The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
A judge in Alabama—tired of the blather and repeated interruptions from a man police say is an antigovernment “sovereign citizen”—found an answer to silence courtroom outbursts from the antigovernment activist: threatening to tape the man’s mouth closed.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Bud Turner suggested using tape to silence outbursts last week from Everett Leon Stout, 73, but ultimately decided it would be better judicial decorum to have the defendant removed from the courtroom and returned to jail.
Stout was in court on Jan. 28 with his common-law wife, Miriam Claire Shultz, 69, both of Oxford, Ala., for an arraignment. They were arrested in December on multiple felony charges, including filing fraudulent liens and attempting to extort $1.6 million from various businesses, including the purchase of a $300,000 recreational vehicle with a worthless sovereign citizen check. All are common crimes of sovereign citizens who believe laws, licensing requirements, taxation and most rules don’t apply to them.
Stout, shackled and wearing an orange-and-white-striped jail uniform, told the court that he wanted to be his own lawyer and refused to waive the reading of 15 charges against him, the Anniston Star reported.
“I do not accept the appointment of counsel,” Stout said, later asking the judge to read the definition of extortion. Stout said that laws didn’t apply to him before later interrupting the court, demanding to be the legal representative for his wife.
“If he says anything else, get some masking tape and put it on his mouth,” the frustrated judge told a bailiff, the newspaper reported.
“Go ahead and put it on me, if that’s what you want to do,” Stout responded. At that point the judge Turner directed bailiffs to remove Stout from the courtroom.
Ratcheting up their resistance to Washington state’s new gun-control law, anti-government gun owners are planning to show up at the state Capitol in Olympia this weekend in an open attempt to be arrested for violating newly-installed rules against carrying weapons into legislative hearings.
The effort to overturn Washington’s Initiative 594, which mandated background checks for most gun sales in the state and was approved by nearly 60 percent of state voters in the 2014 election, originated in December with a “We Will Not Comply” rally at the Capitol. At that rally, which drew hundreds of participants as well as some leading antigovernment figures, gun owners openly exchanged weapons in defiance of the law’s reporting requirements.
Then, on Jan. 15, about 200 protesters showed up at the Capitol to again protest the new law while the state Legislature was in session. During that event, a number of protesters went inside the Capitol and displayed their long guns in the upper gallery of the House chambers. Such defiance sparked concern among state officials and legislators, who worried that the display was a bald attempt to intimidate lawmakers.
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen huddled with state legislators, and in short order both the House and Senate passed bills banning open displays of firearms in their respective chambers. Shortly after that, weapons were similarly banned from all public hearings in the Capitol.
So now, the same protesters are planning to return in larger numbers on Saturday and defy new Capitol rules. Some of the organizers make clear that they intend to be arrested by state police when they do so.
A Facebook page dedicated to the protest, titled “Our Capital, Our Rights: A Rally For Freedom”, declares, “We call upon the Governor of Washington to uphold his oath and respect our unalienable rights. Liberty For All and The Patriots Stand are teaming up to stand on February 7 and demand that Jim Moeller step down, and our rights be recognized. “
Another “Patriot” organization calling itself the Patrick Henry Society, led by sometime legislative “Liberty Candidate” Sam Wilson, issued a press release titled “Gun Owners Prepare for Arrest at WA State Capitol”.”
“If the legislature feels the need,” said Sam Wilson of Liberty for All, “to prohibit peaceful citizens from openly carrying firearms into the people’s viewing chamber, it certainly makes a reasonable person question what motivates them to disarm the people viewing them while they are in session, serving as the representatives of the people.”
Already, it appears to be an uphill climb for widespread acceptance of the protest.
The Jan. 15 incursion into the House chambers was denounced by the mainstream gun-rights groups that organized the rally, notably Alan Gottlieb of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, who told the Seattle Times that the gun-waving incursion was “the result of a few stupid extremists on our side who not only handled their firearms unsafely, but made the hundreds of Second Amendment supporters at the rally look foolish.”
“Irresponsible actions get us bad results,” he said. “This kind of childish theater hurts our cause.”
“Tyranny is not an option,” Shea said in a rising voice. “The right to bear arms is unalienable. It can’t be taken away by a majority vote. It can’t be taken away by the Legislature. It can’t be taken away by the Supreme Court. God gave us that.”
While most American-born activists who become involved in defending Palestinian rights avoid becoming overt anti-Semites even while steadfastly criticizing Israel, Kenneth O’Keefe is not one of them.
