Friday, May 02, 2014

Militiamen and Oath Keepers Drew Weapons, Threatened to Kill Each Other

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The right-wing media tried to sell Americans on the idea that the antigovernment “Patriots” and militiamen who gathered to block the roundup of Cliven Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle in Nevada were well-meaning lovers of liberty. However, Bundy’s most ardent defenders have revealed themselves to be a volatile collection of hotheaded, paranoid men (and a few women) with big egos and even bigger guns.

The situation at the Bundy ranch, where armed militiamen and “Patriots” are camped out, has deteriorated so badly that competing factions apparently drew weapons on one another during heated arguments.

We wrote on Wednesday about how tensions flared when a paranoid rumor of an imminent drone strike on the encampment began circulating. The team that primarily circulated the drone-strike rumor – Stewart Rhodes’ Oath Keepers – also began advising people to pull out, which sparked the wrath of militiamen.
Those militiamen voted to oust the Oath Keepers, and a couple even spoke of shooting Rhodes and his men in the back, which they deemed the proper battlefield treatment of “deserters”.

Now Rhodes has replied to their accusations in a video in which he teamed up with fellow Oath Keepers Steve Homan, Robert Casillas and Brandon Ropolla (the latter of whom are also affiliated with Mike Vanderboegh’s so-called “III Percent” movement) to attack the “nutcases” that Rhodes said have assumed control of the militia camp at the Bundy Ranch.

Rhodes painted an unflattering portrait of volatile “crazies” at the camp. Most strikingly, Rhodes described some of the threats of violence that have bubbled up to the surface at the camp:
RHODES: Now, when [John] Bidler was dropped on his butt– John Bidler– another guy — some Mountain Man militia guy, put his hand on his gun and said, “I dare ya to draw — draw motherfucker, I’m gonna kill ya.” I’m sorry to cuss but that’s what he said. So they were being threatened. Guys with hands on their guns threatening them. That’s why we told them to get out of there. We knew the situation was this close from being a gunfight, right there inside the camp.
Rhodes later described another close call when guns were drawn and people very nearly shot:
RHODES: And this is the tip of the iceberg of the cluster out there. One of our guys from Montana, Rick Delap, who was there from the beginning — he’s been out there for two weeks in the dirt – the day of this confrontation, I come to find out he had to draw on somebody. Two of the Mountain Men guys came up to him — were aggressing on him. Then one of them ran back to his vehicle and grabbed an AR and came back with an AR in his hand and Rick had to draw on him. And those two ran off. That was this close from Rick having to shoot that ding-a-ling. If that guy had raised his barrel, Rick would have had no choice but to shoot him.
TeamSarah4Choice at Daily Kos has been closely monitoring the videos emerging from the scene in Nevada and promptly posted the video with transcripts. As she points out, there was actual violence at the camp when angry young men knocked two elderly veterans, including Steve Homan, to the ground. Homan described it:
HOMAN: Well, like I said, there was quite a few people comin’ in to CP [the “command post”] in order to get more information – ‘cuz we were trying to get ‘em out. A couple of trucks drove into the yard, and guys started jumping out, and I could see right away when they were getting out of the truck they were very agitated. We had one of the men run out toward our car. I was standing in front of one of our cars. John Bidler, the Connecticut [Oath Keepers] president, was standing over by the driver’s door. The gentleman came and he, uh, all of a sudden the gentleman started running toward me and hit me right in the chest with his forearm and, uh, put me down.

RHODES: That was Jack, that’s one of Jerry DeLamus’ guys from New Hampshire. That’s who did that. Dropped you in the dirt right?

HOMAN: He dropped me down and he immediately went to John Bidler and, uh, basically done the same. He just physically threw him to the ground.
We saw the same kind of macho radicalism during the April 12 confrontation with Bureau of Land Management and other law-enforcement officers – though it was somewhat obscured from public view.
A remarkable retrospective piece on the standoff from Las Vegas TV news station KLAS laid this reality bare. It revealed that the situation came within a hair’s breadth of becoming an all-out gun battle which the gathered “Patriots” defending Bundy seemed determined – indeed, outright eager – to have.

