Peas in an Oregon Pod: Right-Wing Paramilitaries & The GOP

The Republican Party of Multnomah County, Oregon (which includes Portland) disregarded public outcry when it passed a resolution last week to allow private, paramilitary groups to provide security functions at GOP events. Chairman James Buchal said they would work with two groups—the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters—that are part of the Patriot movement. This heavily armed Hard Right political movement is famous for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and armed confrontations in Nevada in 2014 and in southeast Oregon in 2016. Giving semi-official sanction to an armed and unaccountable paramilitary opens the door to legally tolerated extra-parliamentary violence, and helps link radical right-wing elements directly to the mainstream.

What Is the Patriot Movement?

The Patriot movement seeks to undermine democratic structures, often through threats and use of violence, and its political views are rooted in various conspiracy theories. It promotes radical, right-wing decentralization, particularly regarding the economy and federal regulations. Many members support the legally spurious idea that county sheriffs can decide which laws to enforce, and they frequently form paramilitary groups. Last, they are deeply opposed to progressive social movements.

The Oath Keepers, led by disbarred lawyer Stewart Rhodes, is a national organization of current and former military, police, and first responders that formed in 2009. The Three Percenters, launched in 2008, are more a decentralized grouping—individuals can declare themselves to be Three Percenters, although groups exist as well—and they are frequently more extreme in their views and practice. Together, these two groups are the most important armed groups in the Patriot movement.

Both the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters have been part of numerous armed encampments and standoffs with law enforcement, including in Nevada at the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014, and at the Sugar Pine Mine encampment in southwestern Oregon in 2015. Both groups were also part of a “buffer zone” between law enforcement and armed Patriot movement members who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters outside of Burns, Oregon in January and February 2016. (A handful of Three Percenters took part in the occupation itself.) In Oregon, Patriot movement activists have a history of harassing and making threats against progressive organizers, which have included property invasions, and disruptions of events; elected officials and law enforcement have also been threatened. Rhodes has gone so far as to call on his “civil defense units” to “fight in the street” against “these radical Black Lives Matter people and the black anarchists, the black flag anarchists.”

Since February 2017, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters have acted as security or otherwise attended events where neo-Nazis and other avowed white supremacists have been in attendance. These have included a rally in Lake Oswego, a suburb of Portland. Oath Keepers have also appeared at rallies alongside fascists from Identity Evropa both in Berkeley in April 2017, as well as in New York City in June. Also, at an April 2017 rally Pikeville, Kentucky, Oath Keepers helped law enforcement protect neo-Nazis from protesters as they were leaving a rally.

Patriot movement paramilitaries have also acted as security at events held by elected officials in Washington State. For example, a video shows well-known activist Ken Barker among those guarding a Republican Party meeting in Colville in May 2017, which was attended by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

Links Between the Patriot Movement and Republican Party in Oregon

As I documented in Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement, a report jointly issued in 2016 by Political Research Associates and the Rural Organizing Project, Patriot movement paramilitaries have close ties with the Oregon Republican Party. A number of Oregon elected officials have appeared at Patriot movement events, including ones where paramilitaries sported firearms. They have included State Senator Kim Thatcher and State Representatives Bill Post and Mike Nearman. In February 2015 in Salem, they even appeared alongside Three Percenter co-founder Mike Vanderboegh (now deceased) as he openly threatened “civil war” against the administration of Oregon Governor Kate Brown. There are also a number of county-level officials, such as Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, who are directly tied to the movement.

In addition to officials who are Patriot movement sympathizers, in Oregon the movement attempted to take over the Republican Party structure itself during the spring 2016 elections. Between fifty and a hundred movement activists were elected Precinct Committee People, the lowest position in the party. At the June 2016 Oregon Republican Party state convention, at least five Patriot movement activists and sympathizers were elected to state party positions or as delegates to the national convention.

The movement failed to overtake the state GOP leadership, however. Paramilitary leader Joseph Rice recently came in a distant second to become the state GOP leader. Rice was a Trump delegate at the 2016 Republican Convention; at that time he lead a group that was still called the Oath Keepers of Josephine County, which was described as the national group’s “flagship” organization. Three Percenter Tim Harris also ran for Vice Chair in the 2017 party election—although he received only 1 percent of the vote.

Oath Keepers in Distress in Oregon

The Oath Keepers have had major defections in Oregon. Rice’s group broke away from the national organization in the fall 2016, changing their name first to Citizen Patriots of Josephine County, and then to Liberty Watch of Josephine County. Rice told the Southern Poverty Law Center that potential members “would not join the group as long as Stewart Rhodes was in charge.” Two state leaders also left the Oath Keepers over Rhodes’s insistence they attend a June 4, 2017 rally in Portland.

This supposed “Free Speech” rally occurred after Jeremy Christian—who had attended a ultra-nationalist rally (also masquerading as a free speech rally) in Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood in April 2017—murdered two men who intervened against his Islamophobic and racist harassment of two young women on mass transit. Thousands protested the June 4 march.

Rhodes Strikes a Deal

The agreement with the Multnomah County GOP apparently was struck by Rhodes himself. He was in touch with both Buchal and the Portland Police Department to coordinate with them before the June 4 rally. At the event, Buchal encouraged the crowd-—filled with Alt Right activists, Patriot movement paramilitaries, and fascists from Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Worker Party—to get involved with the Republican Party. At the rally a Patriot movement activist also attracted national attention when he assisted law enforcement in arresting a counter-protester.

The Multnomah County GOP’s contract with private paramilitaries is yet another step in legitimizing unaccountable paramilitary violence in support of a Trumpist Republican Party. This is particularly troubling as the Oath Keepers’ leader has called his armed followers to “fight in the streets” against political opponents, long before Trump’s election.

Hiring Oath Keepers and Three Percenters won’t prevent violence, but in fact will invite it. And it helps form an unbroken link in the chain between neo-Nazis and the Republican Party.

Further readings:

Oregon III%

Click here to read the full report.

This an excerpt from Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement co-published with Rural Organizing Project.

Oregon Three Percenters are very active and seems to have eclipsed the Oath Keepers as the locus of Patriot movement organizing in the state.

The Three Percenters have a complex structure. Anyone can call themselves a Three Percenter, and there are also competing national organizations. But there is also a statewide group, called simply, “Oregon III%,” which functions as a group-based network, albeit with a central leadership.1)Their webpage is www.oregoniiipercent.com, and their main Facebook page is: “Oregon III%,” Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/321735541284801. (This seems to run contrary to cofounder Vanderboegh’s original vision for the Three Percenters as a decentralized form of the militia that was harder to infiltrate and disrupt. However, these more organized Three Percenter groups, in Oregon and Idaho, have been very successful.) There is significant overlap between Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, as well.

The President of Oregon III% is David Samuel Hill, and the Vice President is Jeff Roberts; the group registered as a 501(c)4 in November 2015.2)Oregon Secretary of State, Corporation Division, Business Entity Data: Oregon III%, http://egov.sos.state.or.us/br/pkg_web_name_srch_inq.do_name_srch?p_name=&p_regist_nbr=116101890&p_srch=PHASE1&p_print=FALSE&p_entity_status=ACTINA. Roberts claims that in 1993, as a 15-year-old, he drove to the Ruby Ridge standoff with Bo Gritz.3)Jeff Roberts, Facebook post, April 2015, screenshot in possession of author. In September 2015, Hill said the group had 1,000 members and a full “executive staff”—up from 200 members and no staff, except its president, less than a year before.4)David Samuel Hill, Facebook post, September 2015. Screenshot in possession of author. These numbers have undoubtedly grown since the Malheur occupation. Oregon III% divides the state up into seven “Zones,” plus an independent eighth section.

Oregon III% Vice President Jeff Roberts says he went to Ruby Ridge standoff with Bo Gritz, and helped found Constitution Party of Oregon.

Oregon III% Vice President Jeff Roberts says he went to Ruby Ridge standoff with Bo Gritz, and helped found Constitution Party of Oregon.

 

Hill says, in addition to participating in the Pacific Patriots Network, Oregon III% has “a close working relationship with other patriotic, prepper and training groups.”5)Ibid. Oregon III% co-organized the February 2015 Salem anti-SB 941 rally, was active in the Sugar Pine Mine and White Hope Mine armed camps, were at May 2015 anti-SB 941 rallies, and were part of “Protect the Protectors” campaign to “guard” U.S. military recruiting stations in July 2015.6)Ibid.

One flyer indicates that BJ Soper and the Oregon III% were the organizers of the initial January 2, 2016 march in Burns, Oregon (Rice claims it as PPN and Oregon III%). Soper, and both Oregon and Idaho Three Percenters, spoke at the rally.7)Video shows that the speakers include Brandon Curtiss and Brooke Agresta (3% of Idaho), Soper, and Jeff Roberts (Oregon III%). See “Live feed Hammond ranch,” YouTube video, 3:01:57, posted by “Pete Santilli Show,” January 2, 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBBJe7FmRXI. As part of the PPN, they were active in Burns during the occupation. At least one Oregon Three Percenter, Flipp Todd, was part of the occupation early on.8)“Anatomy of a Standoff,” Anti-Defamation League, 2016, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Anatomy-of-a-Standoff-MalheurOccupiers.pdf
Some members of the Oregon III% are reportedly involved with an anti-immigrant vigilante group, which does street patrols, called the Soldiers of Odin. The group was founded in Finland by white supremacists, and it has recently spread across the United States.9)“Soldiers of Odin USA: The Extreme European Anti-Refugee Group Comes to America,” Anti-Defamation League, 2016, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Soldiers-of-Odin-USA-Report-web.pdf.