O’Keefe, a former Marine-turned-antiwar and anti-environmental activist who specializes in what he calls “direct action,” has morphed in recent years into a raving, David Duke-endorsing anti-Semite, particularly in the speeches he gives to well-known white-supremacist groups.
The most noteworthy of these was O’Keefe’s speech to the IONA London Forum, a gathering of academically oriented white supremacists and anti-Semites held last August. The speech was noteworthy for its crude ugliness: the 50-plus-minute-talk by O’Keefe revolved around the repeated phrase “fucking Jews.”
“You know, I remember as a kid, the worst insult you could say to somebody — which I didn’t even know the origin of it, but we used to all use it — and it was no basis of any kind of discrimination, it was just this term — and it was Jew. In the worst way, fucking Jew. You know, you’re a fucking Jew, or something like that.
And you know, I never really thought about it. I didn’t have any Jewish friends as far as I knew, and yet I look back at it now and I realize it must be that there is some truth behind this, that it would be the ultimate insult, that’s somehow there’s this awareness without even being aware of the historical reality of Jewish impact on human history.”
That’s only the start of what was an epic emission of hate speech from O’Keefe at the forum. In the past, he has specialized in “straight talking” appearances before various groups, but now he has shaped them in the mold of a profane David Duke, the neo-Nazi and former Klan leader.
As his mainstream-seeming bio at Veterans Today explains, O’Keefe was a Gulf War veteran who first garnered attention in the 1990s by exposing the use of depleted uranium in that war.
O’Keefe also was involved for many years in fairly radical environmental causes, having hooked up in 1998 with Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where he eventually became the organization’s regional director in Hawaii and led the group as it rescued sea turtles and spoke out against Navy sonar activities.
A turn in O’Keefe’s career occurred in May 2001, when he was aboard the Turkish ship M.V. Mavi Marmara when it attempted to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and was subsequently boarded by Israeli commandos, resulting in the deaths of nine activists. Then, in 2003, he began leading delegations of peace activists who attempted to act as “human shields” to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
In 2004, he burned his U.S. passport in an attempt to renounce his American citizenship — he was replacing his old documents with a “world passport,” he explained, and called himself a “Citizen of the World” with “ultimate allegiance to my entire human family and to planet Earth.” However, as O’Keefe’s Wikipedia page explains, the State Department has never recognized this renunciation, even though O’Keefe describes himself at his website now as the holder of “Irish, Hawaiian and Palestinian citizenship.”
O’Keefe became closely identified with the Palestinian cause, and even appeared as the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund in 2012.
As it happened, that was the same year that O’Keefe began forming a close association with David Duke. The first signs of this came in August 2012 when O’Keefe defended Duke on his Facebook page, saying: “I had a lovely 2 hour conversation with David yesterday and as per usual, the slander and lies made about anyone who is truth telling is obvious.” A little later, in the comments on his Facebook page, he claimed that Duke no longer was a white supremacist (a false claim that Duke himself is fond of making).
Then, O’Keefe appeared on Duke’s radio show in February 2013, where the pair discussed, according to Duke’s description, “the Hollywoodism Conference in Tehran, Iran. It exposes the Zio control of Hollywood which not only promotes lies about the enemies of Jewish extremism, but literally poisons the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people in West and all over the world.”
Later that year, Duke’s website featured an exchange between O’Keefe and anti-Semitic saxophonist/“scholar” Gilad Atzmon, a self-described “self-hating ex-Jew” whose writings and pronouncements are rich in conspiracy theories, Holocaust trivialization and distortion, and open support of anti-Israeli terrorist groups.
O’Keefe also made an appearance on a Russia Today interview program in October 2013, where he declared that President Obama should be tried for treason and added that “this man is a dictator who has assigned himself the right to execute anyone.”
When he was introduced at the London gathering in August 2014, his host boasted that O’Keefe was “a friend of David Duke.” But even that couldn’t have prepared the audience for the profanity-laced rant against “the fucking Jews” that followed.
Notably, O’Keefe savagely disavowed his onetime involvement in the peace movement:
“The mantra that I’ve gone by for many years now is TJP: truth, justice, peace. It’s pissed me off, the peace movement – what do you mean, “peace”? Fuck peace in this world. Fuck that shit, I’d rather die. I’d rather kill some of these bastards that are trying to destroy this world and take control of everything. Fuck you. I’d rather die. Peace without justice is not worth having, bottom line. Peace at the barrel of a gun is not fucking peace.”
