Who Are Oath Keepers - Militia Claims to be 'Protecting' America
|Who are Militia Claims to be “Protecting” America|
Who are Oath Keepers?
Founder Stewart Rhodes refuses to say how many members he has accrued since the group was founded in 2009, but experts say it is among the largest of the armed civilian groups that have grown in popularity with the proliferation of social justice demonstrations.
During many of the racial justice demonstrations going on around the country, you may have seen groups of heavily-armed civilians guarding private businesses equipped with protective gear and firearms.
In fact, the group — donning its own logo on flags and armor — has been around much longer, and they are known as the Oath Keepers.
Oath Keepers is either “the last line of defense against tyranny” or an extremist militia. They describe themselves as a nonpartisan association of tens of thousands of current and former military, police and first responders who pledge to defend the Constitution and refuse to obey orders they consider unconstitutional. The Southern Poverty Law Center on the other hand lists Oath Keepers as “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today” and has kept tabs on incidents involving members that may betray the idea that the group is just about defending the Constitution.
The Oath Keepers also had armed members patrol the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of Michael Brown and were at numerous anti-government and anti-quarantine marches throughout the year.
While many militia groups are still holding on to the thought of a Trump reelection, judges are throwing his cases out left and right, former members of Trump’s own cabinet are beginning to turn on him, and even some Wall Street giants are embracing four years of stability under Biden, even if it comes with more restrictions than the record-setting highs and lows of the Trump administration.
Militia groups have been in existence years before President Trump got into politics, but they have embraced Trump’s brash personality, negative attitude toward the media, and lack of the truth. Trump meanwhile has embraced militia groups as they make up the majority of his supporters and are willing to blindly follow him.
During his time in office Trump has been called out for racist statements numerous times, but while these instances have disgusted his opposition, his supporters and even other Republicans have embraced them.
|Founded in 2009 by libertarian lawyer and blogger Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers claim that they are a nonpartisan association of tens of thousands of current and former military, police, and first responders who pledge to defend the Constitution even if it means refusing to obey orders they consider unconstitutional. The self-described revolutionary-in-waiting founded the group as the Great Recession raged on and conservative protesters accused the newly-elected Barack Obama of socialism and tyranny.|
|A member of the Oath Keepers armed militia group observes protests in Louisville. (Brandon Roberts/Spectrum News 1 KY)|
Militia group Oath Keepers seeks armed volunteers to protect Trump supporters at D.C. rally
Militiamen, white nationalists and so-called Proud Boys are set again to be among the supporters of President Trump participating in protests being held for him this weekend around Washington. D.C.
Several demonstrations are scheduled to be held Saturday in D.C. that are being organized by supporters of Mr. Trump protesting his recent defeat to Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden.
The leader of Oath Keepers, a nationwide militia group, said he was seeking military and police veterans with combat experience to help protect Trump supporters from “leftist terrorists” he expects.
Posting on the Oath Keepers site Thursday, Stewart Rhodes claimed his group has a large number of current or retired police officers who are legally able to carry a concealed gun nationwide.
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AMERICA’S LARGEST RADICAL MILITIA REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE JOE BIDEN AS PRESIDENT
The leader of the Oath Keepers, America’s largest far-right, anti-government militia organization, said the group will not recognize President-elect Joe Biden as the next president.
The group claims its members number in the thousands and includes current and former military members, police officers, and first responders. The Oath Keepers were one of a number of militia groups to attend the Million Maga March last weekend in support of outgoing President Donald Trump.
Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the group, told The Independent his group isn’t the only one saying Biden.
“I think about half this country won’t recognize Biden as legitimate. They won’t recognize this election,” said Rhodes, a former Ron Paul staffer and Yale Law School graduate. “What that means is that everything that comes out of his mouth will be considered not of any force or effect, anything he signs into law we won’t recognize as legitimate. We’ll be very much like the founding fathers. We’ll end up nullifying and resisting.”
When Oath Keepers was founded and How did the Oath Keepers come into existence?
Oath Keepers was formed in 2009 after the election of Barack Obama. When the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, announced its debut, he wrote in a blog post that its primary mission would be “to prevent the destruction of American liberty by preventing a full-blown totalitarian dictatorship from coming to power.”