As of August 2016, the Oregon III% Zone divisions and leaders are:

  • Zone 1 (Columbia, Clatsop, Tillamook, Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Lincoln, Linn, and Benton counties) — Ron McCue
  • Zone 2 (Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, and Gilliam) — Trevor Anders
  • Zone 3 (Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Baker, and Wallowa) — Damon Locke
  • Zone 4 (Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Coos, and Curry)—Tom McKirgan
  • Zone 5 (Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Wheeler) — Jerrad Tyrea Robison
  • Zone 6 (Klamath, Lake)—Tim Harris
  • Tri-County III% (Grant, Harney, Malheur)— Jason Ward (contact)
  • Zone 8 (Lane)—Isreal Southerland

What was Zone 7—Harney, Malheur, and Grant counties—became the Tri-County III%, which is described as “a separate, autonomous III% group separate from Oregon III%. Though not connected, Oregon III% recognizes and supports Tri-County III%.”10)Facebook post, accessed August 2016; screenshot in possession of author.

The Oregon III%, like many other states, divides the state into different Zones. Tri-County III% is autonomous from the larger group.

The Oregon III%, like many other states, divides the state into different Zones. Tri-County III% is autonomous from the larger group.

Each Zone of the Oregon III% has a leader and a Facebook page.

Each Zone of the Oregon III% has a leader and a Facebook page.

The leadership structure of the Oregon III%.

The leadership structure of the Oregon III%.

The county chapters include Multnomah, Washington, Marion and Polk, Linn and Benton, Clatsop and Columbia, Clackamas, Lincoln, Josephine, Jackson, Douglas, Coos, and Curry.11)Facebook posts, accessed August 2016; screenshots in possession of author.

References   [ + ]

1. Their webpage is www.oregoniiipercent.com, and their main Facebook page is: “Oregon III%,” Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/321735541284801.
2. Oregon Secretary of State, Corporation Division, Business Entity Data: Oregon III%, http://egov.sos.state.or.us/br/pkg_web_name_srch_inq.do_name_srch?p_name=&p_regist_nbr=116101890&p_srch=PHASE1&p_print=FALSE&p_entity_status=ACTINA.
3. Jeff Roberts, Facebook post, April 2015, screenshot in possession of author.
4. David Samuel Hill, Facebook post, September 2015. Screenshot in possession of author.
5, 6. Ibid.
7. Video shows that the speakers include Brandon Curtiss and Brooke Agresta (3% of Idaho), Soper, and Jeff Roberts (Oregon III%). See “Live feed Hammond ranch,” YouTube video, 3:01:57, posted by “Pete Santilli Show,” January 2, 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBBJe7FmRXI.
8. “Anatomy of a Standoff,” Anti-Defamation League, 2016, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Anatomy-of-a-Standoff-MalheurOccupiers.pdf
9. “Soldiers of Odin USA: The Extreme European Anti-Refugee Group Comes to America,” Anti-Defamation League, 2016, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Soldiers-of-Odin-USA-Report-web.pdf.
10. Facebook post, accessed August 2016; screenshot in possession of author.
11. Facebook posts, accessed August 2016; screenshots in possession of author.

RELEASE: Major Investigation & Toolkit to Aid Oregon Communities Facing Militia Movements

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2016

Contact: Gabriel Joffe, g.joffe@politicalresearch.org; 617-666-5300; 617-702-2504 (cell)
To download this press release click HERE.

Political Research Associates & Rural Organizing Project Release Major Investigation & Toolkit to Aid Oregon Communities Facing Militia Movements

Somerville, MA—Today Political Research Associates in partnership with Rural Organizing Project released Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement, a groundbreaking report and toolkit designed to support public officials and community activists under siege from armed militias and other Patriot movement groups.

In early 2016, Patriot movement paramilitaries stormed onto the national stage when they seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and occupied it for 41 days. Seven occupiers now face federal charges in a Portland courtroom but Oregon remains a hotbed of Patriot movement activity. Across the state, heavily armed militias and self-anointed “judges and courts” vie for public support, while a handful of county sheriffs and other elected officials actually collude with them.

This guide was developed through extensive research on the right-wing movements and by pooling the local expertise of rural progressive community activists and scholars.  It exposes, explains, and offers alternatives to this movement.

“The Oregon Patriot movement engages in the same political culture of violence as the national movement, including armed occupations, protests, camps, and marches—as well as threats against elected officials, community activists, and critics,” says Spencer Sunshine, a sociologist and associate fellow at Political Research Associates who wrote the study of the movement included in the guide.

“Making matters worse, some local sheriffs and elected officials actually support the movement,” says Sunshine. This includes Grants County’s Sheriff Glenn Palmer and former Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson. Sunshine’s investigation reveals how the movement recruits sheriffs to its beliefs, including ideas of county political supremacy over state and federal governments. He also documents the May 2015 Patriot movement rally against a newly passed gun law in Oregon, where elected officials listened as national Patriot leader Mike Vanderboegh called for the Oregon state government to be overthrown through a civil war.

“The Oregon militias are part of national Patriot movement networks. What currently looks like a rural western phenomenon could easily go national, as it did during the 1990s,” says Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates, adding, “The chances of that outcome increase if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in November.”

New Patriot movement groups formed since 2008 include local affiliates of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, as well as the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Researchers estimate that dozens of groups have thousands of supporters in the state, including within the state Republican Party. That includes former state GOP treasurer Ken Taylor and Oregon State Representative Dallas Heard, who made a personal pilgrimage to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. Josephine County Oath Keeper Joseph Rice attended the 2016 Republican Convention as a state party delegate.

“As Oregonians, we have a responsibility to support those who are resisting these movements and struggling for real democratic control of their communities,” says Jessica Campbell, Rural Organizing Project Co-Director and contributing author. “Rural Oregonians want healthy and vibrant communities where everyone can live their lives fully with safety and dignity, and that isn’t possible when those who have the most guns get to intimidate their political opponents into silence.”

Up In Arms also documents how the Patriot movement takes advantage of the collapse of the rural Oregon economy and funding cuts. University of Oregon professors Dan HoSang and Steve Beda describe how local tax revolts cut vital county services such as 911 response and public libraries from rural areas as stable jobs in the logging, ranching, and mining industries —as well as federal subsidies—have evaporated. The Patriot movement steps in to provide its own alternative policing and emergency responses as a means to gain traction in these forgotten communities.

Providing alternatives for communities being targeted for Patriot movement recruitment is extremely important. Jessica Campbell of Rural Organizing Project offers strategies for how community members can break out of a sense of isolation, form a group, and speak out with their own vision of what the community should look like. The toolkit’s case studies of effective community resistance from five Oregon counties show how residents can successfully counter Patriot movement messaging and intimidation, and help build inclusive and egalitarian communities.

Up In Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement is available for free online here. Printed copies are available for $15 plus postage from Rural Organizing Project here.

About Political Research Associates: Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates (PRA) is a 35-year-old think tank that researches and exposes movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights. PRA is devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society.

About the Rural Organizing Project: The Rural Organizing Project (ROP) is a statewide organization of locally-based groups that work to create communities accountable to a standard of human dignity: the belief in the equal worth of all people, the need for equal access to justice and the right to self-determination. Founded in 1992, ROP’s challenges to the anti-democratic right have earned ROP a national reputation as an effective grassroots organization that takes on the hard issues.

Available for interview:

Spencer Sunshine, Ph.D, PRA associate fellow, is a researcher, writer, and activist who tracks the Patriot movement, fascist and white nationalist organizing, and left/right crossover movements.

Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of PRA, has been researching the U.S. Right for 25 years. Throughout the 1990s, Ramos worked in multiple western states to counteract anti-environmental, militia, anti-LGBT and other organized threats to social justice.

Jessica Campbell and Cara Shufelt, Co-directors of Rural Organizing Project.

###

The Oath Keepers in Oregon

Click here to read the full report.

This an excerpt from Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement co-published with Rural Organizing Project.

Oath Keepers chapters have been active in Oregon since the national organization was founded in 2009.1)“Active ‘Patriot’ Groups in the United States in 2009,” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 1, 2010, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/active-patriot-groups-united-states-2009. However, most chapters seem to have been established since 2014 in the wake of the events at Bundy Ranch. Oregon Oath Keepers came to the December 2014 gun rights rally in Washington state, where then Oregon Oath Keepers Coordinator Jeff Ford spoke.2)“We Will Not Comply – Come and Take Them—Part 4 of 4,” YouTube video, 37:49, posted by “RealEstateinMoto,” December 17, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGrh7FvKxrg&noredirect=1. They were also involved in both the February and May 2015 anti-SB 941 Salem rallies, and the Josephine County chapter was the main organizer of the Sugar Pine Mine action. However, as of August 2016, the organization seems to be losing its position in Oregon, with the disaffiliation of its most prominent group, the Oath Keepers of Josephine County.

