When he’s not talking about his love of the Constitution, his dislike of immigrants, or the need for armed citizen militias to battle a repressive federal government, Alabama “Patriot” leader Mike Vanderboegh has a thing about throwing bricks. Unfortunately, at least a few people are listening.
In 2010, after Congress passed President Obama’s health care reform bill, Vanderboegh used his Sipsey Street Irregulars blog to urge opponents to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices nationwide. “Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night,” he wrote.
Thugs responded in several U.S. cities, including Wichita, Kan., Rochester, N.Y., and Tucson, Ariz., where bricks shattered the office windows of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat who was later shot in the head by a deranged gunman with no known ties to Vanderboegh. At least 10 Democrats in Congress reported harassment, vandalism or death threats. Vanderboegh was unapologetic, telling The Washington Post that the attacks were a legitimate warning to Democratic lawmakers that health care reform could lead to civil war. Throwing bricks, he said, “is both good manners and it’s also a moral duty to try to warn people.”
It wasn’t the first call for criminal violence from the man who led the Sons of Liberty, an antigovernment militia, in the 1990s. In 2006, he urged people to throw bricks through the office windows of members of Congress who supported legislation giving undocumented immigrants the same rights as U.S. citizens.
In recent years, Vanderboegh was a founder of another Patriot group, THREE%ER, which takes its name from the theory that only 3% of American colonials actually fought the British. He also engaged in vigilante border patrols.
At the same time, he tried to portray himself as a moderate, denouncing neo-Nazis and posturing as a civic improver by leading attacks on a botched gun investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In that role, he has been regularly consulted as an expert by Fox News, which hasn’t bothered to mention his background as a militia leader or instigator of criminal brick-throwing attacks.
That’s especially remarkable given the arrests in late 2011 of four members of a Georgia militia for allegedly planning to assassinate government officials, bomb federal buildings, and attack four cities with the deadly ricin toxin. Officials said they were inspired, in part, by Absolved, a recent online novel by Vanderboegh that portrays a small group of Americans who assassinate government officials.
That would be officials of the very same government, as it turns out, that sends Mike Vanderboegh, each and every month, a disability check for $1,300.
Obama’s health care law inspired violent rhetoric from Vanderboegh again when the Supreme Court upheld it in June 2012. The day of the ruling, he wrote that it “carries … the hard steel fist of government violence at the center. If we refuse to obey, we will be fined. If we refuse to pay the fine, we will in time be jailed. If we refuse to report meekly to jail, we will be sent for by armed men. And if we refuse their violent invitation at the doorsteps of our own homes we will be killed – unless we kill them first.”