The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Oath Keepers Group Takes on ‘Pivot Point’ Arizona Town

By Ryan Lenz on August 29, 2011 - 2:51 pm, Posted in Antigovernment, Extremist Propaganda, Patriot Groups

QUARTSZITE, Ariz. — In the heart of the Sonoran Desert, in a scruffy town populated by nomad retirees, inveterate rock hounds and a nearly 70-year-old nudist bookseller who claims to be the first male stripper in the country, the antigovernment “Patriot” group Oath Keepers has decided to take a stand.

Quartzsite has only 3,800 permanent residents in homes strung out along both sides of Interstate 10 as it cuts westward to California. But here, the Oath Keepers argue, the banner of tyranny has already been raised. “This is the start. We want to set an example here,” Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes said Saturday after a two-mile march scheduled as part of a “Liberty Festival” in Quartzsite. “If every community across the country simply did what’s being done right here – right here, right now – we would restore our republic.”

What’s being done in Quartzsite is a response to a complicated tale of alleged small-town corruption that pits the town’s police chief against many of his officers and a number of citizens — complicated enough that it’s hard to say at this stage who’s right. But the Oath Keepers says on its website that it “considers the Quartzsite saga to be a vital pivot point on which small-town America shall awaken to the encroachment of corruption and violation of rights from Federal levels downward into our local communities and our daily lives.”

Quartzsite became national news in June, when a video posted online showed a local blogger, Jennifer Jade Jones, being arrested at a Town Council meeting. The video went viral and prompted widespread condemnation of Quartzsite Police Chief Jeff Gilbert. The consensus in Patriot circles was that the martial law antigovernment extremists have worried about for decades had finally come to Quartzsite. Even Keith Olbermann named Gilbert one of the week’s “Worst Persons in the World.”

Gilbert, who has since been the focal point of Patriot ire, says the claims are nonsense – the product of nothing more than Internet hype. The council declared a state of emergency in the wake of Jones’ arrest, but the “mayor is still the mayor,” he said. “There’s this misconception that [Jones] was arrested because she was exercising her freedom of speech,” Gilbert said. “She got arrested because she refused to leave when the council voted to have her removed.”

Gilbert gave Hatewatch materials from one of Jones’ blogs that he said gave police cause for concern when she refused to leave. One unsigned post read, “In the AZ that I remember real citizens carried guns and had the balls to use them. … Take your town back. If they won’t listen to reason, run them out of town, or kill them.” (The post is no longer online, but Gilbert said it was worrisome in the aftermath of the murder of six people and the grievous wounding of a congresswoman by Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson last January.)

Into that fray stepped the Oath Keepers, which Rhodes claims has some 12,000 dues-paying members, many of whom were expected for the muster on Saturday. But by mid-morning, just over 100 had gathered in the scorching heat. Their chants comparing Chief Gilbert to Adolf Hitler noticeably dwindled as the heat took its toll. When the march was finished, they settled into lawn chairs in the vacant cement lots of Vito’s RV Park to hear speeches. “The camera is the new gun,” Jones said in one of them, referring to the video of her arrest.

On Saturday, a representative from the Republic for the united States (RuSA), an antigovernment “sovereign citizens” group actively working to undermine the federal government, scouted the crowd looking for recruits. Members of various Arizona border militias served as security for the day. When the afternoon quieted, they settled in the shade with their rifles on their laps to swap ideas on how best to avoid prosecution if they were to shoot “Mexican invaders.” (The consensus was to establish a militia as a limited liability corporation and have a really good lawyer.)

The charge that its ranks are populated with extremists is a touchy one for the Oath Keepers. Earlier this month, Rhodes told Human Events writer Kathryn DeLong that allegations from groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center that the Oath Keepers are a group of conspiracy theorists were “a smear tactic” — a notion that DeLong enthusiastically endorsed in her Aug. 16 article. But a quick look at the Oath Keepers website — and a long April 17 posting from Rhodes, in particular — make it pretty obvious why that such allegations are regularly made.