From late 2013 to late 2014, Jeff Ford was the Northern Oregon Coordinator and Tom McKirgan was Southern Oregon Coordinator; Ford then became the sole state coordinator until after the May rally.3)In October 2013, Ford (then described as a “recent transplant from California”) and McKirgan were described as the Northern and Southern Oregon Oath Keepers’ leaders, respectively. See Volubrjotr, “Oath Keepers Unite With P.A.N.D.A. To Stop McCain’s NDAA In Oregon: Rotate Honor Guards To Ensure WWII Veterans’ Access To Memorial,” Political Vel Craft, October 16, 2013, https://politicalvelcraft.org/2013/10/16/oath-keepers-unite-with-p-a-n-d-a-to-stop-mccains-ndaa-in-oregon-rotate-honor-guards-to-ensure-wwii-veterans-access-to-memorial. In April 2015, Ford is referred to as the sole state Coordinator (as well as a member of the Oath Keepers National Board); see “Calling all Oath Keepers to help with Security at the Sugar Pine Mine, April 17, 2015,” Meetup event, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/221921869.Today, McKirgan is part of Oregon III%, and is the leader of Zone 4 (Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Coos, and Curry counties). He is also one of the two national administrators of the “3%ERS” Facebook group, which has over 24,000 members (www.facebook.com/groups/THE3PERCENTERS/admins). Facebook post, August 2016, screenshot in possession of author. (Currently the Oregon coordinator position is listed as “TBA.”)4)“Oath Keepers of Oregon” Oath Keepers, www.oathkeepers.org/Oregon. Brandon Rapolla is the state Community Preparedness Team coordinator. He is also the leader of Oregon Tactical, a founder of Pacific Patriots Network, and was part of the Sugar Pine Mine camps, Bundy Ranch standoff, and was in Burns, Oregon.5)For CPT leader, see Stewart Rhodes, “Historic ‘Militia’ Moment: Pacific Patriot Network (Including Oath Keepers) Calls On FBI,” Oath Keepers, January 10, 2016, www.oathkeepers.org/9435-2; for Sugar Pine Mine and Bundy Ranch, see James Pogue, “The Oath Keepers Are Ready for War with the Federal Government,” VICE, September 14, 2015, www.vice.com/read/miner-threat-0000747-v22n9; for Rapolla at Bundy Ranch with weapons, see “Bundy Ranch, III%, Militia, Independence,” YouTube video, 7:19, posted by “Brandon Rapolla,” July 4, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vXYAJPrp-I. Rice confirmed with me that Rapolla was a Pacific Patriots Network founder; Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016.

The state Oath Keepers took most of its public communications offline around the time of the Sugar Pine Mine encampments; their Facebook group has only been updated once since June 2015, and the sparse website (which went offline in May 2016) does not list staff or even local chapters.6)Oath Keepers of Oregon, https://web.archive.org/web/20160430205759/http://oroathkeepers.org. The last capture on archive.org was April 30, 2016, and the website is presently offline. There is only one post on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OathKeepersofOregon, between June 2015 and July 2016. All of this is a rather odd public face for an organization that takes great pains to claim not to be a clandestine paramilitary. With the disaffiliation of the Josephine County chapter  in August 2016, there is only one public website in the state, run by the Baker County chapter.7)See Baker County Solutions, https://bakercountysolutions.wordpress.com.

The Oath Keepers have chapters around state, generally organized by county. Chapters that announced meetings in 2015 or 2016 include Josephine; Central Oregon (including Crook); Douglas; Baker; Linn and Benton; Marion, Polk, and Yamhill; Washington; Columbia; Lane; Malheur; and Klamath. (Chapters that held public meetings in 2014 or earlier include Jackson; Deschutes, Union, Coos, Curry, and Clackamas, and city chapters in Salem and Portland and/or Gresham.)8)For the 2015 and 2016 meetings, see: “Josephine County Oath Keepers General Meeting,” Meetup event for August 11, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/233027958; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Baker County,” MeetUp event for December 15, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/227416404; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Linn and Benton County General Meeting,” MeetUp event for March 6, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/229239175; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties,” MeetUp event for June 16, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/qltlnhyvjbvb; “Oath Keepers of Washington County Monthly Meetings,” MeetUp event for April 28, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/230501466; “Columbia County Oath Keepers Celebrating our 2 year anniversary,” MeetUp event for April 16, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/229980453; “Lane County Oath Keepers General Meeting,” MeetUp event for February 21, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/228741920; Malheur County Oath Keepers Meet and Greet,” MeetUp event, January 9, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/219657841; “Oathkeepers of central Oregon,” MeetUp event for August 25, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/224780403; “Oath Keepers of Klamath County,” MeetUp event for August 20, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/224691943; for Douglas County, see “Sportsman & Outdoor Recreation Show – Feb 13th–15th,” MeetUp event, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/220476710.For chapters that held public meetings in 2014: “Oath Keepers of Oregon Jackson County General Meeting,” MeetUp event for February 17, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/165172592; “ MeetUp event , May 8, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/179696252; “Oregon Oath Keepers Deschutes Chapter Start Up,” MeetUp event for November 13, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/215776232; “Union County Oath Keepers of Oregon – General Meeting – Candidates Forum,” MeetUp event for October 28, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/215983172; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Clackamas County Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for October 15, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/204384772; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Clackamas County Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for April 30, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/176655182; Oath Keepers of Oregon Coos County Chapter Meeting,” MeetUp event for July 26, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/195777552; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Multnomah County General Meeting,” MeetUp event for July 14, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/190826222; “Oath Keepers of Oregon Curry County Chapter Formation,” MeetUp event for January 18, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/160026592; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Portland Chapter (Gresham) General Meeting,” MeetUp event for December 2, 2013, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/151832752; “Oath Keepers of Oregon Portland Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for June 3, 2013, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/119666982; “Oath Keepers of Oregon Salem Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for November 9, 2013, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/147819052.

The Oregon Oath Keepers website listed links to organizations like PANDA (People Against the NDAA), Tenth Amendment Center, Oregon Firearms Federation, American Lands Council, and National Liberty Alliance.9)“Oath Keepers of Oregon Links,” Oath Keepers of Oregon, https://web.archive.org/web/20160430205759/http://oroathkeepers.org. In Oregon, the Oath Keepers have been building a grassroots movement, partly based on community service work and the creation of emergency-based response teams. The state website said that some of their actions included, “Building wheel chair ramps for the disabled,” “Repairing school playgrounds for disabled access,” and “Community Preparedness Teams to assist in emergencies.”10)“Oath Keepers Oregon,” Oath Keepers of Oregon, https://web.archive.org/web/20160406033648/http://oroathkeepers.org/action.html.

In August 2015, the national Oath Keepers leadership—who had previously focused on high-profile, media-friendly actions—was promoting the Oregon’s volunteer service approach. According to the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, national founder Stewart Rhodes called on chapters to both promote militias, as well as to join local “volunteer fire departments and churches, neighborhood watch groups, search and rescue and other first responder groups, and VFW groups.”11)Devin Burghart, “Oath Keepers Roll Out Plan to Infiltrate Local Institutions [Video],” Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights, November 3, 2015, www.irehr.org/2015/11/03/oath-keepers-roll-out-plan-to-infiltrate-local-institutions-video. At the same time, many Oregon Oath Keepers—fresh from the conflict at Sugar Pine Mine—also travelled to Lincoln, Montana to help establish armed camps at the White Hope Mine.12)Elias Alias, “Press Release: Operation Big Sky: Lincoln, Montana,” Oath Keepers, August 9, 2015, www.oathkeepers.org/press-release-operation-big-sky-lincoln-montana

In July 2016, Joseph Rice, leader of the Oath Keepers of Josephine County, said that “in the last year or so a lot of the Oregon Oath Keeper chapters have stopped and they’ve disbanded. But it doesn’t mean those individuals are no longer participating in securing and preserving Constitutional rights. They’ve just named themselves something else.” The next month, his organization website announced they were no longer with the national Oath Keepers, and unveiled their new name: the Citizen Patriots of Josephine County.13)Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016, and email to author, August 25, 2016; see also Citizen Patriots of Josephine County, www.cpjoco.com.

References   [ + ]

