When Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last October, he argued that the newly formed, rapidly growing “Patriot” group was no threat to anybody – just a collection of police officers and military types who pledge to defend the Constitution and to disobey unconstitutional orders from their superiors. On the group’s website, it identifies such orders as rounding up U.S. citizens, taking their guns and forcing them into detention camps.
“We’re not talking about asking them to go fight,” said Rhodes. “We’re simply saying, Don’t fight.” He then added, “Don’t fight the people.”
One Oath Keeper in Georgia, however, decided to go beyond just disobeying orders. He’s been accused of plotting to take over a Tennessee courthouse and put two dozen officials under “citizen’s arrest.”
Darren Huff has been charged with “traveling in interstate commerce with intent to incite a riot and transporting in commerce a firearm in furtherance of a civil disorder,” according to a news report. Huff has been accused of traveling to Tennessee last month, armed with a pistol and an assault rifle, with the goal of placing 24 federal, state and local officials under arrest at a courthouse in Madisonville.
Huff, driving a black pickup emblazoned with the Oath Keepers logo, was pulled over by the Tennessee Highway Patrol on traffic violations. His goal, apparently, was to prevent another man from facing trial for earlier attempting a citizen’s arrest. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick was accused of trying to place a grand jury foreman under citizen’s arrest on April 1. According to Talking Points Memo, Fitzpatrick walked into the courthouse in Madisonville, Tenn., on April 1 and approached the foreman. “I’m charging you with official misconduct,” Fitzpatrick calmly said. “I’m placing you under arrest. You must now come with me.”
Apparently, Fitzpatrick, a retired Navy commander who is a leader in the group American Grand Jury (AGJ), targeted the grand jury foreman because he refused to investigate President Obama for fraud. The AGJ seeks to indict Obama for treason on the grounds that he is not a U.S. citizen. Fitzpatrick was charged with disorderly conduct, inciting to riot, disrupting a meeting and resisting arrest, according to the news report.
Authorities believe Huff didn’t want Fitzpatrick to stand trial, sparking the ill-conceived trip to Tennessee. But officials were already on the lookout.
A bank manager interviewed by the FBI said Huff told him in April that Fitzpatrick was falsely arrested. The bank manager also said that Huff said he was in the Georgia Militia and there was a plan for eight or nine militia groups to “take over the city” of Madisonville on April 20, according to the news report.
Huff was interviewed by FBI agents at his home on April 19. He told the agents he planned to travel to Tennessee to get Fitzpatrick’s charges dropped. He said he’d be taking his hand gun and AK-47 rifle with him. Huff assured the agents there would be no violence unless he was provoked.
On April 20, there were numerous reports by officers in Madisonville of people near the courthouse carrying firearms. After FBI agents spotted Huff leaving his home that morning, the Tennessee Highway Patrol pulled him over for traffic violations. The officers said Huff told them he planned to take over the courthouse in Madisonville and make citizen’s arrests against “domestic enemies of the United States engaged in treason.”
News of Huff’s exploits has rippled across Patriot websites. At sipseystreetirregulars, longtime Alabama militiaman Mike Vanderboegh, who is now the leader of the Three Percenters group, noted that Huff is a Christian Identity minister. Christian Identity is an anti-Semitic and racist theology.
Vanderboegh used that bit of information to argue that any adherent of Christian Identity is not a true Oath Keeper because one cannot uphold the Constitution’s promises of equality and adhere to racist beliefs. One poster on Vanderboegh’s site said he had served in the Georgia Militia with Huff and disagreed with Huff’s beliefs. He also acknowledged Huff was the group’s chaplain. Another poster disputed the description of Huff’s beliefs.
The Georgia Militia website includes an announcement of the removal of the group’s chaplain, but no name is provided. It notes “any member that creates negative attention from law enforcement will immediately be removed from the Georgia Militia.” Nevertheless, the prospect of the Patriot movement mixing with such elements has raised concerns. “It’s going to get more and more difficult to tell friend from foe, to know truth from ‘friction,’” said one poster.