They already have alternate identification cards and travel warrants. Now, all Tim Turner thinks he needs is an introduction to police and some good old-fashioned face time for his "Republic for the United States of America" to become a reality. That, at least, seems to be the prime motivation behind a planned letter-writing campaign to contact more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide and teach them the ins-and-outs of Turner’s antigovernment movement.
"When they [law enforcement] see the identification … can you imagine the phone calls that are going to take place? They’re going to realize it’s real," said an excited Kelby Smith, the moderator of a Jan. 12 conference call that allows Republic leaders and devotees to interact. "They’re all going to call their seniors, and the seniors are going to call the Feds, and the Feds are going to say, yeah, it’s real. The Republic is back."
The so-called Republic, which sprang from the ranks of Turner’s Guardians of the Free Republics, is a ragtag mix of tax scofflaws who believe a form of American government that was in operation until 1860 is more legitimate than the current form. Its most central claim is the current U.S. government is a corporation, not a true union – a declaration consistent with Turner’s radical history of bombastic promises and outlandish plans.
Specifics of the letters to law enforcement were not disclosed on the Republic’s conference call, nor were the intended recipients identified. The letters have, however, been discussed previously and the Republic plans to send them in the coming weeks. In fact, the letters are not the first of their kind from Turner’s brood. Last year, the Guardians fruitlessly sent letters to all 50 governors in the United States demanding they step down – or else. That led the Southern Poverty Law Center to include Turner in a roundup of figureheads in the burgeoning subculture of "sovereign citizens."
Turner burst onto the extremist scene four years ago with a series of very popular seminars that lured attendees with the bogus assurance they could avoid their mortgage, credit card debt and income tax bills by flooding the courts with meaningless documents. When the opposing parties didn’t respond accordingly, he urged his followers to file absurdly large retaliatory property liens against them. Turner also claims to have cured leukemia in five days.
Despite this, Turner has no known arrests, according to the Dale County Sheriff’s Department. Once thought to be in hiding, he continues to live in the tiny southeastern Alabama town of Skipperville, the department confirmed.
While law enforcement officers may disagree on how to deal with or even label this extremist subculture, the sovereign movement continues to grow. When cornered, some of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence. Such was the case last May in West Memphis, Ark., when sovereign citizens Jerry and Joseph Kane killed two police officers who had stopped them for driving a car with a phony license tag.
Nonetheless, Turner – revered as "Mr. President" in the Republic – issued a warning to his followers to avoid violent confrontations, especially in the aftermath of the recent attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which killed six and wounded 13 others in Tucson, Ariz.
"Bad things are going on in the country," Turner said. "We need to stay clear of those things. We want nothing to do with any kind of violence. That’s very, very important. Any of you that may be being stopped and harassed by law enforcement, always be respectful. Don’t go to violence. Don’t give these people a hard time. We want to educate them and bring them into the fold, instead of making enemies. We want to make friends."