1. “Active ‘Patriot’ Groups in the United States in 2009,” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 1, 2010, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/active-patriot-groups-united-states-2009.
2. “We Will Not Comply – Come and Take Them—Part 4 of 4,” YouTube video, 37:49, posted by “RealEstateinMoto,” December 17, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGrh7FvKxrg&noredirect=1.
3. In October 2013, Ford (then described as a “recent transplant from California”) and McKirgan were described as the Northern and Southern Oregon Oath Keepers’ leaders, respectively. See Volubrjotr, “Oath Keepers Unite With P.A.N.D.A. To Stop McCain’s NDAA In Oregon: Rotate Honor Guards To Ensure WWII Veterans’ Access To Memorial,” Political Vel Craft, October 16, 2013, https://politicalvelcraft.org/2013/10/16/oath-keepers-unite-with-p-a-n-d-a-to-stop-mccains-ndaa-in-oregon-rotate-honor-guards-to-ensure-wwii-veterans-access-to-memorial. In April 2015, Ford is referred to as the sole state Coordinator (as well as a member of the Oath Keepers National Board); see “Calling all Oath Keepers to help with Security at the Sugar Pine Mine, April 17, 2015,” Meetup event, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/221921869.Today, McKirgan is part of Oregon III%, and is the leader of Zone 4 (Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Coos, and Curry counties). He is also one of the two national administrators of the “3%ERS” Facebook group, which has over 24,000 members (www.facebook.com/groups/THE3PERCENTERS/admins). Facebook post, August 2016, screenshot in possession of author.
4. “Oath Keepers of Oregon” Oath Keepers, www.oathkeepers.org/Oregon.
5. For CPT leader, see Stewart Rhodes, “Historic ‘Militia’ Moment: Pacific Patriot Network (Including Oath Keepers) Calls On FBI,” Oath Keepers, January 10, 2016, www.oathkeepers.org/9435-2; for Sugar Pine Mine and Bundy Ranch, see James Pogue, “The Oath Keepers Are Ready for War with the Federal Government,” VICE, September 14, 2015, www.vice.com/read/miner-threat-0000747-v22n9; for Rapolla at Bundy Ranch with weapons, see “Bundy Ranch, III%, Militia, Independence,” YouTube video, 7:19, posted by “Brandon Rapolla,” July 4, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vXYAJPrp-I. Rice confirmed with me that Rapolla was a Pacific Patriots Network founder; Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016.
6. Oath Keepers of Oregon, https://web.archive.org/web/20160430205759/http://oroathkeepers.org. The last capture on archive.org was April 30, 2016, and the website is presently offline. There is only one post on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OathKeepersofOregon, between June 2015 and July 2016.
7. See Baker County Solutions, https://bakercountysolutions.wordpress.com.
8. For the 2015 and 2016 meetings, see: “Josephine County Oath Keepers General Meeting,” Meetup event for August 11, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/233027958; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Baker County,” MeetUp event for December 15, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/227416404; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Linn and Benton County General Meeting,” MeetUp event for March 6, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/229239175; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties,” MeetUp event for June 16, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/qltlnhyvjbvb; “Oath Keepers of Washington County Monthly Meetings,” MeetUp event for April 28, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/230501466; “Columbia County Oath Keepers Celebrating our 2 year anniversary,” MeetUp event for April 16, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/229980453; “Lane County Oath Keepers General Meeting,” MeetUp event for February 21, 2016, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/228741920; Malheur County Oath Keepers Meet and Greet,” MeetUp event, January 9, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/219657841; “Oathkeepers of central Oregon,” MeetUp event for August 25, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/224780403; “Oath Keepers of Klamath County,” MeetUp event for August 20, 2015, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/224691943; for Douglas County, see “Sportsman & Outdoor Recreation Show – Feb 13th–15th,” MeetUp event, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/220476710.For chapters that held public meetings in 2014: “Oath Keepers of Oregon Jackson County General Meeting,” MeetUp event for February 17, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/165172592; “ MeetUp event , May 8, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/179696252; “Oregon Oath Keepers Deschutes Chapter Start Up,” MeetUp event for November 13, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/215776232; “Union County Oath Keepers of Oregon – General Meeting – Candidates Forum,” MeetUp event for October 28, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/215983172; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Clackamas County Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for October 15, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/204384772; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Clackamas County Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for April 30, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/176655182; Oath Keepers of Oregon Coos County Chapter Meeting,” MeetUp event for July 26, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/195777552; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Multnomah County General Meeting,” MeetUp event for July 14, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/190826222; “Oath Keepers of Oregon Curry County Chapter Formation,” MeetUp event for January 18, 2014, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/160026592; “Oath Keepers of Oregon, Portland Chapter (Gresham) General Meeting,” MeetUp event for December 2, 2013, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/151832752; “Oath Keepers of Oregon Portland Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for June 3, 2013, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/119666982; “Oath Keepers of Oregon Salem Chapter General Meeting,” MeetUp event for November 9, 2013, www.meetup.com/Oath-Keepers-Oregon/events/147819052.
9. “Oath Keepers of Oregon Links,” Oath Keepers of Oregon, https://web.archive.org/web/20160430205759/http://oroathkeepers.org.
10. “Oath Keepers Oregon,” Oath Keepers of Oregon, https://web.archive.org/web/20160406033648/http://oroathkeepers.org/action.html.
11. Devin Burghart, “Oath Keepers Roll Out Plan to Infiltrate Local Institutions [Video],” Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights, November 3, 2015, www.irehr.org/2015/11/03/oath-keepers-roll-out-plan-to-infiltrate-local-institutions-video.
12. Elias Alias, “Press Release: Operation Big Sky: Lincoln, Montana,” Oath Keepers, August 9, 2015, www.oathkeepers.org/press-release-operation-big-sky-lincoln-montana
13. Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016, and email to author, August 25, 2016; see also Citizen Patriots of Josephine County, www.cpjoco.com.

Gunning for Office: Oregon’s Patriot Movement and the May 2016 Primary

This article is based on research from a forthcoming report about Oregon’s Patriot movement, which will be published by the Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates.

In the wake of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January and February 2016, a slew of candidates linked to the so-called Patriot movement are running for office in Oregon, including in the upcoming May primary. Even though most of the actual occupiers were from out of state, the occupation highlighted the state’s large and growing Patriot movement. These often-armed, Hard Right activists organized the initial demonstration that preceded the occupation and helped build political support for the occupiers’ demands. These demands included the transfer of federally owned public lands to state or county governments in order to avoid land-use restrictions, as well as attempts to circumvent the federal government’s decision-making powers by invoking legally groundless claims about the authority of state and county governments.

Patriot Movement-affiliated candidates and elected officials are in several Oregon counties.

Patriot Movement-affiliated candidates and elected officials are in several Oregon counties.

The arrest of over two dozen people connected to the Malheur occupation, in addition to the death of occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum at the hands of law enforcement, has energized the movement—which now has a new martyr and opportunities for activism to support their newly minted political prisoners. For the last few years, the state’s Patriot movement largely focused on non-electoral movement building; some county sheriffs and a handful of other officials were affiliated with its aims, but by and large it remained outside of the electoral arena. This is changing with Oregon’s May 17, 2016 primary election. In several counties where Oregon’s Patriot movement is strong—including Josephine, Crook, Baker, Douglas, and Harney—candidates tied to the movement are running for office. These candidates include key Patriot movement leaders such as Joseph Rice, as well as Republicans who are courting the movement for votes.

The Patriot movement is a Hard Right movement that is trying to radically transform U.S. political and legal institutions. It seeks to implement a form of right-wing decentralization, including the abolition of environmental laws and the social safety net, replacing them with almost completely unrestricted capitalism, all based on an idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution and various conspiracy theories which support their political views. The best known of the movement’s tactics is the formation of paramilitaries—traditionally “militias,” but more recently including other, more decentralized, armed approaches.

The movement also relies on a number of crank “legal” strategies that have no basis in law. The most important is “nullification,” the notion that a lower government (such as the county or state) can ignore laws passed by a higher authority (usually the federal government). One popular form of nullification is the false claim that county sheriffs have the authority to decide which laws are unconstitutional and therefore should not be enforced.1

The movement also promotes the concept of “coordination”: the false idea that federal agencies must comply with county government plans regarding land-use decisions, usually about natural resource extraction on federal lands that are within a county’s borders. Coordination is a new form of “county supremacy,” an idea popular in the 1990s that is re-emerging.2 By 1996, 70 counties had passed laws attempting to gain control over federal lands.3 (This is based on the idea that removing restrictions on natural resource extraction will revive moribund rural economies.) In the end, these county governments only wasted their energies tilting at windmills, instead of working on constructive solutions to local problems. Related to this, many in the movement believe the federal government has no legal right to own most public land, which they think should be transferred to state or county control. All of these positions reflect hostility toward the federal government, which is not uncommon in the rural West.

Because of the movement’s political focus on the county, it is not surprising that this year’s crop of Patriot-friendly candidates are largely seeking seats at the county level.

The most important Oregon Patriot movement groups today are those associated with the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), and the Pacific Patriots Network. The Oath Keepers are a national membership-based organization that recruits current and former police, military, and first responders; however others can still be “associate members.” Members swear to disobey government orders they claim are unconstitutional, but these are mostly staple right-wing conspiracy theories such as federal government plans to disarm civilians before herding them into concentration camps. The CSPOA is composed of standing law enforcement members and is affiliated with the Oath Keepers. Their founder, former county sheriff Richard Mack, believes the county sheriff has the authority to interpret the Constitution, and therefore decide which laws should be enforced. The Three Percenters are a somewhat decentralized militia; individuals can identify with the label, but in some places, including Oregon, there are also organized groups with leadership structures. Some individual Three Percenters were involved in the Malheur occupation.4 The Pacific Patriots Network is a network of nine “partner” groups, mostly based in Oregon and Idaho, including the Oath Keepers of Josephine County and both the Oregon and Idaho Three Percenters. The Pacific Patriots Network became infamous for their third-party activities around the Malheur occupation in Burns, Oregon—the town just outside the refuge.5 Their members organized the initial January 2, 2016 march that the occupation came out of; held events and meetings in Burns to promote Patriot movement ideology; deployed armed members in the town; and helped bring supplies to the refuge. This allowed them to try to position themselves as a neutral party while really playing “good cop” to the occupiers’ “bad cop,” and raising their public profile at the same time.