In that posting, describing America’s military veterans as a “sleeping giant” who needed to be awakened, Rhodes wrote, “The hour is late, and our Constitution hangs by a thread.” He then went on to explain, in somewhat convoluted terms, why that is. He cited “the liberty crushing plans of the political and financial elites who intend to use chaos as an excuse to scrap our Constitution and national sovereignty once and for all.” He predicted that the “fiat money” system — money that is not backed by precious metals — will crash and that that “coming economic collapse” might be used as a pretext to impose “martial law.” He proposed that state militias be formed capable of “repelling invasions.” He suggested setting up barter networks and using gold and silver as money. “We must have an alternative to the fiat money in place when it collapses, so we can resist what the globalists have in store for us next.”

Rhodes in the past has suggested that his paranoid fears are simply theoretical worries — worries about, for example, a new version of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. But, of course, the reality is that all the things the Oath Keepers fear — martial law, foreign troops, the collapse of fiat money, the internment of liberty-loving Americans in concentration camps — are longstanding conspiracy theories held widely by members of the Patriot movement. The group’s core idea is the “10 Orders We Will Not Obey,” including possible orders to put American citizens in prison camps and to impose martial law.

Oath Keepers members have had their share of legal troubles, as well. This April, Matthew Fairfield of Cleveland, Ohio, described by a prosecutor as the president of a local Oath Keepers chapter, was jailed on 54 counts related to his alleged storing of a live napalm bomb. Then, last week, Charles Dyer, a self-described member of the Oath Keepers, was arrested in Houston after evading police for 10 days on charges he raped a 7-year-old girl.

At the muster on Saturday, Arizona State Rep. Judy Burges, who described herself as part of the Tea Party movement, took on the idea of domestic terrorism directly. “You know, they have to call us domestic terrorists because we are the group that’s going to stand up to their communist agenda,” she said. When the applause ended, she cheerfully added, “I’ll take that name any day of the week.”

  • Shawn

    Just thought you might like an update.

    http://desertmessenger.blogspo.....fired.html

  • Patricia

    You can’t base any organization on the misdeeds of the people’s “humans” transgressions as you can’t base the teachings of the church on these people either.
    What are the principles and foundation of the Oath Keepers. Like any large group you will have your infiltrators, those who have an alternate agenda, etc. Don’t be narrow minded and…don’t watch FOX. Sit in front of your air conditioner and just don’t do anything. That’s how we got here in the first place. Complacency and acceptance and embracement of being nanny’d. Thanks a lot.

  • Jim

    I really appreciate the honesty and bravery of Chief Gilbert…Stewart Rhodes and his OathKeepers are not basing their concerns on theoretical worries…it sounds eerily similar to William Potter Gale’s distorted understanding of the concept of Posse Comitatus and his support for violence, armed disorder, and armed insurrection aimed at their sworn enemy – the federal government. Gale died in 1988 while appealing his conviction for mailing death threats to a Nevada federal judge..Gale promoted his group for 17 years and never experienced the joy of successful armed paramilitary rebellion. None of Rhodes’ theories are original, but mostly borrowed from a World War II combat vet who believed that he was a true descendant of the Lost Tribes of Israel and Jews are the spawn of Satan..No doubt Stewart Rhodes will excommunicate any member who acts like that..but no doubt a certain percentage of OathKeepers are… given their training and military backgrounds..

    Jim
    Colville

  • Leslie

    @John Rohan

    FYI: The author’s name is Ryan not Rick.

    Where were the Oath Keeper musters when Bush and Co. were spying on American citizens?

  • John Rohan

    The objectiveness and reporting of Rick Lenz is superb and beyond reproach. In fact, if anyone criticizes Mr. Lenz or the SPLC for that matter is most assuredly racist. Any negativity towards the SPLC proves that they are also certainly unbalanced, religious zealots as well and should be hurt and smeared in any way possible regardless of the damage. Such Zealots cannot be tolerated or even accepted and should be oppressed by all means necessary.