And he predicted that eventually the scenario would play out in mob violence and retribution:
“I really feel that as long as we know the truth, the truth, an honest truth about what these people have done, then justice will play itself out quite naturally. We won’t really need to even manipulate it or set it up. It’ll happen. But we need to know the truth. And a lot of people are going to be hanging from lampposts or worse, I’m sure. I don’t doubt that for a second. All these people — they’ve got hell to pay.”
O’Keefe described former Rep. Ron Paul, a frequent candidate for the presidency with a penchant for attracting extremists to his cause, as “an incredible exception” to the corruption of American politics, which he described as “a servile, disgusting, treasonous body of assholes who actually have sold the American nation down the river.”
“The rest of ‘em, almost without exception, are a bunch of fucking puppets, and they’re a disgrace. And they should be rounded up and arrested for fucking treason — forthwith.”
For adopting such extremist beliefs and espousing such hateful nonsense, O’Keefe and Atzmon have been heavily marginalized within the larger Palestinian-rights and antiwar communities.
Even before O’Keefe made his presence known on the extremist scene, a group of pro-Palestinian activists and writers published a letter denouncing the kind of anti-Semitism being peddled by Atzmon and his cohorts:
“We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities. Challenging Zionism, including the illegitimate power of institutions that support the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegitimate use of Jewish identities to protect and legitimize oppression, must never become an attack on Jewish identities, nor the demeaning and denial of Jewish histories in all their diversity.
Indeed, we regard any attempt to link and adopt antisemitic or racist language, even if it is within a self-described anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist politics, as reaffirming and legitimizing Zionism. In addition to its immorality, this language obscures the fundamental role of imperialism and colonialism in destroying our homeland, expelling its people, and sustaining the systems and ideologies of oppression, apartheid and occupation. It leaves one squarely outside true solidarity with Palestine and its people.”
A similar group of Palestinian intellectuals and activists co-signed a lengthy statement denouncing Atzmon and his supporters, concluding: “At this historic junction — when the need to struggle for the liberation of Palestine is more vital than ever and the fault lines of capitalist empire are becoming more widely exposed — no anti-oppressive revolution can be built with ultra-right allies or upon foundations friendly to creeping fascism.”
For his part, O’Keefe dismisses these critics by labeling them “cultural Marxists” – a far-right concept regarding the sources of liberal politics that inspired Anders Behring Breivik to kill 77 people in Norway in July 2011.
Editors’ Note: This article will appear in our forthcoming Intelligence Report.
It was two years ago today that President Obama was sworn in for a second term.
My, how the world has changed.
The economy is purring like a kitten after years of growling like a sour tummy. Jobs are coming back, wages are beginning to rise. The stock market is way, way up.
The war in Afghanistan is finally over. Finally.
More than 10 million previously uninsured Americans now have health insurance.
Did I mention the price of gas? I could go on. But I won’t, because this isn’t an article extolling the policies and virtues of our commander in chief.
No, this is a look back at what, two years ago, we called the paranoid prophecies of the right’s most rabid Obamaphobes — the most frightening predictions of the doom that awaited all of us if Obama were to be reelected in 2012. You remember: real end-of-the-world stuff.
Just for fun, let’s review.
Joseph Farah, the proprietor of WorldNetDaily, the supermarket tabloid of the black helicopter crowd, seemed to have a firm grasp of his fate in a second Obama term. The scribe had already reported drones surveilling his Northern Virginia property. “If [Obama is] re-elected, it’s gonna be war,” he said. “We will be hunted down like dogs.”
Anyone seen signs of war on American soil? Nope. Not real war, anyway.
We believe that if Obama wanted to round up Farah, he could find him. And if, say for dramatic effect, he wanted to send in the hounds to chase him like a fox, he would do just that. Perhaps he’s just waiting for the right moment.
Let’s move on. A motivational speaker and self-help author named Robert Ringer (it’s OK if you haven’t heard of him) predicted the “Marxmeister” would quickly unleash the “dictatorial full monty”: instant citizenship for all Third World immigrants, a new sedition act criminalizing criticism of the government, forced equalization of income, suspension of habeas corpus, the end of fossil fuel production, and more.
Not yet — though Obama has been exercising his executive powers. We don’t know where that will lead!
Next up: Wayne LaPierre, the NRA chieftain who makes nearly $1 million a year scaring the bejesus out of gun lovers, claimed Obama would take away our firearms and “erase” the Second Amendment. His first term was, of course, a clever ruse “to ensure re-election by lulling gun owners to sleep.”
