A group of radical COVID conspiracy theorists calling itself Alpha Men Assemble is holding combat training exercises in the UK, in what experts say is a troubling sign of the growing militancy of the "resistance" against coronavirus-related restrictions.
The group’s next meet-up is due to be held in Chasewater Country Park, north of Birmingham on Saturday. The hardline sovereign citizen group has nearly 7,000 followers on Telegram, the preferred messaging app of the conspiracy-addled movement opposed to lockdowns, vaccines and other coronavirus measures.
“We are doing this for our children and their future,” read a post in the channel advertising the meet-up, which it said was “for training and strategy tactics.”
“The time for talk is done.”
Footage posted to the channel from the group’s last meetup, held in West Sussex in south-east England on the 28th of December, showed scores of people – mostly men, with some women – participating in boxing training and other physical drills on a beach. Messages from a group administrator posted on Telegram and seen by VICE World News instruct attendees to wear a black uniform to Saturday’s meeting, where people will be recruited to carry out the group’s first direct action “task.”
A moderator for Alpha Men Assemble did not respond to a VICE World News request for comment on why the group had formed, or what direct action it had planned.
Footage from a video posted on the Alpha Men Assemble Telegram channel
Experts say the group’s activities mark a concerning new direction for the COVID-denying “freedom” movement, which had been linked to increasingly radical action recently.
“There’s no way in which this isn’t a worrying development,” said Joe Ondrak, the head of investigation for Logically, a tech company that combats online disinformation.
He told VICE World News that despite the group’s insistence it was non-violent, it was clearly echoing the rhetoric and ideology of violent far-right fascist movements.
“They’re very much attempting to portray themselves as this masculine ideal, as freedom fighters,” he said.
“If Alpha Men Assemble were a US-based group, those videos would have them shooting guns in a field, without a shadow of a doubt.”
One of the attendees at the previous meet-up is an influencer in the UK COVID-conspiracy scene named “Danny,” who runs “Truth Pills,” a Telegram channel with nearly 30,000 followers, devoted to exposing “the COVID hoax, governments, paedophiles and everything else against humanity!”
In a video posted to Telegram, he praised the Alpha Men Assemble group as “the path we need to be taking.”
“This is what I’ve been waiting for: some leadership, some organisation, some real, real stuff,” he said in the video.
“These dirty disgusting governments, police, doctors, nurses – we know who our enemy is now.”
He said that one of the organisers who had spoken at the previous meet was a former soldier, who – to Danny’s amazement – had been vaccinated against COVID, before joining the “resistance.”
“This guy’s double-jabbed! He took the poison,” said Danny. “But it shows the mark of that man, and his character, to realise the error of his ways … and do the right thing, which is join the right side and help the rest of us.”
He said that vaccinated people were welcome to join the movement.
“You’ve played their game long enough. Now come over to us, we’ll look after you. This is what we want – we want to network, we want to build – build enough of a bigger, stronger community where we can ignore these fuckers,” he said.
“We can get away from their systems, but we need to meet up in numbers, we need to exchange contacts and details, and we need to plan going forward.”
Footage from a video posted on the Alpha Men Assemble Telegram channel
Contacted by email for comment, Danny – who would not give his last name – said he would not agree to speak until VICE World News reported “that the government have turned against the people and [are] unnecessar[il]y killing men, women and children.”
He then denied any involvement in Alpha Men Assemble, before saying he had heard that Saturday’s meet-up had been cancelled because “a lot of journalists want to infiltrate tomorrow and paint concerned mums and dads as some kind of vigilante domestic terror group.”
“You are a part of the enslavement of your own people and children,” he said.
Alpha Men Assemble’s channel makes clear that it is a sovereign citizen movement, aligned to the British strain of the conspiracy theory, which focuses on so-called “common law.”
Sovereign citizen ideology – whose followers, broadly, use convoluted, pseudo-legal arguments to claim they are somehow “sovereign” and exempt from the law – is a fringe conspiracy theory that has been supercharged worldwide during the pandemic, finding new followers among the “resistance” or “freedom” movements who are opposed to vaccines and lockdowns and believe coronavirus is a plot to control the public.
Ondrak said that sovereign citizen “common law” ideology had become ubiquitous within the UK coronavirus conspiracy scene, gaining traction among protesters who believed it gave them a legal framework for their opposition to COVID vaccine rollouts and government restrictions. Sovereign citizens have become known for disruptive protests at medical centres and schools where COVID vaccines are being given, serving baseless legal threats (“notices of liability”) against politicians, scientists, officials and even celebrities associated with the vaccine rollout, and threatening to put them on trial in “common law courts.”
Sovereign citizens in the UK’s COVID-conspiracy movement have even deputised their own “peace constables” – a sort of self-appointed vigilante police force, intended to protect protesters and “uphold” common law – and set up underground “learning hubs” to support children who have been pulled out of mainstream education in opposition to schools-based COVID vaccine rollouts.
In his video, Danny from “Truth Pills” said the head of one such hub for homeschooled children, HOPE Sussex, had given a speech at the previous Alpha Men’s Assemble meet-up, and urged fellow activists to donate to the facility. HOPE Sussex did not respond to a VICE World News request for comment.
Despite Alpha Men Assemble’s insistence that it is non-violent, the group’s mobilisation comes amid increasingly radical direct action and violent rhetoric from the British COVID conspiracy movement.
On the 29th of December, militant protesters stormed an NHS Test and Trace facility in Milton Keynes, northwest of London, trashing equipment, and resulting in one protester being arrested on suspicion of violent disorder and assaulting an emergency worker. Earlier that month, Piers Corbyn, a prominent figure in the anti-lockdown “freedom” movement and the brother of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was arrested on suspicion of encouraging people to commit arson, after he was filmed at a protest calling on people to “to hammer to death those scum” who supported coronavirus restrictions” and burn down the offices of MPs in favour of such measures.
Meanwhile, as the vaccine rollout in schools has fuelled a hysterical, QAnon-influenced campaign to “save the children,” the rhetoric from the anti-lockdown has become increasingly unhinged.
“Under common law, the penalty [for] treason is death by the gallows!” reads the caption on one video circulating on Telegram, where sovereign citizens are “serving” their pseudo-legal documents in the Royal Courts of Justice.
Ondrak, the Logically expert, said that while the rhetoric and aesthetics of the group suggested it was headed on a dangerous trajectory, he hoped that the group’s apparent concern to present itself as a respectable force would hold it back from pursuing political violence.
“They still hold on to the idea of optics and trying to appear respectable, whereas the fascist groups that they’re mimicking don’t really care about the normies,” he said.
“I think that’s the one thing that will hold them back from violence.”