When Las Vegas police officers – several of them African-American – were called in to help bolster the outmanned local law enforcement ranks at the scene, those on the other side were anything but civilized:

8 News NOW

OFFICER TOM JENKINS: We were told, we’re going to go down there and we’re going to get between the BLM and the protesters. We were going, okay, we’ve been there before, but as we were driving up, it was like a movie set. It didn’t look real; people in the back of pickup trucks with rifles and shotguns. It was hard to grasp that at the beginning.
The report notes that the 30 or so Metro officers were placed between an estimated 400 militiamen bristling with weaponry and the fearful BLM workers whose job was gathering cattle. The crowd became nasty and began hurling taunts and insults of many stripes:
JENKINS: They had no respect for authority. Everything that you can think of to call a human being, animals, everything.
Jenkins said one of the protesters asked him if he was ready to die: “I don’t know his name. He was wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. I’ll never forget that,” he said.

Another KLAS report noted that some of the militiamen who pointed weapons at federal agents during the April 12 clash may find themselves in legal hot water now. Clark County Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo confirmed that officers gathered intelligence on the people who brandished guns at the scene, and said that people who aimed their guns at officers would be dealt with.

“Yes, there will be consequences, definitely. That is unacceptable behavior. If we let it go, it will continue into the future,” Lombardo said.

While KLAS reporters were gathering information for that story, however, their vehicles were vandalized by militiamen at the scene: “Pistol-packing militia men have blocked 8 News NOW’s access to public roads,” the story reported. “Some poured lighter fluid around our news vehicle while others got physical.”

Montana’s ‘Natural Man’ Defies Courts, Sets Up Another Rural ‘Patriot’ Showdown

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.] 

Ernie Wayne terTelgte likes to style himself as a Montana mountain man, dressing in buckskins, boots and tricornered hats and sometimes bearing an old muzzle-loading musket. He likes to elaborate upon his theories about so-called sovereign citizenship in a florid 18th-century style. But it isn’t a silly nostalgia act.

The Bozeman man has, in fact, been challenging Montana’s courts and legal system in the name of his extremist belief system all while adopting anachronistic clothing and calling himself the “Natural Man.”

Asked to explain why he was fishing without a license, terTeltge told a judge: “I was searching for something to put in my stomach as I am recognized to be allowed to do by universal law,” he said. “I am the living man and I have the right to forage for food when I am hungry.”

This all could be written off as the peculiar antics of another kook with convoluted legal ideas – something not unheard of in Montana – but for the fact that terTeltge has amassed supporters locally and regionally. His fight with the courts over what began as a simple fishing citation has become the latest cause célèbre among the far right in the Mountain West, including the region’s antigovernment “Patriots” and associated militias.

Some have gone so far as to begin organizing “citizen grand juries,” another tactic of the sovereign citizen movement, which purport to allow ordinary citizens to present cases to the local sheriff and sit in judgment of local government officials. Indeed, terTeltge himself has played a leading role in helping to organize these “juries” in the Bozeman area.

These activities have a long history in Montana, including the Montana Freemen of the 1990s, some of whom were from the Bozeman area and who practiced a similar kind of “sovereign citizenship” theory in promoting their illegal moneymaking schemes. Indeed, one of terTeltge’s cohorts in forming a “citizen grand jury”, a Bozeman man named Steve McNeil, was heavily involved with the Freemen and was arrested at one of their trials in Billings in 1996. Other extremists, such as neo-Nazi Karl Gharst, have used “citizen grand juries” to threaten the Montana Human Rights Network.

In recent years, these ideas have been spread widely in places such as Montana through the auspices of the Tea Party movement, in which old “Patriot” movement ideas have commingled freely with mainstream conservative politics, to the point that in many parts of the state Tea Party ideologues are nearly indistinguishable from the militiamen who got their start there in the 1990s.

Ernie terTeltge appears to have gotten his start that way. He first appeared on the region’s political scene in 2010, leading a contingent of Tea Party demonstrators as they protested efforts to pass health care reform outside the Gallatin County Courthouse. TerTeltge was wearing his trademark mountain man outfit.

Then, in August 2013, terTeltge was caught fishing without a license at the Three Forks Pond, a state-managed area, and refused to give the game warden his name. He was subsequently charged with resisting arrest.

TerTeltge began demonstrating in front of the courthouse in Three Forks in early November as his court proceedings began. A video shows him holding up a cardboard sign and explaining sovereign citizen ideology to passersby on the street.

Then, on Nov. 19, he made a court appearance on the resisting-arrest charge in Three Forks before City Judge Wanda Drusch. It did not go well. He yelled at the judge: “Do not tell me to shut up! I am the living, natural man, and my voice will be heard!”

