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.

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.