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A 'Patriot' Timeline

Read a timeline tracing the history of the modern Patriot movement.


9/11/90 -- President Bush, describing the post-Cold War world, outlines his vision of a "New World Order." Conspiracy-minded Patriots take this as a slip of the tongue revealing secret plans to create a one-world government.


February '92 -- White supremacist theorist Louis Beam calls for "leaderless resistance," or cells of fighters who report to no one. In coming years, the concept will be picked up by many in the Patriot movement.

4/2/92 -- Terry Nichols, who will one day be convicted of conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing, renounces his U.S. citizenship, saying he "follow[s] the common law," indicating his early participation in the Patriot movement.

August '92 -- James "Bo" Gritz, a Vietnam war hero admired by many Americans, calls for civilian militias during his "populist" campaign for the presidency.

8/31/92 -- White supremacist Randy Weaver surrenders after an 11-day standoff at his cabin on Ruby Ridge, Idaho, that left his wife, son and a U.S. marshal dead. The incident galvanizes many on the radical right.

10/23/92 -- Anti-Semitic Christian Identity pastor Pete Peters hosts the "Rocky Mountain Rendezvous" in Estes Park, Colo., where 160 extremists, reacting to Ruby Ridge, lay out strategies for what will become the militia movement.


2/28/93 -- Four federal agents and several cultists are killed in a gunfight when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raids the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. The 51-day standoff that follows rivets the nation.

4/19/93 -- The FBI tries to end the Waco standoff by injecting tear gas into a building that subsequently bursts into flames, leaving some 80 Davidians dead. More than any other event, the debacle ignites the militia movement.

7/8/93 -- In a stinging rebuke to federal law enforcement, a jury acquits Randy Weaver and another man of murdering a U.S. marshal during the Ruby Ridge standoff. Evidence emerges that the FBI loosened its normal rules of engagement and covered up that fact later.

10/4/93 -- A Florida couple with ties to the Patriot movement guns down an Opelika, Ala., police sergeant investigating a disturbance involving the woman's 9-year-old son. They will later be convicted of capital murder.

November '93 -- The Brady Bill, imposing a waiting period for handgun purchasers, is signed into law, infuriating many gun enthusiasts. Anger at the bill, along with a 1994 ban on some assault weapons, helps fuel the militia movement.


1/1/94 -- The first modern militia, the Militia of Montana, is officially inaugurated. It is led by John Trochmann, a white supremacist supporter of Randy Weaver.

January '94 -- The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is implemented, angering many over the prospect of a loss of U.S. jobs to Mexico. Patriots see this as reflecting the growing power of a global elite, or New World Order.

1/30/94 -- A California official who angered Patriot "common-law" adherents by refusing to vacate an IRS lien is beaten, stabbed and sodomized with a gun. The attack exemplifies the growing violence of common-law adherents.

March '94 -- More than 800 people gather in Kalispell, Mont., to hear Militia of Montana leader John Trochmann, reflecting the growing strength of the militia movement.

April '94 -- The Michigan Militia, soon to grow into the nation's largest militia group with up to 6,000 members, is formed by gun shop owner Norm Olson and Ray Southwell.

May '94 -- In a speech to the antigovernment U.S. Taxpayers Party, a militant abortion opponent calls on churches to form their own militias, showing the increasing convergence of Patriot and anti-abortion activists.

6/18/94 -- Common-law ideologue Brian Knoff is surreptitiously recorded discussing a planned marijuana-smuggling operation through Cuba that he hopes will help to fund other Patriot activists.

8/4/94 -- Two members of the Minnesota Patriots Council are arrested for making the deadly toxin ricin, and are later convicted of plotting to poison federal agents. In the next six years, nearly 30 major terrorist attacks (see Terror from the Right) will be plotted.

9/19/94 -- Self-appointed militia "general" Linda Thompson calls for an armed march on Washington, D.C., prompting other Patriots to renounce her as foolhardy and suicidal.