    Rick Lenz wrote:
    “Gilbert gave Hatewatch materials from one of Jones’ blogs that he said gave police cause for concern when she refused to leave. One unsigned post read, “In the AZ that I remember real citizens carried guns and had the balls to use them. … Take your town back. If they won’t listen to reason, run them out of town, or kill them.” (The post is no longer online, but Gilbert said it was worrisome in the aftermath of the murder of six people and the grievous wounding of a congresswoman by Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson last January.)
    Into that fray stepped the Oath Keepers, which Rhodes claims has some 12,000 dues-paying members, many of whom were expected for the muster on Saturday. But by mid-morning, just over 100 had gathered in the scorching heat. Their chants comparing Chief Gilbert to Adolf Hitler noticeably dwindled as the heat took its toll. When the march was finished, they settled into lawn chairs in the vacant cement lots of Vito’s RV Park to hear speeches. “The camera is the new gun,” Jones said in one of them, referring to the video of her arrest.
    On Saturday, a representative from the Republic for the United States (RuSA), an antigovernment “sovereign citizens” group actively working to undermine the federal government, scouted the crowd looking for recruits. Members of various Arizona border militias served as security for the day. When the afternoon quieted, they settled in the shade with their rifles on their laps to swap ideas on how best to avoid prosecution if they were to shoot “Mexican invaders.” (The consensus was to establish a militia as a limited liability corporation and have a really good lawyer.)”
    An unsigned internet post could be written by anyone. As it may be the opinion of one person, it should not be taken as a generalization of a nation-wide movement. I only wish you could produce at least the source of the comment. That would be helpful.

    Rick did fail to notice that there were actually 300 people involved in the march and that they braved some serious heat. He should understand that when the weather clears that more people will be able to support the cause of freedom. We understand that if so few people show up that such a march should be considered a failure, despite the lack of determination on the part of patriots and the failure of the police to understand their proper role.

    I do not see consensus by anyone on any issue.

    Ohh and one more correction – Adolf Hitler believed in state control of just about everything. He was most assuredly a socialist (National Socialist was not just a label) and understood that he could control a nation for its own “good.” Any good socialist, even the ones here in the United States, understand that individuals should not be able to determine their own destiny and must follow the State approved paths to success and recognition. There is no other way in a socialist country.

  • Martin Loveman

    Don’t worry r.m. I am not apologising.

  • Martin Loveman

    Ruben said,

    “what constitution do these oath keepers want to defend the existing one or the one that most of there far right wing nut job colleagues are cryiong about amending and changing”

    Yes some “Right-wingers” are off base with what the Constitution means.

    Do not generalize about conservatives as we come from all walks of life and hold many, sometimes differing views; just like all people. The Constitution says what it says and is not a “living document” It cannot be countermanded by legislation or enforcement. Many firearms laws may be legal but constitute unlawful amendment to the spirit and letter of the law – and the second amendment is law. The first amendment rights of Jennifer Jones were violated in full view of everyone in the city council chambers several months ago and are on video. Her right to be secure in her person was also subsequently violated and she has every right to file for emotional trauma due to the barbaric actions taken against her. “Right-wingers” do not want the Constitution to be modified – it is the Left who want the first (equal time forcibly given to left wingers on right wing media presentations) second (restriction of arms to state personnel) and fourth (restriction and confiscation of personal property to “save the Earth”) amendments modified, among others.

    We swore to defend the Constitution of These United States as written, not (mis)interpreted.

    There are so many violations of plain decency against so many residents (not I did not say angels so please don’t start attacking the townspeople for minor infractions as the police chief does) that they would be impossible to list.

    However it must be noted that Ed Foster was stripped of his ability to review town finances after he was voted in and before he took office. This is a FELONY violation of Arizona Revised Statutes relating to the requirements of municipal articles of incorporation. Would you like me to cite? I am sure the crime of conspiracy is in there somewhere.

    The article was a total fabrication of twisted facts, inventions and willful omission. It should have read:

    “Three to four-hundred equipped Patriots gathered in Quartzite with the Oath Keepers to support the 10, of 14, town police officers who have willfully refused to follow any further tyrannical orders from their police chief, jeff gilbert. A foot and vehicle order of march rally advanced on the town hall. Traffic control and V.I.P. security was provided by the Sons of Liberty Riders. The crowd at the town hall was secured by equipment bearing members of the Arizona State Guard and the Liberty Corps of New Mexico. No other militias from the state of Arizona or elsewhere attended the event. The police did nothing, nor did the Police Chief speak on his own behalf. We won, hands down”

    If you look at the actions of the Chief and the evidence against him you will see that he is dangerous and out of control. He and the remaining officers are using the law to hurt people and this cannot be tolerated by any American of any race, creed, gender or geographical location. Anyone who sides with him or the Town Council must understand that they are supporting unconstitutional authoritarianism.

    I appreciate the efforts of the SPLC and others to undermine the Constitution of These United States. Your list of charges is growing by your actions.

