Ex-militia leader heading to Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2002

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The founder of a militia group in Michigan said he's planning to move to the Kenai Peninsula after he was cast aside by the militia's main body as being too radical and self-serving.

In the mid-1990s, Norman Olson lorded over the Michigan Militia. The brash, camouflage-clad preacher and gun dealer railed at the government and trained his troops in the north woods at the extreme northern tip of Michigan's lower peninsula.

By decade's end, the militia had cast aside its founder. Now the 55-year-old Olson plans a move to Alaska.

''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 -- formerly a Michigan Militia training ground -- is for sale. He plans to move his family and followers to the Kenai Peninsula after it's sold.

''I'm going to go up there and get involved in the Alaskan Indepen-dence movement,'' he said. ''I may get involved in politics. I may run for governor.''

The Alaskan Independence Party is one of six parties that have spots on the Alaska ballot.

Lynn Van Huizen succeeded Olson as state commander of the Michigan Militia Corps Wolver-ines in 1996. Van Huizen blames Olson for the 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 U.S. attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich., 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 Sept. 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 a 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.

He said he doesn't fear Alaska winters, which on the Kenai Peninsula may actually be milder than the climate at his Michigan home about 80 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie.

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

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