If the current wave of Patriot–affiliated candidates in Oregon are elected, it will not be the first time sympathizers with this movement have held office. Quite a few public officials supported the militia movement in the 1990s—the direct precursor to today’s Patriot movement—including then-U.S. Representatives Steve Stockman from Texas and the late Helen Chenoweth-Hage from Idaho, as well as many state and local legislators, such as the late Colorado State Representative and Senator Charlie Duke.6

There are a number of current Oregon officials who have links to Patriot groups or who showed support for nullification, coordination, and/or the Malheur occupation in different ways. (Please note that the inclusion of a candidate or elected official in this article only relates to their political beliefs and is not an accusation that they are engaged in paramilitary training or illegal political actions.)

  • Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, perhaps the best known in this list of currently serving officials, was on the CSPOA’s Council of Sheriffs, Peace Officers and Public Officials and won the 2012 CSPOA Sheriff of the Year Award. In 2015 he tried to invoke coordination for his sheriff’s office to have rights on federal forestland. He also met with occupiers during the occupation, and the occupation’s leadership was stopped and confronted by law enforcement when they were traveling to meet Palmer at a community meeting in the town of John Day.7
  • State Representative Dallas Heard (District 2) visited the occupation as part of a trip with out-of-state elected officials.8
  • State Representative Carl Wilson (District 3) was praised by the Oath Keepers for writing a letter in support of miners who established armed encampments at the Sugar Pine Mine in Josephine County, Oregon in spring 2015 over a land use conflict with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).9 This incident is seen as a precursor to the Malheur occupation.
  • Baker County Commissioner Bill Harvey has invoked coordination and spoke at a “Rural Lives Matter” rally—one of the first statewide attempts to build Patriot movement public support after the Malheur occupation ended.10
  • Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett publicly blamed the BLM for Malheur occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s death and has supported the movement’s politics in general.11
  • Grants Pass City Councilor Roy Lindsay is the treasurer of the Josephine County Oath Keepers.12

In addition, state Senator Kim Thatcher (District 13) and state Representatives Bill Post (District 25) and Mike Nearman (District 23) took part in a spring 2015 rally in Salem, Oregon against SB941, a state law requiring background checks for private gun sales. They appeared alongside two Patriot movement leaders, including Three Percenters’ cofounder Mike Vanderboegh. He threatened “civil war” (as he did at the Bundy Ranch) as a response to the new law, calling Oregon Governor Kate Brown and others in the state government “tyrants” and “domestic enemies of the Constitution.” Vanderboegh concluded, “this country has long had a remedy for tyrants—a second amendment remedy. So be careful for what you wish for, Madam—you may get it.”13

In addition to the currently serving officials, there are at least fourteen Patriot movement affiliated candidates running for Oregon office—although there are undoubtedly more who have escaped our attention or are hiding their affiliations. Most candidates are running in the May primary, although some races will be decided in the November election. These include candidates who are Patriot movement activists; those who are directly courting or endorsed by Patriot groups; and those promoting the movement’s radical political positions including nullification, coordination, and sympathy with the Malheur occupation.

State Races

Bruce Cuff is a gubernatorial candidate in the Republican primary and is actively seeking Patriot movement support.14 According to his website, “The highest elected law enforcement officers in the State of Oregon are the 36 County Sheriffs.” It also says, “All Federal lands should be returned to the State of Oregon so local counties can manage the public lands within their borders.” His campaign strategy statement invokes Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 17 of the U.S. Constitution to support the legally specious belief that the federal government is restricted to owning what, in the Patriot movement’s jargon, is referred to as “forts, ports, and ten square miles” (of Washington, D.C.).15 He is campaigning on the idea of “state sovereignty,” saying that any actions by at least ten federal agencies (including the FBI, BLM, and OSHA) will have to be permitted by both the state governor and local sheriff. He also attacks Oregon Governor Brown for allowing Syrian refugees into the state by invoking typical demonizing rhetoric, including accusations that they are disease carriers and are potential ISIS members.16 Cuff attended a March 2016 Portland rally supporting those arrested for the Malheur occupation; elsewhere he said, “LaVoy was murdered,” and placed the blame on Governor Brown.17 In 2014, Cuff ran in the Republican primary for governor and received 23,912 votes (9.7 percent).18

The Constitution Party of Oregon is a Hard Right theocratic party that split from the party’s national organization in 2006, although the state party has the option to place the national party’s candidate on the ballot. In the 1990s, the national party was named the U.S. Taxpayer Party and it had many links to the militia movement.19 Today, some members are also involved with the Oath Keepers. The Constitution Party of Oregon’s platform calls for the transfer of federal public lands, the right of the county sheriff to interpret the Constitution, and for taxes to be paid in gold or silver. During the occupation, the party called for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to be transferred out of federal hands.20 The Constitution Party of Oregon’s gubernatorial candidate is Aaron Auer, and party candidates for the November election are expected to be announced soon. Auer ran for Oregon governor in 2014 and received 15,929 votes.21

Dennis Linthicum is the only Republican candidate for state senate for District 28 so he is up for election in November. Linthicum was a Klamath County Commissioner from 2011 to 2015. He appeared at an event alongside then-CSPOA Sheriff Gil Gilbertson of Josephine County, and is active with Patriot movement social media. In a blog post written before the Malheur occupation, about the convictions of Dwight and Steven Hammond (whose mandatory minimum prison sentences for arson were the initial issue which inspired the occupation), Linthicum echoed Patriot movement conspiracies that “the vast majority of actions at the federal level are aimed at building a federal empire of absolute control.” He later wrote favorably about the Malheur occupation, claiming that those who did not support it were beingtrapped in the web of manufactured information,” and implying it was the federal government—not the occupiers—that was the real party guilty of breaking the law.22 In 2014, he challenged Greg Walden in the Republican primary for the U.S. House seat in District 2 and received 19,936 votes (24 percent).23

Jo Rae Perkins is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Representative in District 4 and is heavily courting Patriot movement support. She is challenging Art Robinson, who ran for the position several times, and in 2014 was both the Republican and Constitution Party candidate. Her calendar shows her appearances with right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers of Linn & Benton Counties, Lane County’s 912 Project, and the Liberators—though it omits her Roseburg, Oregon talk hosted by Three Percenters.24 Perkins is a former Linn County Republican Party chair.25 Her platform includes standard right-wing causes such as opposing immigration (including ending sanctuary cities), making abortion illegal, and supporting gun rights. Additionally, she cites Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution to support the erroneous belief the federal government cannot legally own most public lands.26

County Races

In Harney County, where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation occurred, at least three Patriot-style candidates are running for county positions. Charmaign “Sis” Edwards, one of the few local ranchers who supported the Malheur takeover, is running for Commissioner. She is currently on the South Harney School Board and has a grazing permit on Bureau of Land Management property.27 On December 11, 2015, before the occupation, she signed a “Redress of Grievances” concerning the Hammond family that was being forwarded by a number of Patriot groups.28 Edwards and her husband visited the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and, after meeting with Ammon Bundy, told reporters they supported both the occupation and the transfer of the refuge land to local control.29 She is using “Rural Lives Matter” as a campaign slogan, and in one Facebook post promotes a right-wing conspiracy theory popular in Patriot movement circles about Agenda 21. In reality, this is a nonbinding United Nations’ resolution that advocates ecologically sustainable development; however, right-wing conspiracy theorists believe it is actually a nefarious global socialist plot to drive rural people off the land and into cities, where they will be herded in concentration camps. On Edwards’s Facebook page, she cites Agenda 21 a part of “a serious effort to reduce the population and control man’s existence by a New World Order.”30

Anna Jo Surber is running for Harney County Judge, a position similar to a county commission chair, currently held by Steve Grasty, an outspoken critic of the occupation who is retiring. Surber is an employee at the Narrows, the restaurant and RV park just outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters that welcomed the occupiers as customers. Her campaign Facebook page says, “We need constitutional Judges, Sheriffs and other elected officials.”31 One week into the occupation, she agreed with a podcast interviewer that the armed occupation was “a good tactic” and described the occupiers as “peaceful.”32 A couple weeks later, in an interview with Pete Santilli, the Patriot movement livestreamer who was arrested for his role in the occupation and is in jail awaiting trial, Surber described the tactic of nullification as “exactly what I would want to do.”33

Alan Johnson is running for Harney County Sheriff. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Johnson’s candidacy is “sanctioned” by the CSPOA, and he was in attendance at CSPOA founder Richard Mack’s February talk in Harney County.34 He is running against Sheriff David Ward, a supporter of the Hammond family who had initially met with Ammon Bundy and other Patriot activists. However, Ward (along with Judge Steve Grasty) became an outspoken critic of the occupation, even as he continued to meet with the occupiers and work for a peaceful resolution.”

