WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. has arrested three men suspected of being members of a neo-Nazi hate group, including a former reservist in the Canadian Army, who had weapons and discussed traveling to a pro-gun rally next week in Richmond, Va., in anticipation of a possible race war.
The men were taken into custody on Thursday morning as part of a long-running investigation into the group, known as The Base. The men were charged with various federal crimes in Maryland, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the case. They were scheduled to appear in federal court before a judge on Thursday afternoon.
One of the men, Patrik Mathews, a main recruiter for the group, entered the United States illegally from Canada, according to the officials. Mr. Mathews was trained as a combat engineer and was considered an expert in explosives. He was dismissed from the Canadian Army after his ties to white supremacists surfaced.
The Base has become a growing concern for the F.B.I. as it has worked to recruit more people to its violent cause. The Base is an “accelerationist group that encourages the onset on anarchy,” according to the Counter Extremism Project, a group that tracks far-right extremists.
Former law enforcement officials say the Base, along with another white supremacist group known as Atomwaffen, have become priorities for the F.B.I. Several members of the group have recently been arrested. In November, the F.B.I. arrested a young man in New Jersey, who was suspected of recruiting on behalf of The Base and of advocating violence, including the killing of black people with a machete.
On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia declared a state of emergency and announced a temporary ban on weapons on the grounds of the State Capitol ahead of the rally. Thousands of protesters are expected to converge in Richmond on Monday to protest proposed restrictions on gun purchases by the Virginia Legislature.
The governor said on Twitter that the authorities had identified credible “threats of violence,” including from out-of-state militia groups and hate groups that planned disruptions. He said the authorities had also found extremist rhetoric online similar to what had been seen in 2017 before the Charlottesville rally, when white nationalists and counterprotesters clashed in a deadly fight over the removal of Confederate monuments.
Protesters were expected to descend on the State Capitol on Monday, which is a federal holiday for Martin Luther King’s Birthday.