Three Percenters often draw parallels between the U.S. government today and the British government in the 1700s, arguing that the current U.S. government is tyrannical and actively working to infringe on Americans’ Constitutional rights and liberties. They believe a small force of armed individuals can overthrow a tyrannical government, and many Three Percenters engage in paramilitary training and organizing to do so. Three Percenterism is at its core a vanguard extremist movement that claims to be ready to carry out armed resistance to perceived tyranny. Their perceptions of tyranny emanate from the radical conspiracy theories and paranoia rooted in the decades-old antigovernment extremist movement, and have repeatedly led to violence against America’s law enforcement, citizens and residents.
Three-Percenter groups often include a reference to this sub-ideology in their group name, commonly using “III%” or sometimes “3%.” Those who identify as Three Percenters sometimes hold up three fingers (the “OK” sign) to signal their affiliation with and allegiance to this antigovernment extremist belief. They also show their affiliation with the movement by displaying tattoos, clothing and stickers with Three Percent symbols on them.
In Its Own Words
“Get an indictment. Present it to the sheriff. If they don’t uphold the law, that’s where the militia come in.”
– Jon Ritzheimer, a Three Percenter and former Oath Keepers member, on his plans to link up with local antigovernment militias and conduct a citizen’s arrest of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
“The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. If you’re a Muslim I’m going to enjoy shooting you in the head. When we go on operations there’s no leaving anyone behind, even if it’s a 1-year-old. … I guarantee if I go on a mission those little fuckers are going bye-bye.”
– Patrick Stein, member of the terrorist group The Crusaders, which split from the Kansas Security Force Three Percent
“That’s what my group does. We monitor them and their activity, we show up in their neighborhoods armed and let them know they’re being watched and if they fuck up my guys will take em [sic] out.”
– David Wright, leader of a Three Percenter group, Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR)
“If you can use deadly force at Area 51 why cant (sic) the same be done at the border?”
– Chris Hill, leader of the III% Security Force, posting on one of his social media accounts
“Do NOT discuss this virus in ANY WAY other than to discuss HARD FACTS about comparing this virus to the common yearly flue [sic] which also has and probably always will kill far more people every year than this ridiculous hoax ever will.”
– Gene McDole, leader of Union of Three Percenter American Patriots, discussing the COVID-19 virus in March 2020
The movement was founded by antigovernment activist Mike Vanderboegh. Vanderboegh promoted Three Percenterism on his blog starting in 2008. He first published the movement’s doctrine online on June 29, 2014. He described the Three Percent as gun owners who would not support the next gun control act. Vanderboegh was a veteran of the dangerous 1990s militia movement as leader of a militia group called the Sons of Liberty. “We will not disarm,” Vanderboegh claimed. “You cannot convince us. You cannot intimidate us. You can try to kill us, if you think you can. But remember, we’ll shoot back. We are not going away. We are not backing up another inch. And there are THREE MILLION OF US.”
Vanderboegh wrote on his blog in 2014:
The Three Percent idea, being an idea, is internalized and finds expression in action when required without any top-down organization issuing orders. This was on perfect display at the Bundy Ranch stand-off when Three Percenters from everywhere flocked on their own to the Bundy’s [sic] defense, interposing themselves between the Bundys and the Feds. No call was issued, they just came because they understood the concept of ‘No More Free Wacos.’ The Feds were shocked – first into inaction and then into retreat. Indeed, the Bundy confrontation may be seen as the proof of the successful weaponizing of the idea of the Three Percent.
Vanderboegh was referring to the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, and the Waco standoff between federal and Texas law enforcement officials and the Branch Davidians.
In addition to the Three Percenter groups supporting Bundy’s activities, at least one group leader may have sought to make money off the imprisonment of men arrested for their roles at the Bundy Ranch. In 2016, members of the 3% of Idaho militia accused their leader, Brandon Curtiss, of using funds reserved for the men they described as “political prisoners” on himself.
“It is with heavy hearts,” the members wrote, “that we, the undersigned, do solemnly testify to you that we believe that substantial portions of these gifts have been grievously misused within the Idaho III% organization.” Member Eric Parker, who was charged for his part in the Bundy Ranch standoff, resigned from the group in protest.
In 2015, Brad Bartelt, a Three Percenter supporter, threatened to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) on the campus of Arkansas State University.
In 2017, members of the III% United Patriots of Minnesota were targets of an FBI investigation after an FBI informant spent months inside the group. As part of an effort to obtain a search warrant, the FBI told a judge the militia believed “in the violent resistance to, or intended overthrow” of the U.S. government. A Facebook post written by group leader Jason Thomas, a convicted burglar, in March 2016 was used as evidence to support this. “I can guaranty (sic) you that I’ll be one of the first to start killing feds. And am actually trying to build up our capacity to challenge them,” his post read.
Three members of the “White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia” were found guilty in connection to firearms violations and for fire-bombing an Islamic Center in 2017. Emily Claire Hari, aka Michael Hari, the group’s leader, is a former sheriff’s deputy.