In Josephine County, the co-founder of the Pacific Patriots Network and leader of the county’s Oath Keepers chapter, Joseph Rice, is running for county commission. Rice was the de facto leader of the Sugar Pine Mine operation in spring 2015. In this incident, Patriot movement activists came from around the country to Josephine County and established armed camps in support of locals on a mining claim were who were in conflict with the Bureau of Land Management. Members of the Josephine County Oath Keepers helped organize the original demonstration in Burns in support of the Hammonds, which Ammon Bundy and others left at the end of to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. The Josephine County Oath Keepers is part of the Pacific Patriots Network, and although they technically distanced themselves from the occupation, Rice met with the occupiers and the Pacific Patriots Network came back to Burns to attempt to politically profit from the situation.35 In this primary, Rice is vying for Position 2 County Commissioner against other prominent local right-wingers, including Dale Matthews, who runs the Bad County website, and Paul Walter, who runs the conspiracist News With Views website.36

In Crook County, two members of the Central Oregon Patriots (COP) are seeking county positions. COP is an influential local political organization; its origins are in the Tea Party and although its politics are similar to the Patriot movement it is tactically more moderate than the other groups mentioned here.37 However, COP has cross-membership with the Oath Keepers and connections with members of the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, which is part of the Pacific Patriots Network. COP co-organizer, Ken Taylor, is the Crook County Republican Party chair.38

COP Chair Craig Brookhart is running for Crook County Judge, a position that, like in Harney County, is roughly equivalent to a county commission chair. In 2012, Brookhart ran in the county Republican primary for Judge, receiving 972 votes (32.96 percent).39 Brookhart is also secretary of the Crook County Republican Party, a Precinct Committee Person and the Chair of the Crook County Natural Resources PAC, another vehicle for Patriot movement politics.40 The PAC has already held a seminar to promote the idea of coordination.41 Brookhart’s election website carefully hides his Hard Right connections; COP is never mentioned, and the PAC only in passing.42 His platform calls to “restore local control of natural resources,” and he calls himself a “Constitutional Conservative” while making various appeals to the Constitution in a manner consistent with Patriot views.43

COP member Pete Sharp is also running for Crook County commission. He has said, “With my platform, I put God first,” and “I want to get back to the Constitution, which means less government, less control, and the government working for the people of the county.” He is also promoting Crook County invoking coordination status and hopes this will allow for more logging.44

In Douglas County, hardline Patriot movement activist J.D. Parks is running for county commission. He is a Three Percenter, an Oath Keeper, and a founding member of the Heirs of Patrick Henry—a member group of the Pacific Patriots Network.45 Parks’s election Facebook page posts typical movement propaganda and views; for example, in one post he says, “One of our two senators actually lives in New York. The other is a communist.”46 He was part of the Sugar Pine Mine action in 2015 and is forwarding a resolution to transfer federal lands to the state and county level.47

Kody Justus, who is running for Baker County commission, is another hardline Patriot movement activist. The coordinator of his county’s Oath Keepers group and Vice-Chair of the Baker County Republicans, Justus took his nine-year-old daughter with him when he brought supplies to the Malheur occupation this January, earning a mention in the New York Times.48 His campaign video promotes “aggressively engaging federal agencies through coordination and pursuing the transfer of public lands to local control.”49 Justus’s website includes links to groups with Patriot movement-style politics like CSPOA, the Tenth Amendment Center, and Defend Rural America. Justus also attended the Rural Lives Matter rally in Halfway, Oregon on February 6, 2016—one of the first post-Malheur occupation support events.50

Sheriff’s Deputy John Hoopes is running for Baker County Sheriff in an election that will be decided in November. Hoopes is a CSPOA member, visited the Malheur occupation, and attended the Rural Lives Matter event in Halfway. 51 Hoopes’s Facebook page promotes talks by sovereign citizen lawyer KrisAnne Hall and CSPOA founder Richard Mack.52 In his answers to a 2015 candidate questionnaire, Hoopes said he wants Baker County to control public lands and that as sheriff he will refuse to enforce laws that “support gun registration or confiscation” because he believes they are unconstitutional.53

Last, Mandi Jacobs, a Patriot movement activist, is a write-in candidate to be a Republican Party Precinct Committee Person in Douglas County’s Precinct 17—despite the fact that she has not been registered as a party member for the required period to be eligible.54 Her run for this low-level elected position is of note because it represents part of a bottom-up, rather than a top-down, approach to taking over political institutions—an approach which can be seen reflected across the Patriot movement’s strategies.

The Patriot movement in Oregon has shown that it can grab headlines through the use of armed action. It will be seen this May and November whether it can capture political power at the ballot box as well. If they successfully gain county-level seats across the state, we can expect confrontations around federal land transfer, nullification, and coordination. These actions will attempt to short-circuit existing democratic structures and circumvent federal laws (especially environmental restrictions), and Patriot movement-affiliated county officials will help create a welcoming environment for further right-wing paramilitary activities in the state.

ENDNOTES

Unless otherwise noted, all online citations are accessible as of April 19, 2016.

1) The origin of this idea is usually attributed to Posse Comitatus, a decentralized Christian White supremacist group. See Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2002).

2) There is an actual federal rule called “coordination,” but it has a different meaning, and does not grant counties the right to dictate land-use decisions to federal agencies. See Montana Human Rights Network, “Recycled County Supremacy Gains Traction, Lacks Legal Basis,” November 2, 2012, http://www.mhrn.org/publications/specialresearchreports/MHRN%20Report%20-%20Coordination.pdf.

3) Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 125.

4) Rachel Tabachnick, “Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers,” Political Research Associates, April 23, 2015, https://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/04/23/profile-on-the-right-oathkeepers; Political Research Associates, “Profiles on the Right: Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association,” November 22, 2013, https://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/profiles-on-the-right-constitutional-sheriffs-and-peace-officers-association; Spencer Sunshine, “Profiles on the Right: Three Percenters,” Political Research Associates, January 5, 2016, https://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/01/05/profiles-on-the-right-three-percenters.

5) “Partners,” Pacific Patriots Network, http://www.pacificpatriotsnetwork.com/partners.php; OPB Staff, “New Armed Group Enters Harney County, Meets With Sheriff,” OPB, January 9, 2016, http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/armed-convoy-arrives-at-harney-county-courthouse.

6) Stern, A Force Upon the Plain, 212–17.

7) CSPOA, “The Leadership—CSPOA Council of Sheriffs, Peace Officers and Public Officials,” https://web.archive.org/web/20150820114146/http://cspoa.org/about/leadership, archive from August 20, 2015; Jonathan Thompson, “The rise of the Sagebrush Sheriffs,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, https://www.hcn.org/issues/48.2/the-rise-of-the-sagebrush-sheriffs; George Plaven, “Grant County sheriff demands coordination with Forest Service,” East Oregonian, October 9, 2015, www.eastoregonian.com/eo/local-news/20151009/grant-county-sheriff-demands-coordination-with-forest-service; Les Zaitz, “State licensing board seeks investigation of Grant County sheriff who met militants,” Oregonian/OregonLive, February 18, 2016, http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/02/state_police_board_seeks_inves.html.

8) John Sepulvado, “Oregon Lawmaker Says Roseburg Shooting Prompted ‘Fact-Finding’ Visit To Armed Occupation,” OPB, March 20, 2016, http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/roseburg-shooting-republican-politician-dallas-heard-occupation-visit. The refuge trip that Representative Heard went on was organized by COWS (Coalition of Western States), but he says that he is not a member of the group.

9) The Facebook account of the Oath Keepers of Oregon posted, “Every Politician should be supporting the miner’s rights or else they are violating their oath. At least Oregon state Rep. Carl Wilson Supports Miners’ Access To Due Process:,” May 15, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/OathKeepersofOregon/posts/686948074750130. The Josephine County Oath Keepers also posted Representative Wilson’s press release on their site; see “Rep. Carl Wilson Supports Miners’ Access To Due Process,” April 28, 2015, http://oathkeepersjoco.com/downloads/Rep-Carl-Wilson-Supports-Miners-Access-To-Due-Process.pdf.

10) Joshua Dillen, “County, Forest Service discuss coordination,” Baker City Herald, October 2, 2015, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/County-Forest-Service-discuss-coordination; Jayson Jacoby, “Message Delivered,” Baker City Herald, February 8, 2016, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Message-Delivered.

11) Nicole Montesano, “Commissioners urged to help calm Malheur tension,” Yamhill Valley News Register, January 28, 2016, http://newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=commissioners-urged-to-help-calm-malheur-tension–1454029836–20827–. Starrett is also a former Constitution Party official and candidate.

12) Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the other standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, http://www.hcn.org/issues/48.2/showdown-at-sugar-pine-mine.

13) “Senator Kim Thatcher—‘I will not comply!’—SB 941 Protests” (video), YouTube, uploaded May 31, 2015, https://youtu.be/3oe3co_tHfU; “Bill Post—‘I will not comply’ SB 941” (video), YouTube, uploaded May 31, 2015, https://youtu.be/Ycbey1VMyCQ; “Mike Nearman—‘I will not comply’—SB 941” (video), uploaded May 31, 2015, https://youtu.be/ystyU-kv5J4. For Vanderboegh, see “We Will Not Comply Rally—Salem, Oregon—May 30, 2015” (video), YouTube, uploaded July 3, 2015, https://youtu.be/sDD7GZJLSkE. His call for “civil war” is around 57:15, and comments on Governor Kate Brown around 1:04:40.

14) For example, he is speaking to the Douglas County Oath Keepers on April 15, 2016 as publicized on their Facebook page, March 22, 2016: http://www.facebook.com/oathkeepers/posts/468874663307449.

15) “Strategies to Return Local Control to the Communities and Voters of Oregon,” Bruce Cuff for Governor of Oregon, http://www.time4cuff.co/strategies-to-return-local-control.html, accessed April 17, 2016.

16) “Oregon is a Sovereign State!,” Bruce Cuff for Governor of Oregon, http://www.time4cuff.co/oregon-is-a-sovereign-state-.html, accessed April 17, 2016.