Ascertaining how widespread support is for that mission is subject to debate. In 2014, Rhodes said Oath Keepers had about 35,000 members who paid dues to the organization. This year, the Atlantic reported there were nearly 25,000 names on a membership list the magazine obtained.
|Two members of the Oath Keepers in Louisville, Ky., this year.(Stewart Rhodes)|
But Hood County, named after the Confederate Army General John Bell Hood, could offer insight on a very local level of how the group has continued to grow in small but measurable ways across the country.
An early clue came this February at a candidate forum for local Republicans. Dub Gillum a retired state trooper who was running for justice of the peace in Hood County’s Precinct 4, said on Feb. 11 that Oath Keepers was experiencing “a resurgence—or surgence—in Hood County”, according to Politico.
The group is fueled by the conspiracy theory known as the New World Order in which adherents believe that the world has been secretly taken over by a worldwide cabal of socialists. It overlaps with many fears Trump supporters have and Trump refuses to assuage. Though this belief sounds almost exactly like QAnon, which has clear ties to antisemitism, Oath Keepers fall more into the camp of simply being extremely anti-government. Neo-Nazism and white supremacy are not part of the group’s ideology.
Ascertaining just how widespread support is for this movement is subject to debate. In a membership list obtained by The Atlantic, there were nearly 25,000 names. Rhodes claimed in 2014 that about 35,000 members paid dues to the organization. The Anti-Defamation League believes their actual numbers are much smaller, perhaps just a few thousand. Still, it is considered “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.”
Who is Stewart Rhodes - Founder of Oath Keepers
Yale Law School graduate Stewart Rhodes in 2009 founded the far-right Oath Keepers, a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group that improbably claims more than 30,000 law enforcement officers, soldiers and military veterans as members.
Stewart Rhodes (born 1966) grew up in the Southwest and joined the Army after finishing high school. He became a paratrooper, receiving an honorable discharge due to an injury in a night parachuting accident. Then Rhodes attended college at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, graduating in 1998. Rhodes has said that he taught street crime survival and rape prevention at the college women’s center and also worked as a certified Nevada concealed-carry firearms instructor, according to Splcenter.
After college, his first politically oriented job was supervising interns in Washington, D.C., for libertarian Ron Paul, then a Republican congressman from Texas. Rhodes subsequently attended Yale Law School, graduating in 2004, and clerked for Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael D. Ryan. A trial lawyer and libertarian, he later volunteered on Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Rhodes’ experience with the Paul campaign prompted one of his first documented diatribes in the political arena. Appearing on his blog in January 2008, the post blasts political opponents’ charges that Paul was linked to hate groups and racists. (The congressman’s Ron Paul Report, in fact, did contain many racist statements over the years, but Paul has claimed that he did not write or read them). Using the fevered language that would become his trademark, Rhodes railed against the “full-blown smear campaign.” Calling it a “lame attempt at guilt by association” and “stupid,” he added, “This only tells me that Ron Paul is a real threat to the political establishment, and they are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to stop the Ron Paul Revolution.” Then Rhodes pulled out his own ethnic card, disclosing that ancestors on his mother’s side were Hispanic and “American-Indian.” Being of minority ancestry himself and working with Paul, Rhodes said he saw no indication of racism—and that alone proved the racism claims were phony.
|Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington. Susan Walsh/AP Photo|
Also in 2008, Rhodes had what he described as a pivotal epiphany, described in a long profile published by Mother Jones magazine in March/April 2010. Rhodes had been writing a weapons-oriented column called “Enemy at the Gates” for S.W.A.T. Magazine, a monthly firearms publication that focuses on police SWAT teams. Rhodes said he received a wake-up call response to one of his columns from a retired colonel arguing that the Bill of Rights and Constitution were in peril and that soldiers, veterans and police “is where they will be saved, if they are saved at all!” (Rhodes has described himself as intrigued at the thought that if German soldiers and police officers had defied the government, Hitler’s regime would have collapsed.) After hearing from the retired colonel, Rhodes posted a now-notorious article on his blog, referring to Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton as “Hitlery” and spelling out how he thought she might impose a dictatorship, according to Splcenter.
