Responding to a nationwide call to arms issued by the leadership of the Oath Keepers, scores of antigovernment “Patriots” have begun showing up fully armed and prepared to guard military recruiting offices across the United States – and some continue to do so.
Mind you, they are doing so in defiance of the Marine Corps’ expressed request to stay away, and the Army’s declaration that they represented a security threat. Already, one of the wannabe guards got himself in trouble by accidentally firing a round into the public parking lot. The guards claimed they were inspired to participate in “Operation Protect the Protecters,” the latest Oath Keepers activity, following the July 16 attack on a recruiting office in Chattanooga, TN, that left four Marines dead. The extremists who responded to the “national call to action” cited the attack – and reports explaining that these offices are not permitted by military regulation to arm themselves – as part of their reasoning for standing outside strip malls and other small office buildings.
Participants included not just Oath Keepers but other Patriot movement followers, including so-called “III Percenters” who showed up in Idaho, Oregon and Ohio. According to the Associated Press, there were watches in Spanaway, Wash., Hiram, Ga., Madison, Wis., McAllen, Texas; Auburn Hills, Mich.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and several locations in Tennessee.
It was in Lancaster that one of the participants accidentally fired off a round from a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle he was toting as “protection” for the military recruiters. Police said no one was hurt, but they cited Christopher Reed, 28, for discharging his weapon within city limits.
According to the police report, Reed was trying to clear his weapon of the round he had chambered before having someone look at the gun when it discharged into the pavement nearby.
Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes quickly waved off any responsibility, claiming that Reed wasn’t a member: “Thankfully, not one of ours,” he said in an article posted to the group's website. “Good intentions on the part of volunteers are not enough, because we all know where the road paved with them leads,” the article mused.
Military officials made clear they wished to have nothing to do with these “operations.” A statement issued by the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station in San Diego said:
It has come to our attention that many patriotic citizens have been standing armed guard outside recruiting stations across the country. While we greatly appreciate the support of the American public during this tragedy, we ask that citizens do not stand guard at our recruiting offices. Our continued public trust lies among our trained first responders for the safety of the communities where we live and work.
According to Stars and Stripes, the Army advised its recruiters to treat these pop-up guardsmen as a security threat: “Soldiers should avoid anyone standing outside the recruiting centers attempting to offer protection and report them to local law enforcement and the command if they feel threatened, according to a U.S. Army Recruiting Command policy letter issued Monday.”