Editor’s note: See update below
Groups of volunteer military special operations veterans are monitoring for voter intimidation at several polling sites across the country, and their leader took time today to talk to TheBlaze about it.
Retired Navy Capt. Ben Brink, president of Get Out the Vet, told TheBlaze his covert teams have spotted New Black Panther Party members in Philadelphia and in Cleveland and are recording their activities and watching for potential problems.
“We have teams in about six cities. They’re not big teams, but special forces guys don’t need to be big teams,” said Brink, whose background is in intelligence. “They’re in various places at various times, very close to them. We had one that was actually eating lunch next to a bunch of [New Black Panthers]…it’s just like these guys do in the field.”
Brink said his volunteers, who include Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and even one former Israeli Defense Forces member, are not confronting the New Black Panthers but observing their activities near polling sites.
“We hatched the idea that we might be able to reduce the amount of voter intimidation by getting some of our folks out in the field on Election Day,” he said. They’re recording suspicious activity and reporting any incidents they find to the police and to the media.
He said that despite reports, things were relatively quiet in Philadelphia where one New Black Panther Party member was spotted.
“The only thing that’s been seen is one dejected New Black Panther Party member kinda standing on the stairs,” Brink said. “Sort of reminded me of going to Berlin right as the wall was coming down, having all the dejected Soviet troops up on the memorial there walking back and forth saying I’ve lost.”
“There’s one [New Black Panther Party member] that’s been sighted, there’s a lot of rumors there. We have people on the ground, we have intelligence that they actually set up a unit to try to find us,” he continued. “And so we’re hopeful by the end of the day we’ll have some photographs of those folks but we don’t have them yet. We think we know where they are and we’re doing that.”
Brink said there was some New Black Panther Party activity in Cleveland on Monday, and that his team received reports of about seven members out on Tuesday.
“We’ve got the team there and they’re following them right now,” he said.
He said his teams will be out until the polls close or as long as they’re needed. Despite the “thousands of tweets” he’s received, his volunteers are not confronting potential election law violators, only watching them.
“That’s not our purpose,” he said. “We felt that with a few teams we can observe if there’s anything going on and we can make it visible…and by doing that we can discourage some people from doing this.”
He said military veterans are uniquely suited to protect free and fair elections.
“Every veteran at one time in their life has taken an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” he said. “We are not assuming the role of police or vigilante. We’re citizens that want to see a free and fair election [and] that includes things like fighting voter fraud.”
Brink added, “They’re having lot of fun. For them it’s more of a game than anything else. The point was making sure that everybody knew we would be watching. And that’s what what we’re doing, we’re watching.”
Update: Brink tells TheBlaze the number of New Black Panthers in Cleveland has grown to 11. They have settled in a cafe across from the election commission and are not doing anything but appear to be waiting for something.