Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers

Oath Keepers Logo

Oath Keepers is one of the largest anti-government “patriot” groups in the nation.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) includes the organization in its list of Hate and Extremist Groups and its Patriot Movement Timeline.1 Oath Keepers differs from the 1990s wave of patriot movements in that “full members” of the organization are former and current military and police.

Oath Keepers was registered as a nonprofit in Nevada in 2009.2  Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of the organization, is a Yale graduate and former Congressional staffer for Ron Paul. Founding directors included Richard Mack, who continues as a director and the organization’s most prominent
spokesperson.3 4

The stated purpose of the Oath Keepers is to organize and train current and former military, police, and first responders to refuse to “obey unconstitutional orders.” 5  New members make an oath affirming “ten orders we will not obey” and liken their mission to resisting the tyranny of Nazi Germany. In 2014, the organization claimed 40,000 members in chapters in all fifty states,6 up from 30,000 reported in a 2011 interview with Rhodes in the libertarian Reason Magazine. 7 8  Full membership is available for current and former members of the military, National Guard, Reserves, police, firefighters, and first responders.  Other are eligible for associate membership.

The “Friends of Oath Keepers,” listed on the organization’s website, include the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Tenth Amendment Center, and S.W.A.T. Magazine.

CSPOA9, an organization for “oathkeeper sheriffs,” was founded in 2011 by Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who is known for challenging the Brady Bill in Mack and Printz v. United States. Mack has also been a lobbyist for GOA and co-authored a book with Randy Weaver about Ruby Ridge, the 1992 incident which has served as a rallying cry for Patriot and militia groups.  CSPOA is specifically for sheriffs who would “be willing to interpose on behalf of the people to protect their freedom.”10   The mission is to “train and vet them all [county sheriffs], state by state, to understand and enforce the constitutionally protected Rights of the people they serve, with an emphasis on State Sovereignty and local autonomy.”11  The mission statement continues, “In short, the CSPOA will be the army that sets our country free.”

For both the Oath Keepers and the CSPOA, the enemy keeping the country from being free is the federal government. Both groups promote and train for resistance to “unconstitutional” actions of federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration.  They prioritize fighting any type of gun control.

Rhodes has written that he got the idea for organizing Oath Keepers while volunteering for Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, and first started a blog in which he warned about threats to gun rights in a new administration.  He reposted an article he had written for S.W.A.T. Magazine warning that after being sworn in as president, Hillary Clinton (“Herr Hitlery”) would sign a “total ban on private possession of firearms.”12  Rhodes continued, claiming that the “dominatrix-in-chief” would declare “the entire militia movement” to be enemy combatants, and order resisters of gun confiscation to be shot. The article was accompanied by photographs of Nazi atrocities.13  Oath Keeper media products feature former Congressman Paul, GOA’s Larry Pratt, and “New World Order” or one-world government conspiracists including G. Edward Griffin and Alex Jones.

The Oath Keepers capitalized on the emerging Tea Party movement and the “Ron Paul Revolution” to build its membership.14  As noted in a Mother Jones article on the Oath Keepers, Rhodes sent speakers to administer the organization’s oath at 30 Tea Party rallies in the early days of the movement.15  Association with the Tea Party, and the willingness of local authorities to participate, has enabled Oath Keepers and CSPOA to gain more access to the mainstream than many in the patriot movement of the 1990s.

Photo: Stewart Rhodes, Sheriff Brad Rogers<a href=

Stewart Rhodes,  Sheriff Brad Rogers18 (CSPOA member) and Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore speak at the Bundy ranch in April 2014.19

On April 10, 2014, Oath Keepers posted an announcement about their participation with CSPOA in the Cliven Bundy standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management. “[We must] stand vigil at the Bundy ranch to prevent the Federal Government provocation of violence resulting in another Ruby Ridge or Waco type incident.” 16  Oath Keepers paid for the Elkhart Indiana sheriff to make the trip to participate.17

 

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End Notes

1 http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/summer/meet-the-patriots/the-patriot-movemen

2 http://nvsos.gov/sosentitysearch/CorpDetails.aspx?lx8nvq=s8EtUq7rLzqNBvRDF%252b%252fglQ%253d%253d&nt7=0

3 Other directors listed on the Nevada registration are Jeff Ford, James Hanna, Michele Imburgia, Sharon M. Manery, John Shirley, L. Franklin Shook III, and Jay Stang.  Jay Stang is head of Texas Oath Keepers and the son of the late Alan Stang.

