-style warrior stuff because we’re all lawful.”

So self-defence, demonstrations prep and camaraderie, yes, but there’s more to it than that. At various points during the day we were asked to move some distance away from the group and not film  for example, during some of the pep talks given by the instructors. However, the Daily Mail newspaper had an undercover reporter in the crowd pretending to be an activist.

Turns out the group see themselves as being in the vanguard of a physical struggle with the authorities when it comes to Covid they are preparing for some sort of "war”. The Daily Mail recorded one of Gary’s pep talks. It had a more sinister tone, compared to the Kumbaya, My Lord vibes he had given us.

“It’s very draining, mentally and physically, this war we are fighting. And it is a war, not a war like I was used to when I signed up to the military where you had two opposing sides. This is a war unknown in history because this is a war waged on its people by its governments.”

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The group produce their own videos which they post on the messaging service Telegram. Back in December a member called Samuel, who described himself as the group’s founder, posted: “Who wants to arrest a corrupt paedophile MP or a corrupt police Constable or even a judge? I’m game if you are.” 

We first met the Alpha Men Assemble a couple of days beforehand when they joined others demonstrating outside the Law Courts in Exeter, Devon. The case being heard inside has become totemic for these activists.

It is complicated and newsworthy but involves local social services, so the magistrate has imposed reporting restrictions — which is interpreted by the activists as us trying to cover something up.

After the demonstration outside court, the crowd, about 150 strong, marched to the offices of Devon County County. Many of the people I spoke to in the crowd were part of the Common Law or Sovereign Citizens movement. It’s an alternative pseudo legal system that activists believe kicks in when authorities are acting against the people. Some of the Alpha Men Assemble members double up as so-called “common law constables”.

They demanded to meet an official whom they could “serve papers” on. The “summons”, which has no legal weight whatsoever, was a bundle of papers the activists said amounted to evidence that the pandemic was a hoax. In the activists’ minds, when “the reckoning” comes the fact the council received this dossier means they will be liable in the future for some sort of perceived misdemeanour. An activist who said he was a “common law constable” handed over the paperwork to a council worker called Sue, who politely asked they book an appointment next time.

Some of the people we spoke to at the demonstrations had first-hand experiences of social services. Their mistrust of state institutions appears to go back a long way  part of the reason why “protecting children” is so central to the narrative.

A common theme is that state institutions and the law are not working for them, giving them licence to take the law into their own hands. So, for example, the notion of “Common Law” has been the ideology used by believers to justify going into hospitals to remove patients with Covid.

It hit the headlines in Ireland last year when an activist called Antonio Mureddu encouraged a Covid patient to leave Letterkenny University Hospital. The patient, Joe McCarron (67) from Dungloe, was readmitted a day later but died shortly after.

The activists I met have serious questions to ask themselves about their beliefs and their methods. But the pandemic has disconnected many of us from each other in different ways. The danger for civic society is that for some that disconnect becomes permanent, becomes potent.

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