In addition to Hari, multiple members of law enforcement have been spotted with Three Percenter tattoos, patches, flags and stickers on their homes, masks, uniforms and vehicles in states across the country, including California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
In Jersey City, New Jersey, a group of officers in the police department’s Emergency Services Unit called themselves Three Percenters and wore patches with Three Percent symbols on them. The group was formed sometime around 2017. In 2019, the deputy chief of the department shared that the officers had been disciplined. In 2021, a news investigation by Open Vallejo found that three members of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office in California had posted Three Percenter iconography on their social media pages. One of the members was Sgt. Cully Pratt, brother to movie star Chris Pratt. Another was Sgt. Roy Stockton, a member of the Vacaville, California, city council. County Sheriff Tom Ferrara, as of March 2021, has said he will not investigate the group. The Solano County Board of Supervisors is considering the formation of a board to oversee the sheriff’s office.
In 2017, three members of the Kansas Security Force Three Percent splintered off and formed a group called “The Crusaders.” The group sought to blow up a residential compound housing Muslims and residents of Somali descent using four vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), hoping to begin a revolution. The group discussed using kidnapping, arson and rape as a weapon. The Three Percenters targeted a shopping mall frequented by Somali immigrants, vehicles belonging to people of Somali descent or other Muslims, local officials, landlords who rented to Muslims and local churches that supported Muslim refugees.
Members of the antigovernment group that allegedly plotted in October 2020 to kidnap and hold hostage Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were associated with the Three Percenter movement.
Adam Fox, a member of Three Percenters, allegedly plotted to kidnap Whitmer because of his objections to COVID-19 safety measures. Fox planned the kidnapping and recruitment activities with Barry Croft, another Three Percenter.
During the riot and attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, at least seven people associated with the Three Percent movement were arrested and indicted on conspiracy and other charges. Specifically, “3 percent so cal” members have faced multiple arrests. These members were also documented flashing Three Percent hand gestures and donning Three Percent insignia.
One man associated with the 3 percent so cal, Alan Hostetter, is a former La Habra, California, police chief. On April 12, 2020, Hostetter hosted the first rally against COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in San Clemente, California. Hostetter ran a nonprofit called the American Phoenix Project, which was classified under educational services and schools, but was used by Hostetter to organize rallies in support of former President Donald Trump leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
On Jan. 26, 2021, Napa, California, resident Ian Benjamin Rogers was charged with the possession of five pipe bombs, known as unregistered destructive devices. A Jan. 15 search of Rogers’ home turned up the pipe bombs, 49 guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, possible bomb-making guides and a Three Percenter sticker. According to the federal criminal complaint against Rogers, text messages from his phone suggest that Rogers believed Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and laid out his plans to attack Democratic associated places, including the DNC offices in Sacramento, California.
In July 2021, the Canadian government listed the Three Percenters as a terrorist entity, because of the threat posed by Three Percenters to national security.
Key figures and organizations in the Three Percenter movement
III% Security Force. A national militia headquartered in Georgia, founded in 2014 and led by Marine veteran Chris Hill (aka General Blood Agent). The group has advocated civil war, aligning with the boogaloo movement, which also articulates a desire for a civil war. The group regularly participates in paramilitary training. In addition, they founded nationwide rallies, which claimed a need for a redress of grievances against the U.S. government and participated in protests against the 2021 presidential election results. Group members often showed up armed. Hill is a years-long associate of Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.), who has attended multiple events where the group was present.
American Patriots III% (APIII). A national antigovernment extremist organization originally headquartered in New York but now based in Pennsylvania. The organization was founded by Scott Seddon in 2009, as were a number of antigovernment extremist groups, following the election of President Barack Obama. APIII was an attempt to organize a national network of Three Percenter groups across the country. The group has local chapters in most states. Many of these chapters engage in regular paramilitary training and use a paramilitary structure to organize themselves. The group has put out “calls to action” and has shown up as armed security at various events and rallies. As reported by The Guardian, many members of APIII are current or former military and/or law enforcement, including Seddon, a military veteran.
III% United Patriots (3UP). A national militia headquartered in Colorado, founded by Mitch Nerem and Marine Veteran Mike Morris, aka Fifty Cal. The organization has claimed that its objective is to build a patriot network. Morris has said, “We’re not out looking for some newfound revolution. But we are prepared, should the day come, to defend our nation, defend our neighbors, and defend our way of life.” The group has participated in paramilitary trainings and border vigilantism, setting up camp along the American and Mexican border in past years. The group has alleged that they coordinated with border patrol agents on the detention of migrants. One leader of the militias border patrol is Jerry Karl, aka Ghost, who made incendiary statements about Muslims in America in a video he posted to Facebook on March 16, 2019. (Hatewatch is not linking to the video because of the hateful content.)
III% Georgia Martyrs. A militia headquartered in Georgia, founded in 2020, and led by Justin Thayer, aka Slayer. Thayer was originally a member of the III% Security Force but broke off and started the III% Georgia Martyrs. Thayer has said: “We take strictly a defensive posture. We don’t go to counter protests; we don’t go bounty hunting or anything like that. We’re here strictly to protect our cities and it has to be defensive only.” On April 6, 2020, the group responded to a comment about their group name on a web forum they used for recruiting called mymilitia.com, saying “We picked that name because we are willing to die for our beliefs and cause. Not everyone is prepared for that.” The group provided security for militia linked Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene and then Sen. Kelly Loeffler at a second amendment rally in Ringgold, Georgia on Sept. 19, 2020.