17) KOIN 6 News Staff, “Shouts of support, waves for jailed Bundy brothers,” KOIN6, March 5, 2016, http://koin.com/2016/03/05/shouts-of-support-waves-for-jailed-bundy-brothers; “BLM Protest Wardo interviews Bruce Cuff and J D Parks Oregon 3/26” (video), YouTube, uploaded April 1, 2016, https://youtu.be/qQyF7wamshU. See starting at 2:27.

18) “Oregon 2016 Election Center,” Washington Times, http://m.washingtontimes.com/elections/OR/profile.

19) Montana Human Rights Network, The Constitution Party of Montana: The Radical Right Wing’s Collision with Mainstream Politics, third edition, 2009 (originally 2000), http://www.mhrn.org/publications/specialresearchreports/CPOM%20Updated%20report.pdf, 9–13, 63–64.

20) “Platform of the Constitution Party of Oregon,” The Constitution Party of Oregon, http://www.constitutionpartyoregon.net/platform_of_the_constitution_par.htm; see also, Constitution Party of Oregon’s Facebook post from January 10, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/ConstitutionPartyOfOregon/posts/561405287347989.

21) Oregon Secretary of State, “November 4, 2014, General Election, Official Abstract of Votes,” http://sos.oregon.gov/elections/Documents/results/results-2014-general-election.pdf.

22) “Josephine County Republicans Present Rich Wyatt and Kevin Starrett,” 2015, https://jocogop.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/richwyatt.png; Dennis Linthicum, “BLM v Hammond—A Blind Pimple Or Worse?,” Dirt Road Economist, November 23, 2015, http://www.dirtroadeconomist.com/2015/11/23/blm-v-hammond-a-blind-pimple-or-worse; “Absolute Power is not Easily Tamed,” Dirt Road Economist, January 28, 2016, http://www.dirtroadeconomist.com/2016/1/28/absolute-power-is-not-easily-tamed.

23) “Oregon—Summary Vote Results,” May 21, 2014, http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/files/elections/2014/by_state/OR_US_House_0520.html.

24) “March 2016” calendar, http://www.perkins4oregon.com/Calendar/Events/2016/03.aspx; “Meet with Jo Rae Perkins,” Facebook event, http://www.facebook.com/events/890834391033614, accessed April 1, 2016; screenshot in possession of author. The 912 Project was founded by Glenn Beck.

25) Ian K. Kullgren, “Election 2016: Who’s running for office in Oregon? Portland? We’ve got your list right here,” Oregonian/OregonLive, March 09, 2016, http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/03/candidate_list_final_2016.html.

26) “Issues,” http://www.perkins4oregon.com/Issues.aspx, accessed April 17, 2016.

27) “Charmaign ‘Sis’ Edwards for Harney County Commissioner,” March 30, 2016, http://www.facebook.com/Edwards4Commissioner/posts/1750781981820909; Karina Brown, “Residents Mixed on Bundy Militia’s Takeover,” Courthouse News Service, January 7, 2016, http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/01/07/residents-mixed-on-bundy-militias-takeover.htm.

28) We the People—United Individuals of these States United: Coalition of Western States (COWS), Pacific Patriot Network (PPN), Bundy Family and Supporters, Oregon Oath Keepers, Idaho III%, Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, Oregon Tactical, Oregon Bearded Bastards, Liberty Watch Washington, Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, Rural Heritage Preservation Project, Liberty For All (LFA), etc., “NOTICE: Redress of Grievance – December 11, 2015,” http://holdingblock.blogspot.com/2015/12/we-people-united-individuals-of-these.html.

29) Brown, “Residents Mixed on Bundy Militia’s Takeover.”

30) http://www.facebook.com/charmaign.edwards; see February 21, 2016 post.

31) Caitlin Dickson, “In Oregon occupation, residents choose sides on social media—and things get ugly,” Yahoo News, January 11, 2016, http://www.yahoo.com/news/in-oregon-occupation–residents-choose-sides-on-social-media%E2%80%94and-things-get-ugly-202711268.html; “About,” http://www.facebook.com/Annajoforjudge.

32) Trent Loos’ Podcast, “Loos Tales for Jan 11, 2016 Anna Jo Surber works at the The Narrows,” January 10, 2016, http://trentloos.podomatic.com/entry/2016-01-10T05_07_40-08_00. See around 1:40, 3:00, and 3:38.

33) “Anna Jo Surber Running For Commissioner In Harney County Oregon— #OregonFront,” January 26, 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbO9rSXn2RE. See around 7:44.

34) Bill Morlin, “‘Constitutional Sheriff’ Richard Mack Hoping to Capitalize on Oregon Standoff,” February 16, 2016, http://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/02/16/%E2%80%98constitutional-sheriff%E2%80%99-richard-mack-hoping-capitalize-oregon-standoff.

35) Tay Wiles and Jonathan Thompson, “Who’s who inside and on the outskirts of the Malheur occupation,” High Country News, January 11, 2016, http://www.hcn.org/articles/whos-who-at-the-oregon-standoff-malhuer-bundy.

36) Josephine County Voters’ Pamphlet: Official Primary Election, May 17, 2016, http://www.co.josephine.or.us/Files/May%202016%20Primary%20Election%20VP.pdf.

37) An archived COP website says, “On September 12, 2009 two area citizens were part of the largest peaceful protest march in the history of our nation. We now recognize the Tea Party on 9/12/2009 as the genesis of COP.” See https://web.archive.org/web/20160212180928/http://www.copatriots.org.

38) “Ken Taylor,” http://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-taylor-59b24719; “Crook County,” http://www.oregonrepublicanparty.org/CrookCounty.

39) Jason Chaney, “Brookhart again running for judge,” Central Oregonian, November 24, 2015, http://www.pamplinmedia.com/ceo/162-news/282544-158473-brookhart-again-running-for-judge; “Primary Election, May 15, 2012—Official Final Results” http://co.crook.or.us/Portals/0/MayPrimary2012.pdf.

40) Aaron West, “Three running for Crook County judge,” The Bulletin (Bend), April 5, 2016, http://www.bendbulletin.com/newsroomstafflist/4186316-151/three-running-for-crook-county-judge.

41) Aaron West, “Crook County residents form a PAC to make a land use plan,” The Bulletin (Bend), February 29, 2016, http://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/4042307-151/crook-county-residents-form-a-pac-to-make.

42) Brookhart for Crook County Judge, 2016, http://electcraigbrookhart.com.

43) “Platform,” Brookhart for Crook County Judge, 2016, http://electcraigbrookhart.com/Brookhart_for_Crook_County_Judge/Platform.html; “About Me,” Brookhart for Crook County Judge, 2016, http://electcraigbrookhart.com/Brookhart_for_Crook_County_Judge/About_Me.html.

44) Jason Chaney, “Sharp joins county commissioner race,” Central Oregonian, December 4, 2015, http://www.pamplinmedia.com/ceo/162-news/284047-159397-sharp-joins-county-commissioner-race; Aaron West, “7 up for open seat in Crook County,” The Bulletin (Bend), March 26, 2016, http://www.bendbulletin.com/newsroomstafflist/4162552-151/7-up-for-open-seat-in-crook-county.

45) Carisa Cegavske, “Susan Morgan critic J.D. Parks running for her commission seat,” NR Today, February 9, 2016, http://www.nrtoday.com/news/20566618-113/susan-morgan-critic-jd-parks-running-for-her, accessed April 1, 2016. Copy in possession of author.

46) “J.D. Parks for Douglas County Commissioner,” http://www.facebook.com/groups/781291355309827.

47) “J.D. Parks—Bringing the Constitution back at the local Level,” February 24, 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD4VFnFCkAY. One of Parks’s opponents is Gary Leif, who visited the Malheur occupation, but came away saying he did not support it. See Carisa Cegavske, “County commissioner candidate Gary Leif meets with protesters at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” NRToday, January 22, 2016, http://www.nrtoday.com/news/20276992-113/county-commissioner-candidate-gary-leif-meets-with-protesters.

48) Gina Perkins, “Coordinator of County’s Oath Keeper Group Running for Commissioner,” Record-Courier, January 28, 2016, http://www.therconline.com/#!Coordinator-of-Countys-Oath-Keeper-Group-Running-for-Commissioner/cg4a/56aa60a60cf2c295f1f2674f; Julie Turkewitzjan, “Fervor in Oregon Compound and Fear Outside It,” New York Times, January 12, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/us/fervor-in-oregon-compound-and-fear-outside-it.html.

49) “Kody Justus for Baker County Commission,” https://vimeo.com/157685693.

50) Kody Justus for Baker County Commission, http://www.justusforbakercounty.com; Jayson Jacoby, “Message Delivered, Baker City Herald, February 8, 2016, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Message-Delivered.

51) A February 19, 2016, comment on a February 20 “Hoopes 4 Sheriff” Facebook post says he has joined CSPOA; Jayson Jacoby, “Message Delivered, Baker City Herald, February 8, 2016, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Message-Delivered.

52) “John ‘Hoopes 4 Sheriff,’” http://www.facebook.com/John-Hoopes-4-Sheriff-1708084419467568.

53) “Sheriff candidates interviewed: John Hoopes’ answers,” March 13, 2015, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Sheriff-candidates-interviewed-John-Hoopes-answers.

54) Facebook post, March 15, 2016; http://www.facebook.com/mandi.jacobs.3/posts/1149962291681485.