He also pointed at the American flag in the corner and told the judge: “That is the Jolly Roger, that thing you call the American flag with the golf fringe around it is the Jolly Roger, and you are acting as one of its privateers!”

When Drusch got up to confer with law enforcement officers, terTeltge and his supporters peremptorily marched out of the courtroom, got in their vehicles and departed.

That tactic did not work for his next court appearance three days later, however. Once again, terTeltge tried to buffalo Judge Drusch with a flood of pseudo-legal language even as she warned him continuously that he would be found in contempt of court if he did not desist. Finally she ordered deputies to arrest him, and they did, handcuffing terTeltge as he protested: “I cannot give you recognition, I am constrained by the United States Constitution of 1789.”

Things got even stickier in January when he went before Justice of the Peace Rick West, who sent terTeltge back to jail, again for contempt, after he refused to remove his hat in the courtroom. This time, he had a larger crowd of supporters, but there were also over 30 law enforcement officers present to keep the peace. TerTeltge wound up spending 30 days in jail.

This incident threw local “Patriots” into a tizzy. One of terTeltge’s allies –William Wolf, a formerly homeless man who has been involved in efforts by Bozeman-area extremists to file for political office as Democrats – threatened to arrest Judge West as a “sovereign citizen,” setting local law enforcement even further on edge.

Then Wolf approached Gallatin County commissioners about forming a “citizens grand jury” to review claims of “human rights violations” in terTeltge’s case. The idea proved somewhat popular in Bozeman; one gathering attracted over 50 people to discuss forming what they saw as challenge to “corrupt government.”

At his most recent appearance in March, however, terTeltge was more contrite and cooperative. As a result, Judge West did not return him to jail, and he was freed until his trials begin. His fishing license trial is scheduled to begin next week.

“Patriot” movement leaders are watching the case closely. Chuck Baldwin, the former Constitution Party candidate now living in the Flathead Valley in hopes of creating a white homeland, recently returned from his visit to the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada and regaled an audience in Kalispell with tales of the militias’ exploits in Nevada. Then Baldwin urged his audience to pay similar attention to terTeltge’s case.

“I realize, we all recognize that everybody cannot up and leave and go a thousand miles away, depending on your schedule, your home responsibilities, et cetera. We understand that,” Baldwin said. “We still have to be watchful here in the state of Montana. We’ve got a situation in Bozeman, right here in our state, that we need to take care of, and we really need to rally around. You’ll be hearing more about that soon.”

All of this far-right activism concerns local government officials, who have become all too familiar with this brand of extremism in recent years in Montana. Jim Taylor, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, noted that there’s nothing legal about these theories.

“You can’t just make up law. Law is what it is,” Taylor said. “You can’t just say, ‘And we’re going to have a grand jury on my block.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Back at the Bundy Ranch, It’s Oath Keepers vs. Militiamen as Wild Rumors Fly

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

It was the imminent drone attack that finally did it.

Paranoid rumors are not only common at gatherings of antigovernment “Patriots,” they’re practically the entire raison d’etre for them. So when a wild and paranoid rumor began circulating – that Attorney General Eric Holder was preparing a drone strike on the armed militiamen who gathered at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada – it unleashed a rift within the camp, which is brimming with fear, rage, testosterone and firearms.

Vicious infighting among those remaining at the camp – estimated at less than a hundred – broke out a little more than two weeks after heavily armed militiamen forced federal agents to back down from a planned roundup of Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle from public lands. After vowing to stay on and protect Bundy – who then stumbled on the national stage with an outpouring of racist commentary – the remaining “Patriots,” who have been raising fear levels among local residents, have begun feuding. And it has been revealing.

Apparently, someone within one of the major factions at the camp, the Oath Keepers, relayed word of the imminent drone attack to his leaders. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes responded by pulling his people out of what they called “the kill zone” (the area the supposed drone would be striking). When the other militiamen learned that the Oath Keepers had pulled out, they were outraged.

As you can see in the video above, the angry militiamen – led by a Montana “Patriot” named Ryan Payne, who has been acting as the spokesman for the militiamen at the ranch – held an impromptu gathering at the camp to discuss the situation. They openly talk about shooting Rhodes and other Oath Keepers leaders – because in their view, the Oath Keepers’ actions constituted “desertion” and “cowardice” – and describe how “the whole thing is falling apart over there.” At the end, they vote unanimously to oust the Oath Keepers, or at least its leadership, from the Bundy Ranch camp.