4 Stewart Rhodes continues as president and Richard Mack is on the current board of directors.  Other current directors are Michele Imburgia, L. Franklin Shook III, John D. Shirley, Jay Stang, David Helms, Jeff W. Ford, and Jim Ayala.  http://oathkeepers.org/oktester/board-of-directors/

5 http://oathkeepers.org/oktester/about/

6 https://web.archive.org/web/20140414202439/http://oathkeepers.org/oath/2014/04/10/coalition-of-western-state-legislators-sheriffs-and-veterans-stand-vigil-in-support-of-embattled-nevada-rancher-cliven-bundy-%E2%80%98to-prevent-another-ruby-ridge-or-waco%E2%80%9D/

7 http://reason.com/archives/2011/02/07/an-interview-with-stewart-rhod

8 http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/03/oath-keepers

9 https://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/profiles-on-the-right-constitutional-sheriffs-and-peace-officers-association/

10 http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/winter/resurrection

11 http://cspoa.org/about/message-from-mack/

12 http://oath-keepers.blogspot.com/2009/05/keeping-your-oath-not-just-following.html

13 http://oath-keepers.blogspot.com/2009/05/keeping-your-oath-not-just-following.html

14 For more on the ideology of the Ron Paul Revolution and the promotion of nullification of federal law, see “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right” beginning on page 2 of the Fall 2014 Public Eye. https://www.politicalresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/12/PEfall2013_finalpdf_onserver.pdf

15 http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/03/oath-keepers?page=2

16 Archive of http://oathkeepers.org/oath/2014/04/10/coalition-of-western-state-legislators-sheriffs-and-veterans-stand-vigil-in-support-of-embattled-nevada-rancher-cliven-bundy-%E2%80%98to-prevent-another-ruby-ridge-or-waco%E2%80%9D/

17 http://www.elkharttruth.com/news/politics/Indiana-Buzz/2014/04/29/Elkhart-County-Sheriff-Brad-Rogers-defends-trip-to-Cliven-Bundy-ranch.html

18 http://www.elkhartcountysheriff.com/sheriff.html

19 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVLJnqwIezs

AUDIO: Officer Who Pushed CNN’s Don Lemon Claims There’s a Military Plot For One-World Government

 

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St. Louis County police officer Dan Page is best known for shoving CNN host Don Lemon while the journalist was covering the Michael Brown protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Page has since been suspended after video of his speech to a right-wing militia group, Oath Keepers of St. Louis and St. Charles, was brought to the attention of his superiors. In his speech Page claims to inside knowledge of a grand conspiracy against “Caucasian Christians.” However this is not the only time Page has expressed such views, as PRA has learned, he forcefully touted his claims on the TruNews radio show with Rick Wiles on July 10, 2014.

St. Louis County Officer Dan Page

St. Louis County Officer Dan Page

Wiles’ popular radio show is a combination of end-times prophecy and right-wing conspiracy theories. For example, this past week Wiles interviewed Walid Shoebat, who claimed, “Obama is destroying Christian America. That’s his assignment as a jihadist, it is to destroy Christian America.” Shoebat is a popular speaker on the end-times prophecy circuit, celebrated for his claimed inside knowledge of a Muslim jihadist infiltration of U.S. government. PRA has also reported extensively on Shoebat and his claims, including in our 2011 research report, “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace.”

According to a USA Today interview with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Dan Page joined the police force in 1979, but spent about nine of the last twelve to fifteen years deployed with the Army. Throughout the TruNews interview, embedded below, Wiles addresses Dan Page as Sgt. Major and discusses only his military career. Neither Wiles nor Page mentions Page’s tenure with the St. Louis County Police.

The TruNews radio show starts with a dramatic opening introducing, “Trunews, the only newscast reporting the countdown to the second coming of Jesus Christ, and now for the most powerful hour on radio, here is the end time newsman, Rick Wiles.” Following the introduction, Wiles launches into an introduction of Page as being in charge of U.S. Army special forces in Africa and having inside knowledge of a plot to create a global regime.

Page follows with an equally grandiose and unbelievable account of his military career, recounting military exploits including Vietnam, paratrooper training, training in Germany for psychological and asymmetric warfare, and a recent assignment as the senior enlisted adviser to the commanding officer of Africom. Page mispronounces the names of places and countries with which he is supposedly familiar, while claiming that his military experience has provided him with inside knowledge of a grand worldwide plot to end American sovereignty and a one-world government and military takeover.