We don’t know if Obama’s veto pen has an Amendment eraser on it, but he still has two more years. So, we’ll see. For now, guns abound!
Not to be outdone (which would make him irrelevant), the former Clinton aide Dick Morris prophesied to Fox’s Sean Hannity that the president’s “big focus” would be to make the U.S. a “vassal state to a globalist entity.” To make it even worse, he would sign a treaty so that we’d need permission from Russia and China just to launch a new war. (But what if we wanted to attack Russia and China? They’d probably say no.)
We’ll put this one in the too-soon-to-tell category, though if vassal-ness (vassalitude?) is the president’s “big focus,” we’ve seen no sign of it. Yet.
In Texas, some county judge named Tom Head called for a property tax INCREASE to help defend his county during the coming civil unrest.
Here’s what he told a TV station: “He’s going to send in U.N. troops. I don’t want ‘em in Lubbock County, OK? So I’m gonna stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say, ‘You’re not coming in here.’”
Two years later, we’ve seen no sign of UN troops invading Lubbock County. Or any other of Texas’ proud (but militarily vulnerable) counties.
Finally, we reach our favorite prediction.
The actor Chuck Norris and his wife, Gena, posted a video on YouTube warning of “socialism or much worse.”
All right. That’s fair. You could argue we have all sorts of socialism built into our system: Social Security, the Post Office, etc.
But then Gena quoted a 1964 speech by Ronald Reagan: “We will preserve for our children this last best hope for man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into 1,000 years of darkness [emphasis ours].”
A full millennium. Of darkness!
Now that would take an act of Congress.
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for homegrown domestic terrorism suspects, who can’t seem to get it into their troubled heads that plotting murderous mayhem on the Internet is not the best way to stay out of jail.
On Wednesday, federal agents swooped in and arrested a 20-year-old Ohio man in connection with a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol in an apparent act of jihad he allegedly discussed and planned with an informant on an instant messaging platform.
Last week in an unrelated case in Georgia, three alleged antigovernment militia members pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, according to the Rome News-Tribune. During several online conversations last winter, the men allegedly discussed using guerilla war tactics and bombings, targeting government buildings and offices, hoping to trigger an uprising of other militia groups and the overthrow of the government.
In the Ohio case, Christopher Lee Cornell and the informant first made contact with each other, according a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Ohio Wednesday, on Twitter in August 2014. The informant, seeking leniency in an unrelated criminal case, contacted the FBI in the fall of 2014 and told the authorities that Cornell had “posted comments and information supportive” of the Islamic State on Twitter.
On the Twitter accounts, Cornell used the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, and, according to the complaint, “voiced his support for violent jihad, as well as support for violent attacks committed by others in North America and elsewhere.”
Cornell allegedly wrote to the informant on a separate messaging platform in late August that he had been in contact with people overseas but did not think he would receive the green light to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States. Nevertheless, he allegedly told the informant he wanted to “go forward with violent jihad and opined that this would be their way of supporting” the Islamic State.
During a meeting with the informant in November, Cornell allegedly said that he “considered members of Congress as enemies” and his plan was to “detonate pipe bombs at and near the U.S. Capitol, then use firearms to shoot and kill employees and officials” there.
Cornell, who lived with his parents in an apartment in Green Township, was arrested Wednesday as he was loading into a car two rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition he had just purchased from a gun shop near Cincinnati. He was charged with attempting to kill a federal officer and with possession of a firearm with the intent to commit a violent crime.
His father, John Cornell, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he was skeptical of the charges against his son, a “momma’s boy who never left the house.”
“Everything you’re hearing in the media right now, they’re already painted him as some kind of terrorist,” the father told the paper. “They’ve painted him as some kind of jihadist. …(Christopher) is one of the most peace-loving people I know.”
The father said his son was a practicing Muslim and his son’s long beard and traditional Muslim dress made him a target for harassment. The father said once as his son was crossing a street “people driving by threw (objects) at him.”
In the Georgia case, which has not gotten much national attention, Brian Cannon, Cory Williamson and Terry Peace were arrested last winter. According to a nine-page federal criminal complaint, their goal was to force a declaration of martial law and spark a national uprising of militia groups by conducting a coordinated terror campaign that would create mass hysteria.
The men were originally arraigned last March on a charge of conspiracy to receive and possess a destructive device, according to the paper. But they have now been hit with a new indictment and a much more serious charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction as well as charges of conspiring to defraud the government. The new indictment and charges supersedes the previous indictment, the News-Tribune reports, adding that the weapons of mass destruction charge can carry up to a life term in prison.