Profiles on the Right: Three Percenters

The Three Percenters (aka 3%ers, III%ers, or “Threepers”) are a Patriot movement paramilitary group that pledges armed resistance against attempts to restrict private gun ownership.1 Adherents and supporters have been associated with threats and acts of violence. Like other Patriot groups, they depict the federal government as tyrannical. Their name refers to the (disputed) percentage of American colonialists who took up arms against the British during the Revolutionary War.

Image created by a Three Percenter and posted to the conservative blog Skeptical Eye favorably compares the Three Percenters to the Confederacy and the American Revolution.

Image created by a Three Percenter and posted to the conservative blog Skeptical Eye favorably compares the Three Percenters to the Confederacy and the American Revolution.

The Three Percenters have a loosely defined membership and a decentralized organizational structure. Seemingly anyone can use the label. There are overlapping Three Percenter organizations, including local, state, and regional leadership structures that coordinate actions and decision-making.

A Three Percenter from Idaho provides "security" at the Oregon Standoff, Jan 14, 2015. Photo by Spencer Sunshine.

A Three Percenter from Idaho provides “security” at the Oregon Standoff, Jan 14, 2015. Photo by Spencer Sunshine.

The Three Percenters were co-founded in late 2008 by Mike Vanderboegh, who was active in 1990s Alabama militia groups. Vanderboegh has said, “The Three Percent idea, the movement, the ideal, was designed to be a simple, powerful concept that could not be infiltrated or subjected to agents provocateurs like many organizations that I observed in the constitutional militia movement of the 90s.”2 Along with the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters are part of a new wave of Patriot movement groups that are successors to the militia movement of the 1990s and have had a dramatic rebirth since the 2008 election of Barack Obama to the presidency.3

Ideologically, the Three Percenters are similar to the better-known Oath Keepers, a Patriot movement group of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responders. The Oath Keepers claim to “defend the Constitution,” and interpret this as a commitment to right-wing social and economic views of the kind usually associated with the John Birch Society. The Oath Keepers promote conspiracy theories that claim that the United States is a socialist government intent on disarming the population so that a foreign government can invade. They are committed to a libertarian view of private property that opposes most federal land ownership or restrictions on private use for environmental or other reasons.4

A Three Percenter flag could be seen flying above the Jan. 2015 militia seige of a federal building in rural Oregon.

A Three Percenter flag could be seen flying above the Jan. 2015 militia seige of a federal building in rural Oregon.

Where the Oath Keepers are a formally incorporated group with a board of directors and membership roll, the Three Percenters are more like a loosely organized social movement. The Oath Keepers carefully cultivate a public image of bold but legal resistance against supposed government tyranny. Consistent with their media-ready image, they claim that they can deny membership to felons.5

Those with felony convictions are welcome in the Three Percenters, who work closely with the Oath Keepers. There appears to be substantial membership overlap and their most prominent members appear in public together; for example, Vanderboegh and Oath Keepers President and Founder Stewart Rhodes both spoke at a 2015 Salem, Oregon rally against a law requiring registration of gun sales between private individuals. This arrangement with the Three Percenters may afford the Oath Keepers a measure of insulation from public scrutiny of actions by Three Percenters.

Three Percenter co-founder Vanderboegh is well known for his violent rhetoric. In 2010, he called for breaking the windows of Democratic Party offices, and a slew of such attacks followed. He called for armed resistance to Obamacare and has published personal information about the families of legislators who voted for gun control measures.6 At the 2015 Salem, Oregon rally against state gun control legislation, he threatened “civil war” (as he did at the Bundy Ranch) as a response to the new laws. He also called Oregon Governor Kate Brown and others in the state government “tyrants” and “domestic enemies of the Constitution,” before saying, “this country has long had a remedy for tyrants—a second amendment remedy. So be careful for what you wish for, Madam—you may get it.”7

The Three Percenters have shown up at almost all of the major Patriot movement standoffs and armed camps in recent years, including the Bundy Ranch confrontation with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents in Nevada in April 2014; a Josephine County, Oregon dispute between miners and the BLM in April 2015; and a Lincoln, Montana dispute between miners and the BLM and Forest Service in July 2015. In Idaho, they have mobilized religious hatred and xenophobic hostility, organizing public rallies against Syrian refugee resettlement.8 The Idaho Three Percenters’ organizing has inspired similar actions in California. Supporters also tried to build a “citadel” in rural Benewah County in the Idaho panhandle.9

Numerous arrests of Three Percenters and those who have shown affinity with them have been documented. Allen “Lance” Scarsella, who was arrested in connection with the shooting of five people at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Minneapolis in November 2015, showed an affinity for the Three Percenters.10 So did Jerad Miller, who was at the Bundy Ranch before he and his wife, Amanda, were involved in a June 2014 ambush of police officers and subsequent shootout that left five dead, including the Millers.11 Three Percenter Brad Bartelt threatened to detonate a homemade explosive on Arkansas State University’s campus in December 201512. Bran­don D. Gibbs, who was heavily armed and armored when police arrested him in December 2014 for threatening a city official, also had shown an affinity for the Three Percenters.13 And in 2011, Frederick Thomas was arrested in Georgia as a member of a militia group, which “planned to attack cities including Atlanta with deadly ricin, bomb federal buildings and murder law enforcement officials and others.”14 Thomas was allegedly inspired by Vanderboegh’s online novel Absolved; it describes a future confrontation where activists with Patriot movement views have a shootout with law enforcement and plan to murder government officials.15


CITATIONS

[1] Co-founder Mike Vanderboegh described the concept this way in 2009: “The Three Percent today are gun owners who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act. Three Percenters say quite explicitly that we will not obey any further circumscription of our traditional liberties and will defend ourselves if attacked. We intend to maintain our God-given natural rights to liberty and property, and that means most especially the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, we are committed to the restoration of the Founders’ Republic, and are willing to fight, die and, if forced by any would-be oppressor, to kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution that we all took an oath to uphold against enemies foreign and domestic.” Mike Vanderboegh, “What is a ‘Three Percenter’?,” February 17, 2009, http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-is-three-percenter.html.

[2] Mike Vanderboegh, “A Brief Three Percent Catechism — A discipline not for the faint-hearted,” June 29, 2014, http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-brief-three-percent-catechism.html.

[3] Mark Potok, “The ‘Patriot’ Movement Explodes,” March 1, 2012, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2012/patriot-movement-explodes.

[4] Rachel Tabachnick, “Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers,” April 23, 2015, www.politicalresearch.org/2015/04/23/profile-on-the-right-oathkeepers.

[5] See Article VIII, Section 8.01 in the “Bylaws of Oath Keepers,” accessed December 31, 2015, https://www.oathkeepers.org/bylaws.

[6] “Michael Brian Vanderboegh,” accessed December 31, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/michael-brian-vanderboegh-0; see also David Neiwert, “Antigovernment Speakers Denounce Washington State Gun Law, Threaten Violent Revolt,” December 17, 2014, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2014/12/17/antigovernment-speakers-denounce-washington-state-gun-law-threaten-violent-revolt.

[7] Devin Burghart of Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights pointed this part of the speech out. “We Will Not Comply Rally – Salem, Oregon – May 30, 2015,” uploaded July 3, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDD7GZJLSkE. Vanderboegh’s “civil war” comment is around 57:15, and comments on Brown around 1:04:40; for his Bundy Ranch speech, see Miranda Blue, “Bundy Ranch Speaker Warns Of ‘Civil War On A Vast Scale,’ Promises Harry Reid Will Have His ‘Balls Ripped Off’,” April 30, 2014,
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/bundy-ranch-speaker-warns-civil-war-vast-scale-promises-harry-reid-will-have-his-balls-rippe.

[8] David Neiwert, “‘III Percenters’ Ride Wave of Islamophobia in Idaho to Lead Anti-Refugee Protests,” November 4, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/11/04/%E2%80%98iii-percenters%E2%80%99-ride-wave-islamophobia-idaho-lead-anti-refugee-protests.

[9] Bill Morlin, “Behind the Walls,” May 16, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2013/behind-walls.

[10] Sarah Kaplan, “Minn. man accused in Black Lives Matter shootings reportedly subscribed to ‘sovereign citizen’ subculture,” December 1, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/12/01/minn-man-accused-of-shooting-black-lives-matter-protesters-reportedly-subscribed-to-sovereign-citizen-subculture/.

[11] Mark Potok, “Alleged Las Vegas Cop-Killers in ‘Patriot’ Movement, Warned of ‘Sacrifices’,” June 9, 2014, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2014/06/09/alleged-las-vegas-cop-killers-‘patriot’-movement-warned-‘sacrifices’.

[12] Arturo Garcia, “Alleged Arkansas State gunman was investigated for saying he was ‘suicidal and homicidal’ online,” December 10, 2015,  http://www.rawstory.com/2015/12/alleged-arkansas-state-gunman-was-investigated-for-saying-he-was-suicidal-and-homicidal-online/

[13] “Apparent Extremist Threatens Police Officers and a City Employee,” December 17, 2014, http://blog.adl.org/extremism/apparent-extremist-threatens-police-officers-and-a-city-employee.

[14] Mark Potok, “Georgia Militiamen Arrested in Major Domestic Terror Plot,” November 2, 2011, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2011/11/02/georgia-militiamen-arrested-major-domestic-terror-plot.

[15] “Michael Brian Vanderboegh,” accessed December 31, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/michael-brian-vanderboegh-0.