Rhodes then took a hard-right turn away from electoral politics, putting up the Oath Keepers blog and beginning grassroots organizing among military officers, veterans and police officers. Soon, he had assistance from Tea Party and Ron Paul strategists. At a rally in Lexington, Mass., organized by a pro-militia group on April 19, 2009, Rhodes officially set forth the 10 “orders” Oath Keepers must not obey and officially launched the group before an audience of several hundred. It didn’t stay just an idea for long. On July 4, 2009, Rhodes dispatched speakers to more than 30 Tea Party rallies around the U.S., administering the new group’s “oath.” He also began to organize rallies of his own and aggressively recruit new members at the Oath Keepers web site.
Within a year, the group had drawn members from every state, Rhodes said, and by 2014 the Oath Keepers was claiming to have more than 30,000 people on its membership rolls, although that is an unverifiable and highly unlikely number.
In 2010, Rhodes left his Nevada legal practice and moved to Montana, joining a growing Patriot movement presence in the Big Sky state, where antigovernment extremists envision a coming “last stand” confrontation against globalist tyrants expected to steamroll across the U.S., crushing our freedoms.
Rhodes’ fervent call to resistance has been amplified with frequent media appearances on platforms offered by megaphone-wielding demagogues such as radio conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, and through alliances with other right-wing groups, including extreme Tea Party factions and the John Birch Society. He’s known to be a facile talker who tries to sound eminently reasonable.
Rhodes and his followers have launched some laughable “operations” in the last few years, but other actions they’ve taken vividly reveal the danger of their conspiracy-inflamed convictions.
On the comic opera side, Oath Keepers stormed into Quartzsite, a small Arizona town, to defend local residents who were ejected after refusing to leave a 2010 Town Council meeting on alleged government corruption. Led by Rhodes, the Oath Keepers marched into town and the group’s website called Quartzsite a pivot point for Americans to finally see the looming danger of the “New World Order.” The upshot: The Oath Keepers left town rapidly, and the State Bar of Arizona later censured Rhodes for practicing law without a state license because he wrote letters threatening a lawsuit on behalf of the ejected residents. He was fined $600.
In a far more serious episode, Daniel Knight Hayden, an Oklahoma man self-identified as an Oath Keeper, was indicted by a federal grand jury after posting Twitter messages threatening to unleash a violent attack on Oklahoma state government officials on April 15, tax day. Hayden was sentenced to eight months in prison in 2010. Another troubling example: Matthew Fairfield, a suburban Cleveland man described by prosecutors as the president of a local Oath Keepers chapter, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for storing bombs at his and a friend’s home and for obstructing justice. After Fairfield’s 2011 sentencing, a county prosecutor said it would be fair to call the Oath Keepers officer a potential terrorist.
And, in a widely publicized case, another Oath Keeper was sentenced to 30 years in prison for raping his own 7-year-old daughter. After failing to appear for trial in 2010, Charles Dyer, an ex-Marine, led police on a multi-state chase and began issuing threats against law enforcement, warning that they’d better not catch up to him. Although Dyer had spoken on behalf of the Oath Keepers and online videos identified him as the group’s liaison to the Marines, Rhodes claimed he really wasn’t part of the group.
Rhodes has continued to appear at Patriot-themed organizing rallies, joining forces with antigovernment extremist groups such as the Tenth Amendment Center and the Northwest Patriots. He’s contended that states have the right to disregard federal laws — a falsehood, as a trained lawyer should know — and that any form of gun control is a noxious attack on freedom that should trigger resistance. When gun control efforts ratcheted up in early 2013, shortly after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, Rhodes announced Oath Keeper rallies at statehouses across the nation to send lawmakers the message that “they will be held accountable if they choose to dishonor” their Constitutional oaths. He’s appeared on shows like “Coast to Coast AM,” the most listened to overnight radio program in North America, and the radio show of Alex Jones, an über-conspiracy theorist, that is livestreamed online five days a week and carried by more than 60 radio stations.
An announcement made by Rhodes in the fall of 2013 is seen by some analysts as particularly frightening. In it, Rhodes said he planned to create local militia units, organized along the lines of U.S. Special Forces teams and filled with Oath Keepers, to provide security “during crisis” and also help train local militias. “They can fight, of course,” said the E-mail announcement in October. “But they are most dangerous as a force-multiplier by helping an entire community to fight.” It was the first time Rhodes had ventured beyond words into practical preparations for dealing with the government-created apocalypse he fears so deeply.
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