The trio, the original complaint alleged, hatched much of the plot “in online chat discussions, which were monitored by [the] FBI, during which they chatted about carrying out an operation against the government.”
As Extremist ‘Constitutional Sheriffs’ Meet With Senators, Their Supporters Call for Obama’s Lynching
In one of the spacious meeting rooms of the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C., last month, three conservative members of Congress had an unusual meeting with a small group of law-enforcement officers who ascribe to far-right “constitutionalist” theories.
U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and David Vitter, R-La., and Rep. Martha Blackburn, R-Tenn., all met with former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, the far-right former lawman from Graham County, Ariz., who now leads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a group of “constitutionalist” sheriffs who see themselves the last line of defense against those who would seek to infringe on the U.S. Constitution.
Originally billed in the National Review as a “massive gathering” of sheriffs from around the nation to protest immigration, the event was organized by two sheriffs who are active leaders in former Mack’s CSPOA and drew a much smaller crowd. And while CSPOA promoted the event and reported on it afterward, Mack told Hatewatch that it was not the chief organizer.
“I was invited to attend and we provided a little hors d’oeuvres,” he told Hatewatch. Still, he said, “I was really proud of these sheriffs for trying to take care of something on their own.”
The focus of the event was to stand in protest of President Obama’s executive action, taken after years of congressional inaction, to offer temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and whose children were born here and are U.S. citizens, provided they pass a background check and pay taxes. But it wasn’t long before a group of extremists supporting Mack made itself known.
Just down the Capitol Mall that same day, a small group of protesters supporting the sheriffs gathered at the White House and began shouting slogans and demanding the removal of President Obama. Some in the crowd demanded the president be lynched–”Hang the lying Muslim traitor!” one of them shouted.
The same group of protesters then proceeded to the Senate building where the sheriffs were meeting, but were not permitted inside and instead lingered in the foyer. When the meeting ended, the demonstrators lustily greeted the emerging law enforcement officers and Congress members, some of them shaking hands and hugging the participants.
Mack told Hatewatch that he was unsure who organized the supporting protest. But he stressed, “That was not us.”
Obama’s executive action, taken after years of congressional inaction, offers temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and whose children were born here and are U.S. citizens, provided they pass a background check and pay taxes.
The rhetoric used by the various officials during the press conference that followed was not nearly as incendiary, but it also reflected some of the paranoia inherent in the “constitutionalist” movement–even though some of it was coming from U.S. senators.
Obama’s executive action “is taking jobs and benefits directly from struggling American lawful immigrants and our native-born,” Sessions said. “A government must serve its own citizens.”
The sheriffs were largely on the same page. “When it comes to immigration, there is no law because there are no consequences, and that is something we in law enforcement have to deal with and have to fight,” Paul Babeu, sheriff of Arizona’s Pinal County, said. “Instead of putting illegals first and their rights, what about putting Americans and our rights and our security once, first?”
But what measure and reserve was on display inside the Senate Building was not apparent outside the White House.
That rally organized by an antigovernment group calling itself Operation American Freedom,” which had issued an “arrest warrant” to government officials in Washington earlier this year–was intended to support the sheriffs. An earlier video by Blaine Cooper, a “Patriot” who help organized a livestream of the event, announced that “we are gonna be at the White House at 10 o’clock tomorrow. The sheriffs are gonna be here doing their rally, and Operation American Freedom, or O.A.F., are gonna be there as well.”
Cooper’s livestream video also provided an unusual inside look at the protest.
There appear to have only been a couple dozen gathered to protest. Most of the noise at the demonstration was created by one man, wearing a tricorn hat and shouting into a bullhorn. One protester in particular—a bearded man toting an American flag—seemed especially intent on seeing Obama hung.
“Hang the lying Kenyan traitor terrorist piece of shit,” he shouted at one point. “He’s a traitor! Hang him!” The same man kept shouting variations of this throughout the protest.
When a large wood chipper drove past the scene, one of the protesters remarked: “Hey, a wood chipper! That gives me an idea” – suggesting he would like to run the president through the machine. When the press conference had finished, the participants were swarmed by the sheriffs’ supporters in the foyer, who cheered loudly as they exited and swarmed Sessions to express their admiration.
“We love you, God bless you,” one said. “Thank you for all your work in the Senate, and thank you for all of this – fighting Obama tooth and nail.”