9/28/94 -- In one of the first acts of the Oklahoma conspiracy, Terry Nichols helps steal explosives from a Kansas quarry. He will help acquire many other materials before leaving co-conspirator Tim McVeigh a letter urging him to "go for it."

October '94 -- More than 1,500 people attend "Operation Freedom" in Lakeland, Fla., listening to speeches and collecting information about starting militias.

11/14/94 -- A militiaman threatens an Audubon Society official with a noose after the official testifies for an environmental measure. The incident is one of hundreds reflecting Patriot hatred of government regulation of the environment.

February '95 -- Some 2,000 people gather in Meadville, Penn., to hear militia figure Mark "Mark from Michigan" Koernke discuss the steps Americans should take to defend themselves against the "New World Order."

March '95 -- Former Klansman Don Black puts up the first hate site on the World Wide Web, starting a trend that will be followed by hundreds of militia groups.

4/13/95 -- Echoing Patriot rhetoric, the National Rifle Association says "jack-booted government thugs" have "the government's go-ahead to ... murder law abiding citizens." Former President George Bush quits the NRA in protest.

4/19/95 -- A truck bomb brings down the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people in America's worst domestic terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh, later convicted in the bombing, had ideological roots both in the Patriot world and among neo-Nazis like William Pierce, whose novel, The Turner Diaries, served as a blueprint for the attack.

6/3/95 -- A major gathering of common-law activists is held in the Wichita, Kansas, convention center on the anniversary of the 1984 death of Gordon Kahl, a militant tax protester killed some four months after murdering two federal agents.

6/15/95 -- In the wake of the Oklahoma bombing, militia leaders and others testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Many experts see the hearings as something of a militia victory because of the uncritical nature of the questioning.

6/21/95 -- President Clinton signs a directive outlining emergency arrangements in the event of terrorist attacks. It is the first of many such actions, including a 1996 order to hire 500 new FBI agents, highlighting the new importance terrorism has to domestic police agencies.

July '95 -- Two militia groups and the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations launch simultaneous campaigns to gather information about and conduct covert surveillance on "opponents."

September '95 -- William Pierce, author of the The Turner Diaries and leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, launches a "militia project," encouraging his members to develop contacts with militias in a bid to influence them.


3/25/96 -- A common-law group called the Montana Freemen begins an 81-day standoff in Montana after its leaders are arrested and charged with a multimillion-dollar fraud. In the end, the standoff will end peacefully.

4/5/96 -- Patriot activists mix with neo-Nazis and Klansmen at Jubilation '96, a Lake Tahoe, Nev., gathering of more than 500 people that is hosted by adherents of the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion.

8/24/96 -- More than 500 supporters attend a major meeting of the separatist Republic of Texas' "Provisional Government General Council."

8/31/96 -- At the largest Patriot gathering ever held in Washington, D.C. — far from the rural areas of America where the movement is strong — more than 300 people join in a "Rally for the Bill of Rights."

10/22/96 -- Michigan Militia leader Tom Wayne gives a presentation to over 500 students at a Michigan college, reflecting widespread interest in the movement.


4/18/97 -- A Patriot group files a notice with Maricopa County officials declaring a new "Country of Arizona," separate from the United States, and supposedly recognized by the United Nations as "Indigenous Nation No. 215."

May '97 -- A Southern Poverty Law Center count shows that the Patriot movement reached its peak in 1996 with 858 militia-type groups, up from 224 in 1995. Thereafter, the number of Patriot groups will decline steadily through 2000.

5/3/97 -- A six-day standoff between police and Republic of Texas common-law separatists ends. One man is killed in a gun battle with police.

6/2/97 -- Timothy McVeigh is convicted in the Oklahoma bombing and will later be sentenced to death. Co-conspirator Terry Nichols will be tried later in the year and sentenced to life in prison.

December '97 -- Nearly 100 New York City employees, including some corrections officials, are arrested for using common-law "untaxing" kits to evade taxes. The case underscores how far such ideology has spread.