  • skinnyminny

    r.m. & Martin Loveman,
    I’m on the outside looking in – and I have to tell ya, your above posts are SPOOKY.

  • r.m.

    dont apologize! i will defend the Constitution from enemies BOTH foreign and domestic!

  • r.m.

    martin DONT ask for forgiveness! these “sheeple” will go ..oh the govt is so great they take care of us! wait till they see what the truth is…

  • Martin Loveman

    I don’t see how the SPLC did not see how we did the most riteous and brave action for America?

  • Martin Loveman

    Wait, I take it back and ask for forgiveness from everyone here. I just realized how wrong it is to actually expect the Bill of Rights to be defended and for humans of all sorts to be treated decently. There is a need for the SPLC to interpret the Constitution for us and to be able to level criminal charges at anyone they so chose without recourse to a trial. There is no need to be able to face an accuser, especially if that accuser attacks you for the crime of racism. The SLPC is a good and honorable organization that has never harmed anyone. Obviously it can do no wrong. It is foolish to think that anyone has the right to defend themselves against the goodness of the State. Even if you have to attack Americans.

  • Martin Loveman

    Hey Chief, why don’t you request some media time with Kieth Olberman? I mean you have been defeated once already, right?

  • Martin Loveman

    I understand that you guys are like bullies and you are correct in hurting whomever you see fit, but do you have any love for Humans and America? I mean there is nothing to be afraid of after all.

  • Martin Loveman

    Why is it that the couragous folks at the SLPC only attack the decent people of this country? Why do they attack patriot Black people like Chris from Phoenix? What is wrong with you guys? Don’t you see the evil that you are engaged in? Why was Rick Lentz sent to try and destroy us? How much has he been paid to totally lie about the restoration of freedom? It is unfortunate that the wicked do themselves in. I hope you people stop for your own good.

  • Chief Gilbert

    Thank you Ryan for writing what I believe to be a fair and accurate report of the events taking place in Quartzsite, AZ. And I commend you for braving our 115+ degree heat!

    As you stated, this is a complicated issue for our community, and it runs much deeper through the heart of the Town than one can relate in one short story.

    The Oath Keepers focus on the Town of Quartzsite began with the exploitation of a video, by our Mayor, Ed Foster. Mayor Foster lied to the media after an emergency meeting was held by the Town Council, to take measures to ensure the safety of our meetings and for the public.

    Mayer Foster told the media that the Town of Quartzsite was under “martial law”, was in a “state of emergency”, and that he had been “ousted” as Mayor by the Chief of Police.

    These false statements created a frenzy within the media who immediately began reporting on the event, or should I say “non-event”.

    The Town of Quartzsite was never under martial law, nor was it in a state of emergency as portrayed by Mayor Foster. Mayor Foster was never ousted or removed as the Mayor, and I was never in charge of the Town.

    Yesterday, a recall election was held against Mayor Foster. He lost in the election. The unofficial results declare Jose Lizarraga the winner with 53.03% of the votes. Ed Foster with 42.20% of the votes and Jennifer Jones with 4.22%.

    I hope this will be the starting point again, for responsible leadership for the Town of Quartzsite. I have confidence the new Mayor will have respect for all of the citizens of Quartzsite and will run the council meetings responsibly, and that he will report the events of the Town with honesty.

    The Town of Quartzsite is not corrupt, nor am I. The Town is heavily supported by good people who are proud of their community. We have been exploited by individuals and groups who have a bigger cause.

    We invite you to come to our town in the Sonoran Desert and see for yourself what Quartzsite is made of and what we are about. I think you will like what you see and who we are.

    If you happen to be in town on the first Wednesday of each month, stop by Town Hall and meet me at “Coffee with Cops”. I think you will see a much different person than some would like to lead you to believe. And the coffee and donuts aren’t bad either.

  • Linnea

    I feel sorry for the reasonable people living in Arizona, who are getting lumped in with these nutcases. So far, we don’t have any of these jokers here in the Midwest, but I have a feeling it’s just a matter of time… it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a bunch like this starting up here in Minnesota, making up BS about “terrorists coming over the Canadian border.” We all have to stay vigilant against these crazies, no matter where we live.

  • ModerateMike

    OK, Rep. Burges, if by “stand up to their communist agenda” you mean that you want your constituents to vote different candidates into the federal government, of course you have the right to advocate this. But it is illegal for you to incite your constituents to take up arms against the U.S.

