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Vigilante Militia

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Your town or city has become infested with crime. The Police are Useless, or crooked, or both. Same goes for the politicians. However, you aren't willing to see your hometown fall into a Wretched Hive of scum and villainy so easily. What do you do? Become a Vigilante Man of course!

However, you may quickly find that cleaning up the streets on your own is easier said than done. Worse, if an organised crime group like The Mafia or The Cartel, or other similar organizations are involved you'll be dealing with armed hitmen who are trained to kill. Luckily, you know where you can find some like-minded individuals to join you on your quest for justice. This is where the Vigilante Militia comes in.

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Subtrope of Vigilante Man, this group is dedicated to hunting down and striking fear into the hearts of criminals. Often they may be either people who have been wronged by criminals in some way, or simply people looking to make their hometown safe for everyone. Sometimes, they may have someone or multiple people in their ranks who are former law enforcement officers. This will be especially true if they were Cowboy Cops who either resigned or were kicked off the force because of their disdain for procedure.

The Militia's size will vary from work to work. Sometimes they will have a small number of people, while other times they may be the size of an entire army. If the group is one of the larger kind then they may set up a certain way their operatives work depending on their style. They can have their members operate as individuals, or in teams. If they are especially large, they may even be able to operate in places outside their normal city. Perhaps sending people to fight throughout the entire country, or even world. In contrast, smaller teams will usually (though not always) stick together so that they have strength in numbers.

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Just like the individual version of this trope, Vigilante Man, there can be both good and bad examples of this. A "good" Vigilante Militia, will avoid confrontation with the police as much as possible, will focus all efforts on safeguarding innocent lives, and will try to capture their targets alive so that they can be turned over to the police and receive a proper trial. They will often have support among the police force, who will often tell the press the vigilantes "escaped" before they could be arrested. In contrast, "bad" militias will have no qualms about killing their targets. They will engage in Vigilante Executions and this time they can actually form their own firing squad. Bad groups will also fight with the police as well, sometimes even as much as the actual criminals. And if they are one of the larger organizations, as explained above, they may actually be able to take over a part of the town, or even the entire city, effectively overthrowing the legal authorities and seizing power.

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If the members have super powers, then they become a Super Team, which can overlap with this trope if they operate without any official government sanction.

If a group of ordinary citizens are organized into a crime-fighting group by an official and deputized law enforcement officer, then they are a Posse, instead of one of these as they operate inside the law and will have been deputized accordingly (there may be borderline cases if a group of Dirty Cops form one, but these are the exception rather than the rule). If it's just a mob whipped up into a frenzy against someone, whether they're guilty or not, and usually disbands right afterwards, that's Torches and Pitchforks. Generally not a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic, although overlap is possible.

See also Vigilante Man, the individual version of this trope. Compare La Résistance (which forms against foreign invasions, not general lawlessness) and The Magnificent Seven Samurai (a group of heroes defends a small community from either bandits or a tyrannical overlord).


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Batman himself has tried to put one together on a couple of occasions, the most recent being "Batman Incorporated" which seeks to recruit other characters to act as Batman-like individuals to fight crime anywhere in the world. They also act as his representatives in this role. Most members have their own superhero names, but Batman is the one uniting them. They operate as individuals, which is fitting as Batman himself kind of likes to work alone or with whichever sidekick he has at the moment.
    • The Executioners from Harleen are a small militia of vigilantes who believe that Batman's no-kill policy is too soft and Arkham itself a Cardboard Prison full of monsters who the police are hilariously out of their depth in facing. Thus, they take it upon themselves to capture and kill criminals they deem to be Karma Houdinis. They're later revealed to be members of the GCPD who have snapped and gone rogue, later becoming Two-Face's Mooks.
    • In The Dark Knight Returns, several members of the defeated Mutants gang become true believers and declare themselves the "Sons of the Batman." Unfortunately, they clean up the streets with the same viciousness that marked their prior affiliation, and Batman has to take them under his wing ... if only to train them in a way that protects Gotham City from their idea of "crimefighting."
  • The Punisher:
    • One story has a trio of men inspired by the Punisher's return to join forces. Unfortunately, their methods are too different (one is a rich WASP (Elite), who shoots drug dealers and poor people hanging around his condo, another is a priest (the Holy) who axe-murders people who confess their deadly sins to him with every intention of going back for more, and the third (Mr. Payback) shoots up a board of Corrupt Corporate Executives (accidentally and unknowingly killing a cleaning lady in the process). They're all killed by the Punisher when he finds out, while Elite's son eventually finds his father's diary and tries to avenge him.
    • In a Take That! to several real-life police groups that have begun superimposiong the Punisher logo over the "Thin Blue Line" flag, another story features a couple cops who come across him proudly displaying his logo on their cars, who are a part of a group of other officers who want to emulate Frank's example. Frank is not amused, and tells them in no uncertain terms if he finds out that they've broken their oaths as officers, he'll be gunning for them next because the police are supposed to be better than him, not sink to his level.
  • In The Order, the Black Dahlias were originally a gang of vigilantes who attacked pimps and rapists in the Los Angeles area. After the events of Civil War, they turned to assassinating current and former members of the Order, realizing that they would not be able to continue their former non-lethal activities as long as California had a government-sanctioned super-team running around.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman's activities have unfortunately inspired several copycat vigilantes to take on the criminal underworld of Gotham. At least some of these are working together, as seen when two or three of them try to take down Scarecrow's operation. Bruce is not happy about this, as these average citizens don't have the same resources he does and are more likely to get themselves killed. Indeed, the Joker starts targeting them in his hunt for the Batman and brutally murders one on camera.
  • Magnum Force: The gruff but honest detective Callahan investigates a series of murders wherein the victims are repeat felons. Callahan deduces correctly that a band of zealous rookie officers have decided to fight crime by acting as judge / jury / executioner as well as arresting officer. Made worse by the chief of the detective division knowingly covering for them.
    Harry Callahan: A man has got to know his limitations.
  • Invasion U.S.A. (1985): An army of terrorists led by a KGB agent infiltrates American society and then unleashes a wave of blood and destruction. Since the terrorists have shown an ability to successfully disguise themselves as police and soldiers, the public is understandably frightened that the officer or soldier guarding the corner might be an enemy undercover. As such, many citizens form armed militias to help guard their communities. A group of them can be seen protecting a convoy of school buses as children are loaded onto them by their parents, who are sending them to the rural areas for safety (similar to what the British did with children from London in World War II). Of course, these militias may not have to worry about too much with Chuck Norris hunting the bad guys!
  • The Mystery Men are composed of three Z-list superheroes: Mister Furious, Blue Raja and The Shoveler. When Captain Amazing gets taken out by The Villain, these three recruit The Bowler, Invisible Boy and The Spleen to the cause of taking down Casanova Frankenstein.
  • Inverted in 5 Card Stud. At the start of the film six men are playing poker. One steps out to use the restroom and while he's gone four of the others discover that the fifth is cheating. This being The Wild West, the only proper response is vigilante justice: they take him out and hang him. Most of the rest of the film concerns a Vigilante Man ( the hanged man's brother, who is masquerading as a minister) hunting down and killing the people involved in the first killing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Narcos: Los Pepes are an anti-communist militia who later take the fight to Pablo Escobar's cartel, enacting vigilante street justice against anyone involved with his drug empire. However, they're also sponsored by several of Escobar's rivals in the cocaine business.
  • In Star Trek: Picard, the collapse of the Neutral Zone in the wake of the Romulan supernova has led to a state of general lawlessness, with various warlords competing for power. In response, a vigilante group called the Fenris Rangers has begun patrolling the area, protecting whomever they can with what little resources they have. Seven of Nine is a member, and makes no apologies for being a Vigilante Woman.