In the video, Mack could be seen embracing a man with the tricorn hat as he departed. However, he could not tell Hatewatch afterwards anything about the man or the group: “I didn’t know if they were pro or con,” he said via e-mail.
Afterward, Mack was less than optimistic about the outcome of the event.
“My overall feeling was that Washington D.C. wasn’t going to do anything to enforce the law or fix the problem,” he said. “I don’t believe the leadership will allow the problem to be fixed. … And it’s really a slap at the black community that so many millions are going to be competing with low income minority groups for jobs. I don’t think there is any way around that. The president has once again shown that he’ll do anything he wants, whether its lawless or not, no matter who it hurts.”
Think Progress: GOP leaders circle the wagons for House whip Steve Scalise over speech to white supremacists.
Huffington Post: David Duke warns politicians from both parties he might expose their ties to his organization.
Louisiana Voice: As Steve Scalise scandal grows, sordid details emerge about the dark underside of the white supremacist movement.
Right Wing Watch: The five craziest right-wing conspiracy theories of 2014.
The Root: Vandals hit Alabama grandmother’s home with broken windows, racist graffiti: “Move nigger now..”
Helena Independent-Record: Militia-promoting pastor Matthew Trewhella to deliver election sermon at Montana state capitol.
Idaho Statesman: Idaho appeals court overturns conviction of black man after prosecutor recited Confederate anthem.
Athens (GA) Banner-Herald: Georgia Ku Klux Klan group fighting to be able to join highway-cleanup program.
Mediaite: Fox’s Jesse Watters says that if police were really racist, they would just let blacks kill each other.
Richard Mack, the leader of the so-called “Constitutional sheriffs” movement and a longtime figure in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, made a somewhat startling announcement near the end of his speech Saturday December 13 to the gathering of fellow gun-rights enthusiasts at the “We Will Not Comply” rally in Olympia, Wash.
“I want you to know that there is something that I’m gonna do – and I don’t want to do it,” he said. “And my wife really doesn’t want to do it. But there is a group of people that were looking for answers to what we’re doing. And they formed a committee, and they formed a website, and they got together and they said, let’s call this the Constitutional County Project. And we’re going to try to make at least one county a complete and entire constitutional county.”
Mack smiled. “Now imagine that all of you – all of us that similarly live in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, all lived in the same place,” he said. “Can you imagine that? And we are the town councils, the county commissioners. And I am moving there to run for sheriff.”
This is not the first time that Mack has moved to another locale in an attempt to become sheriff since losing his badge as the sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., in the mid-1990s. In 1998, he ran as a Republican for sheriff in Utah County, Utah, but lost in the primary. He returned to Arizona, where in 2006 he ran as a Libertarian Party candidate in the U.S. Senate race against incumbent Jon Kyl, a Republican, but finished in the general election with only 3% of the vote. Mack, who now has a residence in Texas, ran in the 2012 GOP primary against Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of the state’s 21st Congressional District and was similarly trounced, garnering only 15 percent of the vote.
There is indeed a website devoted to a “Constitutional County Project,” as well as a Facebook page, and they explain that their mission is to “re-assert the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the land, driven by active citizen engagement within the political process at the County level, to secure and protect the liberties of ‘We the People’ without compromise.”
The website explains that the organizers have set their sights on Navajo County, a sparsely populated and relatively large body in Arizona’s northeastern corner, as the county where they hope to establish a large population of fellow “constitutionalists” who share their political views, and to transform the county’s politics accordingly.
The project’s intentions, according to the website, in Navajo County include “supporting Constitutional candidates, as well as encouraging project participants to run, for all county offices including county sheriff, attorney, board of supervisors, school board, along with all municipal and political party offices,” “repealing local and county laws and regulations which are unrelated to protecting individual rights,” “establishing and enforcing environmental regulations at the county level,” and “using legal and political means to protect the county’s residents against any attempt to un-Constitutionally interfere with peaceable living and enterprise.”
“The main reasons for our choosing Navajo County include a rural location, mild climate, and an already existing tradition of independence, self-reliance, and liberty among its residents,” the website explains.
The site also lists a number of endorsements for the project from around Arizona, including a number of leading Republican Party officials. Among them are Dara Vanesian, the Navajo County GOP Chairman; AJ Lafaro, the Maricopa County GOP Chairman; Pinal County GOP Chairman Seraphim Larsen; and Arizona State Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, a noted Tea Party figure who once made headlines by introducing a “birther” bill in the Legislature, as well as for a bill to stave off a “one-world order,” a response to the right-wing conspiracy theory about Agenda 21.
