U.S. survival camps to activate due to fear of election violence

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) - A chain of U.S. survival communities plan to activate and open to members for the first time over fears of violence following the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Fortitude Ranch camps in West Virginia and Colorado will open on election day to protect members, the company's October newsletter said. Regardless of whether Republican President Donald or Democratic challenger Joe Biden wins the election, Fortitude Ranch expects possible "looting and violence" that could devolve into long-term, widespread clashes, the newsletter said.

Fortitude Ranch CEO Drew Miller said some on social media feared civil war, and he did not rule out the possibility.

"This will be the first time we have opened for a collapse disaster, though it may end up not being so,” said Miller in an emailed statement. "We consider the risk of violence that could escalate in irrational, unpredictable ways into widespread loss of law and order is real."

Fortitude Ranch set up its first camp in West Virginia in 2015 and has two more in Colorado. For an annual fee of around $1,000, members can vacation at camps in good times, and use them as a refuge in the event of a societal collapse. Members are required to own either a rifle or shotgun to defend the communities. The company does not disclose membership numbers.

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U.S. security officials have warned that violent domestic extremists pose a threat to the presidential election, citing rising political tensions, civil unrest and foreign disinformation campaigns. FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memos said threats by domestic extremists to election-related targets will likely increase in the run-up to the election.

and some Republican allies have said, without evidence, that a surge in mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic will lead to massive election fraud. Both major political parties have marshaled an army of lawyers to litigate election disputes.

Fears of a disputed or undecided presidential contest have increased interest in the U.S. "prepper" movement, supplied by a multi-billion-dollar industry selling everything from gas masks to dehydrated food to help people survive an apocalypse.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by David Gregorio)

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