    Radio 
  • The Shadow from the original pulps had an army of agents who assisted him in his war on crime. This may be the Trope Codifier.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the fifth edition Dark Champions book, the sample characters were the members of Libra. This group was a vigilante team formed by the Harbinger of Justice when he realized there were too many crooks in Hudson City for him to take out solo.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade has a group known as the Black Fang, formed by Brendan Reed and his two sons, for the sake of killing corrupt Royals and figures. Their forces composed of both people with noble intentions and undesirables, but they still all fought to stop the corrupt from abusing their power. When Sonia comes into the picture however and gets with their leader, they end up becoming nothing but pawns for Nergal.
  • Gotham City Impostors has a group of vigilantes donning Batman-inspired costumes to fight a gang of Joker wannabes.
  • Between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, Garrus has assembled a group of like-minded vigilantes and former criminals to fight crime on a Wretched Hive that is Omega. Unfortunately, he was betrayed by one of his comrades who lured him to a distraction while all others became sitting ducks.
  • In the original Saints Row, a group of the eponymous district's denizens grows frustrated with their homes being used as a battleground by outside gangs and form a vigilante posse to clean up their 'hood, calling themselves "the Third Street Saints". The Player Character joins the Saints on the eve of their first major offensive. Unfortunately for everyone, once they get a taste for success, the Saints themselves become the biggest gang in the city. In the later installments, they abandon any pretence of vigilantism under the player character's leadership.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic. Republic players on Coruscant have to deal with the Justicars who are a bad example of this trope. An organization of ex-military personnel who came home after the first war with the Sith Empire to find their homes overrun by violent gangs like Black Sun. They banded together to reclaim the streets on Coruscant's lower levels. At first Coruscant's police were happy to have them around, but then the Justicars began fighting them as well, apparently deciding the government was just as guilty. They have the manpower and firepower to seize control of an entire sector on the lower level, where they impose martial law and arrest, or just execute anyone who breaks their rules, no matter the circumstances. Worse, it's revealed that they are secretly supported by the Sith Empire. Still, they are better then their main enemies, the Always Chaotic Evil Black Sun criminal organization.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • During the ongoing drug war in Mexico, the drug cartels have killed anyone who looks at them funny, much less people who stand up to them. As such, entire armies of armed vigilantes have formed in the affected areas. One issue facing Mexican authorities has been figuring out how to handle them.
  • The Colombian super-cartels faced the same problem in The '80s and The '90s, especially Pablo Escobar's medellin cartel as his terror tactics made him public enemy number one. Los Pepes in particular proved to be a highly effective vigilante militia, having started out fighting communist insurgents in the jungle.
  • Ironically, The Mafia itself started out as organized vigilantes after the annexation of Sicily when the new authorities couldn't handle the chaos of introducing capitalism to a post-feudal society. It's one of the possible origins of the Yakuza too.
  • The Montana Vigilantes tracked ruffians, robbers and desperados in the 1860's and 1870's Montana. Their symbol was "3-7-77", which they painted on the tents and houses of known troublemakers and which is still used today by the Montana Highway Patrol, which elected to put this symbol on their uniform patch on 1956.
  • Various locales in India formed of women have formed in response to how poorly many women are treated there, taking revenge on rapists that escape justice or just teaching lessons to abusive husbands.

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