Local endorsees include Sylvia Allen, a Navajo County Supervisor; former Arizona State Senator Jonathan Paton; Barry Weller, an Apache County Supervisor; and Robert Corbell, a Greenlee County Supervisor. The group’s leadership appears to include Barry Hess, a former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, and Barbara Blewster of the state’s chapter of the John Birch Society.
Mack explained to the crowd Saturday how it all came about. “This group got together and came to me, I wasn’t part of it,” he said. “They told me about this, and I said, ‘This is tremendous. This is what I’ve said for years. If we’re going to take back freedom, we have one opportunity to keep it peaceful, and that is the enforcement of state sovereignty by our sheriffs, and by our state and county legislators.”
He said he saw it as a dream come true: “We can keep this movement peaceful, my dear friends, we can. You have to have them on board, though. You have to have some of them. And you have to have some sheriffs. And so they said, ‘We want all of that to happen – in Navajo County, Arizona, and we want you to come there and run for sheriff.
“And I said yes. My wife said no. This is one time I’m gonna be the boss. We’re moving. And it’s three hours from where I live now.”
He also made a pitch for fellow “Patriots” to join him there. “The election is in 2016,” he said. “I want you to carefully, prayerfully consider moving there with me. And I’m serious. You want to live in a free county? You want to live by constitutional law? You want to not worry about the federal government not moving in and ruining your lives and your family and hauling you off at midnight? Come live with us there. We’re gonna do this.
“We’re gonna make it a constitutional county and show everybody the blueprint for freedom. And there’s a lot more people running for other offices than me. I just said I’d run for sheriff. We’re going to give this one more try. The election is in 2016. I’m going to be moving there in spring of 2015 so I can start getting ready for this. You have about a year and a half to decide. And I’m dead serious about this. If I can move there, so can you.”
There are some immediate problems, however, with the plans of Mack and his cohorts. The most obvious is that of the county’s 9,960 square miles, 6,632 of those are federally designated Indian reservation – the third most of any county in the United States.
Nor is it clear that their political plans – involving a predominantly white “Patriot” movement contingent – will go over well with the county’s current population, some 45 percent of which in the latest Census was Native American. That is only slightly outnumbered by the county’s white population, which comprises 51 percent. However, that white population has grown in recent years; in the 2000 Census, only 46 percent of the county was white, while 48 percent was Native.
Kelly “K.C.” Clark, the current Navajo County sheriff – a Democrat who has held the office since 2008 – told Hatewatch that he had heard of the “constitutional county” rumblings a month ago and had been told recently about Mack’s plans. “I take everything seriously,” he said, “but I just do what I have always done as sheriff.
“You know, I have been serving the citizens of Navajo County for 27 years,” he added. “I have taken the oath as a certified police officer, when I became certified, and then twice as an elected official. And we all know what that oath says. I don’t take that oath lightly, never have.”
But he bridles at the idea that what he and other mainstream sheriffs do is somehow unconstitutional. “I do support the Second Amendment, but I support the whole Constitution, too. I support all 26 amendments. Because I am a constitutional sheriff.”
Clark said he welcomed Mack and his fellow constitutionalists. “You know, anybody can run for sheriff,” he said. “If he does, then so be it. I heard on that video that he was encouraging other people to move here. And I hope so, because that would be great for our economy.”
With cries of “Second Amendment remedies” to “government tyranny” ringing in their ears, a crowd of several hundred people gathered near the state Capitol in Olympia, Wa., on Saturday, to voice their defiance of Initiative 594, the new state law requiring background checks on most gun sales.
Most people in the gathering carried firearms of one kind or another, and a number of them openly exchanged weapons as a way to make a statement supporting the “We Will Not Comply” rally. There was even a table marked “I-594 Violation Station,” where attendees could openly swap or sell firearms.
The focus of the event, though, was the parade of speakers who encouraged the audience to defy the new law on the grounds that it violated the Constitution. Many of them were longstanding antigovernment figures, including former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, whose fame on the radical right has much to do with his own challenge of federal gun laws and “III Percent” movement provocateur Mike Vanderboegh.
Accordingly, many of them referenced violent action in defense of their gun rights as the ultimate response to what they see as tyranny.
“Make no mistake: If we do not stand up, America, our children and our grandchildren will take back liberty at the price of blood!” intoned Gavin Seim, the Ephrata, Wa.-based “liberty speaker” and chief organizer of the event.
Vanderboegh was even more explicit: “When democracy turns to tyranny, the armed citizenry still gets to vote!” he told the crowd, to loud cheers. “So be careful what you wish for. You may get it.”