  • Leslie

    An election to recall the mayor is happening today in Quartzite according to elections section on the town’s website. http://tinyurl.com/3kdtew4 There is no mention of who is on the ballot though.

  • ruben

    i’m a little confused here….what constitution do these oath keepers want to defend the existing one or the one that most of there far right wing nut job colleagues are cryiong about amending and changing….the far right crys and bitches so much about everyhing that they always end up losing track of what they say and contradict themselves……but in arizona anytime you want to legitimize your hateful organization say that you want to shoot a mexican or are anti mexican and you will even probably have the backing of the government there.

  • A.D.M.

    “I chose to only pick out this line from your piece. However, there are many, many more to choose from. Once again, you guys sure have outdone yourselves. This is very soapy and very tabloidish, Mr. Lenz with the genre of so called journalism that you have displayed in this piece I am sure that you could have a lucrative career at the national enquire, teen beat, etc. after all, it is obviously all about (as you would phrase it) the Benjamins.” – chris schultz

    Nice claim. Would you mind pointing the problems in article that makes you think it’s wrong? If you’re going to make a claim like that, which is something people with your mindset do, you should prove it. So, prove it, if you can.

    “The SPLC is proving themselves more incredulous and pathetic by the day. Which in my opinion is great because your money thirsty racist organization will become a laughing stock and obsolete. By the way, the SPLc should consider publishing an annual list of who is not racist and extremist in their view. It would be significantly shorter and easier to deal with.” – chris schultz

    Another idiot. Racism is the belief that one group of people is superior in every way to others and should dominate others. A racist is someone who subscribes to that belief. How exactly is SPLC racist? I’ve never heard them go around saying every non-white group is inferior in every way or should be controlled or there should be some race war. The folks at white nationalist websites have said those things. SPLC, on the other hand, puts a spotlight on them and others like black nationalists who go around saying hateful things about people just because of who they are, where they come from, and what they look like. I guess that’s why you and people like you don’t like the SPLC. It must mean they’re doing something right. If you don’t like the SPLC, why are you making comments here?

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Mr. Schultz, perhaps you would like to show some of us readers your published works so we may pass judgment on your journalistic skills.

    Also, how is the SPLC “racist”? Please show your work.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Sounds like Rhodes has watched re-runs of “Red Dawn” one time too many. But in any case, its not surprising to find that Arizona is a much welcoming state for such traitorous homegrown domestic terrorists, like the Oath Keepers. Precisely because the “anti-government” rhetoric is boldly blathered from all the way up to the feeble Gov.(Jan Brewer) herself. We also got the cowardly and clumsy Attorney General Tom Horne spending his days fighting the federal government vigorously, rather than fighting for the Rights of all its citizens(unless you’re White). Hell, the entire Arizona GOP/Repugnant Party is rabidly “anti-government”. Not to mention Sheriff Babeu of PCSO and most notoriously shurf arpaio. The Oath Keepers is right at home…….unfortunately.

    This isn’t Texas, you know.

  • chris schultz

    Even Keith Olbermann named Gilbert one of the week’s “Worst Persons in the World.”

    I chose to only pick out this line from your piece. However, there are many, many more to choose from. Once again, you guys sure have outdone yourselves. This is very soapy and very tabloidish, Mr. Lenz with the genre of so called journalism that you have displayed in this piece I am sure that you could have a lucrative career at the national enquire, teen beat, etc. after all, it is obviously all about (as you would phrase it) the Benjamins.

    The SPLC is proving themselves more incredulous and pathetic by the day. Which in my opinion is great because your money thirsty racist organization will become a laughing stock and obsolete. By the way, the SPLc should consider publishing an annual list of who is not racist and extremist in their view. It would be significantly shorter and easier to deal with.

  • Reynardine

    I live in a town no bigger than Quartzite, with a fair admixture of Mayberry and Payton Place, and I really hope those guys stay the hell away from here.

  • ruben

    whats up with the white right….they get crazier and crazier.are all these people inbred or what!….they are so delusional and stupid that they call anyone who does not agree with them hitler….hitler was a far right wing nut just like they are.

  • Leslie

    As long as it’s really really hot outside the patriots in Quartzite will be inside watching FOX with the AC cranked up. But if you need to off-load your gold coins that is the place to do it.