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Out-of-state groups influencing Wisconsin Safer at Home protests and rallies

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – While many Wisconsinites with genuine concerns about the extension of the Safer at Home order organize on social media to share their voice on the topic, some groups and events have influence from outside the state.

One of those groups is Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine, a Facebook group with more than 105,000 members. The group’s description has a link that directs people to the website for the Wisconsin Firearms Coalition. One of the administrators in that Facebook group and the political director of the coalition is Ben Dorr, a Minnesota resident.

“Ben Dorr, who’s here in Minnesota, is one of many siblings who have these sort of pro-gun, anti-abortion franchises in multiple states,” Catharine Richert, a senior reporter at Minnesota Public Radio told CBS 58. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Richert was investigating the Dorr family for a separate story but soon revived that story when it became apparent that the family was organizing various anti-stay-at-home-order protests and rallies across the country, including in Wisconsin.

You can learn more about Richert’s story by clicking here.

The Wisconsin Firearms Coalition is just one of several affiliated organizations in various states that the Dorrs are involved with. On top of that, the family uses social media to spread its message and raise money. Ben Dorr in particular, Richert said, has “playbook” of making long videos at the Minnesota State Capitol and posting them on social media, where he makes his calls for action and fund raising.

Richert learned that the family has its own direct mail printing company, based in Iowa.

“What their tax documents would reveal is that they spend a lot of money on direct mail,” Richert told CBS 58. “They’re saying it’s being done in-house, and the same company that does that direct mail is sometimes listed as doing management or consulting activity for these nonprofits in Iowa, Minnesota [and] Ohio.”

Because of that, Richert said, some questions have been brought up about the family’s motives.

“What that has said to their detractors is that they’re basically raising money to spend money on their business and that has raised some red flags here in Minnesota.”

While the family’s organizations align with conservative viewpoints, they often criticize conservative politicians for not going far enough on issues like Second Amendment rights and abortion.

Now, the family – including Ben – is using sentiment against stay at home orders to their benefit.

“What the Dorr brothers have done, at least in Minnesota, have sort of tapped into that frustration and anger, and amplified it,” Richert said.

On Monday, Dorr wrote on Twitter that a drive-in rally is scheduled to happen on Friday at the capitol square in Madison. However, another rally that has been planned since last week is set to occur simultaneously. One of the organizers of that separate rally told CBS 58 that their event is in no way affiliated with Dorr’s drive-in event.

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