Vanderboegh blamed the passage of I-594 last month, with nearly 60 percent of the vote, on internecine bickering between gun rights organizations, notably the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation. He warned the groups that they needed to work together now to prevent the law from being fully enacted.
“[W]e are here today to remind them, and to remind the enemies of liberty in this state, that if they fail, there are always Second Amendment remedies,” he said. “And like that determined minority of colonists, that original three percent who fought the forces of the greatest empire on the planet to a standstill, we will not be intimidated, we will not compromise, we will not back down, and we will be heard, one way or the other!”
Even more chilling were the demands that were quietly read by an Oath Keepers representative from Washington, Scott Bannister, who demanded that current office holders in the state step down from their positions, or face violent consequences.
“We the people demand that our current government, and their many crimes of treason against the Constitution, breaking the oath they swore to uphold … we are asking them to step back and surrender their position or office they hold, or be arrested by the sheriff of their local state,” he read from a prepared statement. “By their failure to uphold their oath that they swore, they are committing treason and high crimes against our country, and I don’t think any of us want to stand for that. These tyrannical acts and criminal acts toward us American people are out of control.”
Bannister explained further: “Every once in awhile, the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed, and the blood of tyrants needs to flow. If they don’t do it quietly, and resign, sad to say it, maybe that’s what’s gonna happen, I hope not. But we will stand our ground, and no comply.”
Bannister also indulged in a moment of unintended irony when he told the crowd: “I wish more people would realize what’s going on with our country. Because we are all told so many lies, and so many people believe it. It’s really sad that we’ve all been brainwashed.”
Most of the speakers, including state Rep. Elizabeth Scott, who declared “Molon Labe!” (Come and Take Them) to the idea of gun registration, argued that both the Second Amendment, as well as provisions in the state constitution, prohibited such laws as I-594. Several, including Seim, argued that these constitutions prohibited any regulations of any weapons whatsoever.
“We need to draw the line,” Seim said. “Read my lips: The people should be armed equal to government! Because when the people are armed, there is liberty, and when there is liberty, there is safety, and there is security. We must stop trading away our children’s birthright for false promises of security and trade for liberty, because that, my friends, is not liberty, and that’s why we stand here today.”
Richard Mack argued along similar lines. “I don’t care if it’s state level, county level, whatever—the only way a background check before you can get a gun is lawful is if you voluntarily do it,” he told the crowd. “If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. Because you’re not a criminal, you’re an American, and you don’t have to go through that. Because your government has no authority, no right, no power, no business ever saying to you, ‘Unless you submit and unless you subject yourself to my background check, you can’t have your Second Amendment.’
“That’s not the way our government works. We don’t need your permission! We don’t need your permission to be here, or to exercise our Second Amendment rights, but you need our permission to exist. You got it all backwards!” he said. “And we will not comply, we will not disarm, we will not be slaves, and we will not subject ourselves to you, in any way!”
Seim demonstrated how deeply he embraced this idea at the end of the four-hour-long program by burning his state concealed-carry permit, claiming that the government didn’t have the power to control his gun rights.
“You do not need a permit to exercise your rights,” he said. “If you, my friends, want a tank in your front yard, then buy one, and I for one may want to live next door, because your house will be the safest on the block.
“I was on a radio interview a little while ago, as we were planning this rally,” he continued. “He suggested that I was too radical. And he said, ‘If you stood up before all those people and said you ought to be able to own bazookas, they would not stand with you.’ And I said, ‘Well, challenge accepted,’ or something along those lines. So I say, if you want to own a bazooka, you can own a bazooka! Although an AR-15 might actually be a more effective weapon.”
The crowd cheered loudly, and a number of them came up to toss their concealed-carry permits into the fire as well.
A slate of national and state antigovernment “Patriot” movement figures—including former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, antigovernment propagandist Mike Vanderboegh and Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy—is scheduled to lead Saturday’s “We Will Not Comply” rally in Olympia, Wash., protesting a gun-control measure taking effect this month.
Organized by self-described “liberty speaker” Gavin Seim, the rally’s stated purpose is to openly defy the new law, known as Initiative 594, which requires background checks for guns sold by private gun owners.
“We will rally at the capitol, openly exchange guns, unveil and plan to break apart the entire legislation and violate I-594 in every possible way. … We will buy and sell guns from whom we please, we will not submit to background checks, we will not give up our rights, WE WILL NOT comply,” the rally’s organizers say.