3/8/98 -- A Texas man with reported separatist views like those of the Republic of Texas, claiming to be armed and carrying explosives, attempts to take over a Veterans Affairs office in Waco. Jason Leigh eventually surrenders.

3/17/98 -- Two former New York City police officers become the last of 14 NYPD officers to be convicted in a tax evasion scheme. The two sold tax evasion kits from Patriot groups to other officers for up to $2,000 each.

April '98 -- At the annual Knob Creek (Ky.) Machine Gun Shoot, a popular event for militiamen and other gun enthusiasts, a militia unity meeting breaks up as hard-liners walk out angrily — one of many splits to weaken the Patriot movement.

June '98 -- A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that in the preceding three years, 19 states have passed new laws or strengthened existing ones to cope with bogus property liens and threats from "common-law" adherents. Another eight states are considering similar actions.

7/17/98 -- Optimistically labeled a "patriotic Woodstock," the American Heritage Festival '98 in Carthage, Mo., draws as many as 3,000 people over two days.

12/30/98 -- A county grand jury orchestrated by conspiracy-minded former Oklahoma State Rep. Charles Key finds that there is no evidence of a larger conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing. Key immediately denounces the findings.


6/11/99 -- Nearly 100 hard-line Patriots gather for advanced paramilitary training at the North Carolina property of former Special Forces member John Roberts, head of the Militia of East Tennessee.

8/7/99 -- U.S. marshals seize the Tampa, Fla., headquarters of Greater Ministries International Church to preserve evidence. The seizure follows by seven months the indictment of church principals in a massive, Patriot-influenced scam.

9/13/99 -- Tennessee common-law ideologue Peter Stern is charged with conspiring to defraud tax authorities with fake checks from the Montana Freemen. Around the nation, hundreds of common-law followers like Stern are going to jail.

10/13/99 -- Members of the Southern Indiana Regional Militia meet with FBI agents as part of a government effort to defuse tensions between Patriots and officialdom.

November '99 -- Nearly 10,000 people in Denver attend the last Preparedness Expo before the new year to prepare for the "Y2K" collapse that many Patriots fear.


1/1/00 -- Despite Patriot expectations that the millennial date change will bring martial law or massive social collapse, nothing of the kind occurs.

3/21/00 -- Federal agents and state police raid the Louisiana home of Verdiacee Goston, the "empress" of Washitaw Nation, a predominantly black separatist group that sold fake passports and driver's licenses. Goston is not arrested.

May '00 -- Texas Constitutional Militia member John Joe Gray holes up with heavily armed family members, refusing to face charges of assaulting two highway patrolmen. Actor Chuck Norris, a Gray hero, fails to broker a settlement.

6/2/00 -- Having survived "Y2K" without incident, the first Preparedness Expo of the new millennium has a new focus on health and freedom, along with a new name, "Lifeline Expo."

7/15/00 -- In a lawsuit by surviving Davidians, a judicial panel says the government was not responsible for starting the gun battle that began the Waco standoff. The next week, a special counsel will rule that U.S. officials committed "no bad acts" in Waco.


2/13/01 -- Federal agents seize Indianapolis Baptist Temple, ending a low-key, 92-day standoff and 17 years of the church's refusal to pay withholding taxes. The church is part of the Patriot-influenced "unregistered churches" movement.

2/28/01 -- Separatist Republic of Texas members join an anti-immigration group, Ranch Rescue, in trying to halt illegal aliens from entering the country.

3/12/01 -- A federal court in Florida finds Gerald Payne, head of the Patriot-influenced scam known as Greater Ministries International Church, guilty in a $448 million Ponzi scheme that victimized thousands.

4/19/01 -- On the anniversaries of the Waco conflagration and the Oklahoma City bombing, and in advance of the scheduled execution of Timothy McVeigh, security around federal installations and elsewhere is extraordinarily tight.

5/16/01 -- Timothy McVeigh, convicted in connection with the murder of 168 people including 19 small children, is scheduled to be put to death, the first federal execution in more than three decades.