Here are a few clips of the interview (the full and unedited version is at the bottom of this article):

Page claims (at about 21 minutes in) that the definition of terrorism has been changed by Homeland Security. Page states:

“It is a Caucasian male 18-65, one who supports the second amendment, one who believes in the second coming of Jesus Christ, one that is against illegal immigration and is against homosexuality and has a definition of traditional marriage. That is their definition of a terrorist.”

Wiles responds, “It has appeared for several years that the Obamanistas are purging the military of the patriots. Is that the case?”

Page then responds, “Yes, that’s absolutely true.” He also gives an account of “four-star generals and above” who he claims were removed by the Obama administration because “of their refusal to support military involvement in domestic affairs.” When Wiles asks Page why none of these generals have spoken out, he implies it is because they don’t want to lose their pensions. Wiles then asks if something significant is in the works for the year 2015. Page claims that he sat in on briefings from very high sources and learned that there is a timeline for orchestrated events that will create havoc worldwide and allow for the supposed globalist takeover.

Wiles also brings up the current influx of refugee children from South America into the United States, and asks Page if it is one of those orchestrated events. Page says it is, and that the wider scenario includes nuclear suitcase bombs, a planned North American Union, and, of course, further “demonization of Caucasian Christians.” Page expresses his belief that the flood of immigrant children is a clandestine operation with the purpose of programming American citizens for the eventual rounding up and imprisonment of their own children. In terms of the timeline for this conspiratorial takeover, Page states that he believes the takeover will be completed by 2017.

The interview closes with the following exchange (at 56:13 in the audio) about the inevitability of the coming one-world government takeover and loss of American sovereignty:

Dan Page: You have to put that [fear] aside] and make some decisions. God put the man in charge of his household to do two things—provide and protect his family. The males in this country are not doing that, they’ve abrogated that to the police department and somebody else to take care of it. It really grieves me to say, no, it can’t be stopped.

If we could get the men mobilized, to get politically active and hold the local and state officials responsible, we could change this. But I would give you some suggestions on this. Focus your attention at the county and state level, such as the sheriff’s office and things like that. Do not give any support to any federal, career politician. Do not donate to the Republican faction or the Democratic faction of the socialist party that we have in charge. Do not contribute anything to them. Stay at the state and local level. Then I think we have a chance.

Rick Wiles: The bottom line is Jesus Christ is our only hope.

Dan Page: I agree with that.

Rick Wiles: Unless this nation turns to Jesus Christ, nothing we do is is going to work.

Dan Page: Absolutely.

The St. Louis/St. Charles, Missouri Chapter of Oath Keepers has tried to distance the organization from the video of Page’s speech to them now that it has received national attention. However, the video rant, as well as the above interview, is compatible with the ideology voiced by leadership in the organization as well as a spin off of the group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association or CSPOA. Both groups have a mission of organizing their members to refuse to enforce federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional.

The St. Louis County Police department is one of the few county-controlled police departments in the nation. Most county departments are headed by elected sheriffs, who are viewed by the Oath Keepers and CSPOA as the supreme law of the land, with a constitutional mandate to counter the federal government, particularly concerning gun laws. Oath Keeper Richard Mack, the head of CSPOA, has described his organization of county sheriffs as the “army to set our nation free,” and claims to have about 500 county sheriffs who have signed on in agreement with their mandate .

Click here for the profile on CSPOA

Click here for the profile on CSPOA

Mack himself is a former sheriff, as well as a former lobbyist for Gun Owners of America  (GOA). The CSPOA 2013 convention was held in St. Charles, the county seat of St. Charles County, Missouri. Over an hour of the highlights of that convention can be watched at their website.

These highlights and other media of the Oath Keepers and CSPOA focus on the role of county sheriffs to stand against “executive orders to derail the Second Amendment,” as described in a letter sent to sheriffs around the country by the the Liberty Group Coalition (comprised of the CSPOA, Oath Keepers, GOA, John Birch Society, and the Tenth Amendment Center).

I have written previously about the CSPOA as part of the national movement promoting nullification and secession in a profile of the organization and in a longer article titled Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right. As I wrote in the profile, the May, 2013, CSPOA conference featured religion-infused rhetoric against “tyranny” of the federal government. Speakers included former Constitution Party leader Michael Peroutka, GOA’s Larry Pratt, Joe Wolverton of the John Birch Society, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Mike Zullo.

Zullo is Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s chief “birther” investigator. Part of the conference was dedicated to his latest revelations in this ongoing pursuit. Conference speakers also included several county sheriffs and Tea Party leaders. The highlight video opens with one of the few people of color in the movement, Sheriff David Clark of Milwaukee County.

PRA Fellow Frederick Clarkson has also written extensively about one of the speakers at the St. Charles CSPOA event, neo-Confederate leader and 2004 Constitution Party candidate for president, Michael Peroutka, who switched parties (presumably to gain credibility) and is currently a Republican nominee for the County Council in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Peroutka is joined on the ticket by longtime ally and graduate of Peroutka’s course on the Constitution, Joseph Delimater, who is running for county sheriff.

Peroutka’s race for county council has already drawn national attention. Paul Rosenberg, writing at Salon, casts the Peroutka race in terms of the Republican Party’s race problem, as racist outbursts undermine the party’s efforts to become more diverse.

My article on nullification and Clarkson’s articles on Peroutka go into greater detail on the religious background of the philosophy behind organizing local and county leaders to lead a revolution against the federal government.

Unedited full version of Dan Page’s interview:

Update: 

Dan Page was also interviewed on May 12, 2014 on the John Moore Radio Show.  At about 24:50 in this interview, Dan Page states, “You’ve got Sen. Claire McCaskill right now beating the podium about assaults in the military and probably 99.9% of these things are bogus.  One only need to look at a woman in a way she feels uncomfortable and that’s considered sexual assault in the military.” 

UPDATE #2:

On May 29th of this year, Officer Page appeared on the Caravan to Midnight radio program, and claimed that the public education system is full of Caucasian female school teachers who are teaching young Black males to hate White men. According to Page, those young Black men grow up to be willing to violently disarm White men.

 

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Nullification Bills Already on the Move in 2014

CSPOA's Richard Mack speaks at an event in Utah. Image courtesy of fox13now.com

CSPOA’s Richard Mack speaks at an event in Utah. Image courtesy of fox13now.com

The most recent issue of The Public Eye includes an extensive report on nullification, an idea based on the legal theory that states can block federal laws that those states deem to be unconstitutional, and its growing traction across the United States.  One of the most dramatic showdowns of 2013 was in Missouri, where the legislature failed by only one vote to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill nullifying certain federal gun laws.

Now, less than a month into 2014, nullification initiatives are continuing to make their way through state legislatures.  In Oklahoma, a new “Second Amendment Preservation Act” has already been introduced as Senate Bill 613, and (if passed) would make it a Class A misdemeanor for federal employees, including law enforcement officers such as F.B.I. SWAT teams, to enforce federal firearm laws declared invalid by the bill. [1]  The Senate bill was followed by a similar bill in the state House of Representatives on January 15.

Oklahoma is riding the coattails of its neighbor:  In April 2013, Kansas passed a Second Amendment Protection Act, which claimed the state had the right to manufacture and sell semi-automatic weapons without federal oversight.  The law exempts these “made in Kansas” guns from federal regulations, and makes it a felony for federal law enforcement officers to enforce federal laws in regard to these guns and their owners.

The latest nullification bill out of Missouri has an interesting twist. The law does not take effect until 2017, or until four other states have passed similar laws.  (Nullification proponents believe that their efforts will be more successful if multiple states enact the same laws.) Missouri State Senator Brian Nieves (R), who proposed the bill, told the Missouri News Tribune,  “‘We continue to see the federal government overreach their rightful bounds, and if we can create a situation where we have some unity among states, then I think it puts us in a better position to make that argument.’”[2]

Missouri legislators have also been creative in their efforts to nullify the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”  According to the St. Louis Dispatch, a bill introduced in the Missouri Senate “would suspend insurance companies’ state licenses if they accepted subsidies offered by the federal government to help pay health insurance premiums for low- and middle-income Missourians.”  The bill would ban the state from setting up exchanges.[3]

As Paul Rosenberg recently reported in Salon, there are a number of conservative groups working to organize Article V conventions to amend the Constitution.  Rosenberg, Frederick Clarkson, and I listened in on a conference call of one of these groups, which has a plan for a so-called Sovereignty and States Rights amendment.  The amendment would allow states to “countermand” federal law.[4]

In the meantime, activists are working to promote resistance to the federal government at the local level.  As noted in The Public Eye article, one particularly active organization is the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association (CSPOA).  Founded by former sheriff Richard Mack, a board member of the Oath Keepers, the CSPOA instructs local county sheriffs to resist federal gun laws they believe to be unconstitutional.  The CSPOA works closely with the Tenth Amendment Center, John Birch Society and Gun Owners of America on promoting Second Amendment Preservation Acts and encouraging sheriffs to refuse to enforce federal gun laws.  (See PRA’s profile on the CSPOA.)[5]

The CSPOA has also begun to challenge same-sex marriage.  On January 4 in Utah, it sponsored an event—advertised as an “uprising against gay marriage”—in response to the recent court ruling which struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Mack, who led the event, stated, “The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time. The sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals.'”  Mack later added, “The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats.”[6]

As 2014 progresses, we’ll continue to provide briefings and updates on the status of conservatives’ nullification attempts, as this growing trend is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.

Profiles on the Right: Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association

richardmackrachelsidebar

Sheriff Richard Mack speaking at the Nullify Now! event in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) was founded in 2011 by Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. Mack was also a lobbyist for Gun Owners of America (GOA), and he is known for his challenge to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and his role in the organization Oath Keepers, which is led by former Ron Paul Congressional staffer Stewart Rhodes.

Mack formed the CSPOA to organize county sheriffs around a mission similar to Oath Keepers—that is, to refuse to enforce laws that they believe are unconstitutional. “The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists,” according to Mack.It is our own federal government. CSPOA’s stated mission is to train sheriffs and police, and then “local governments will issue our new Declaration to the Federal Government regarding the abuses that we will no longer tolerate or accept,” according to the CSPOA website. “Said declaration will be enforced by our Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers. In short, the CSPOA will be the army to set our nation free.” Sheriffs around the country have received letters from the organization asking where they stand on “executive orders to unlawfully derail the Second Amendment.” The letter was sent by the Liberty Group Coalition, comprised of the CSPOA, GOA, Oath Keepers, the John Birch Society (JBS), Tenth Amendment Center, and other organizations.

The CSPOA has grown dramatically since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012 and the subsequent rise in gun-control activism. To date it lists by name and location nearly 500 county sheriffs and 18 state sheriff associations that have “gone on record” with the CSPOA to affirm “the constitutional second amendment rights of citizens in his or her jurisdiction.” Sheriffs who don’t cooperate may find themselves on the “Red Coat List.” Thomas Woods headlined CSPOA’s 2012 conference, co-sponsored by the JBS. Though countering gun control is the CSPOA’s major issue, sheriffs speaking at the conference also reported challenging federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and the Food and Drug Administration.

The May 2013 conference featured religion-infused rhetoric against “tyranny.” Speakers included the Constitution Party’s Michael Peroutka, GOA’s Larry Pratt, Joe Wolverton of the JBS, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Mike Zullo. The latter is Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s chief “birther” investigator. Part of the conference was dedicated to his latest revelations in this ongoing pursuit. Conference speakers also included several county sheriffs and Tea Party leaders.

In January 2013, Pennsylvania’s Gilberton Borough passed an ordinance “nullifying all federal, state or local acts in violation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” The police chief behind the ordinance, Mark Kessler, spoke at the 2013 CSPOA conference, and CSPOA created a new register on its website for police chiefs, with Kessler as the first on the list. CSPOA later distanced itself from Kessler and removed him from the list when his behavior became increasingly erratic. In a video posted online, for example, Kessler cursed “libtards” and fired city-issued weapons at a target representing Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Kessler was later dismissed by the borough.

While some CSPOA members are associated with organized racist groups, members are technically prohibited from advocating for “discrimination, violence or hatred toward any person or group based on race, nationality, or color.” As stated in PRA’s Up In Arms report, however, the group often “does directly engage in issues whose outcome is, by necessity, to support maintaining white racial demographics at current levels and to oppose a redistribution of social and economic power in society across racial lines.”

Some people affiliated with CSPOA have entered the political mainstream in recent years. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, CSPOA’s “Sheriff of the Year” in 2013, spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Just the year before, he tweeted, “Before long, Black Lives Matter will join forces with ISIS to b[r]ing down our legal constituted republic.” More recently, when former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted for defying a federal court order in 2017, President Trump pardoned him. Arpaio had endorsed Trump when he was on the campaign trail in 2016.

 

Related Patriot Movement Profiles:

Oath Keepers

Three Percenters

Next ProfileThis profile, along with a full-length article on nullification and neo-Confederates, are part of the Fall 2013 issue of The Public Eye Magazine.

Also read, “Trump’s “Second Amendment People”?: The U.S. Patriot Movement Today.”

Updated 5/9/18.