PAYNE: We are open to gentlemanly conversation. But this man and the people that obeyed that order have violated my personal creed. You don’t fucking walk in and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and you’re back in, brother. You can walk in and say you’re sorry, and you’re lucky that you’re not getting shot in the back. Because that’s what happens to deserters on the battlefield.

For his part, Rhodes and his fellow Oath Keepers are keeping a stiff upper lip about the rejection. Rhodes himself has returned to his Montana home, reportedly for a family birthday, and his underlings say he plans to return. Oath Keepers organizer Elias Alias (aka Franklin Shook) described the incident on the group’s website as an effort “to sabotage the Bundy stand against the government,” and reported that other “Patriot” movement leaders, including militiaman Mike Vanderboegh and Sheriff Richard Mack, remain firmly within their camp.

Alias also tried to explain the incoming-drone rumor:

Yes, it is true: Oath Keepers received a bizarre bit of leaked info which could not be verified but which also could not be ignored. Our contact is connected with the Department of Defense – or ‘was’. The info we received stated that Eric Holder of the Department of Justice had okayed a drone strike on the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, within a 48 hour period over the weekend of April 26/27, 2014.

That, fortunately, turned out to be ‘dis-info’ – a false rumor. And though it came from a trusted source, Oath Keepers could neither prove nor disprove it.

In the ensuing panic at the camp, “Oath Keepers advised people there to consider evacuation,” Alias said. He referred to the angry reaction of the militiamen as “backwash”.

He also admitted that there was a great deal of contention about how $40,000 raised on behalf of the Bundy family through the Oath Keepers was handled, since the organization wound up only writing the family a check for $12,500.

Another YouTube video, which has since been removed, but transcripts of which were posted at DailyKos, revealed the depths of the militiamen’s animus towards Rhodes and his organization. One of them – the nominal “head of security” for the Bundy family, a man nicknamed “Booda Bear” – rants angrily:

My guys sleep in the dirt out here, we’re on shifts for 14 hours a day and trying to make sure that this family stays safe and secure … and just so everybody knows, as Booda, head of security for the Bundy Family I can swear on the white skin that covers my ass there will not be an Oath Keeper — there WILL NOT BE AN OATH KEEPER allowed to set foot on the internal ranch property.

Alias responded to these slurs by suggesting that “Booda” and pals were actually FBI plants:

Some of the purported “leaders” of the militia at the ranch are doing exactly what any agent provocateur would do after having infiltrated the militia and claimed a role in leadership. Did you notice the massive ego about who is going to command who? Did you notice the drama in the tendency to speak of Oath Keepers as if we were a militia, which we are not. These militia “leaders” would judge us by battlefield standards even though there has not been a “battlefield” since April 12, 2014? They would shoot us for desertion? Really? That is amazing, and is the kind of bumbling consciousness which a conditioned and programmed special warfare officer or a federal agent would offer if he had to think on his feet of a sudden.

“Patriots” often talk about fighting what they see as a second Civil War in America soon. But as the militiamen at the Bundy Ranch are demonstrating, the civil wars they end up fighting are usually within their own ranks.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ongoing Militia Presence Raises Fears Among Locals Near Bundy Ranch

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

People in rural southeastern Nevada and the surrounding area are not accustomed to being the center of national media attention, as they have increasingly been since their neighbor, rancher Cliven Bundy, began his notorious standoff with federal authorities. But what bothers them now is the threatening presence of armed militiamen who have taken up semi-permanent residency at Bundy’s ranch.

Some local residents, in fact, are complaining that the militiamen are setting up armed checkpoints and detaining people as they travel to their homes, asking for proof that they live nearby before allowing them to proceed. However, the militiamen themselves deny this, and investigating news crews have not found any evidence of it.

What these locals can say with certainty, though, is that the circus surrounding the standoff and the militias’ refusal to leave is not only disrupting their normally quiet lives, it is costing them money.

Congressman Steve Horsford of Las Vegas has been outspoken in criticizing the militiamen, charging that local residents have been confronted by militiamen who have set up armed checkpoints and demanded that they prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass. Horsford also says the militias have created a “persistent presence” along federal highways and state and county roads.

Horsford has demanded that Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie crack down on the outsiders, saying they make local residents feel unsafe.

“I am greatly concerned about the safety and well-being of my constituents after meeting with local community members this past week. I urge Sheriff Gillespie to investigate these reports, as this sort of intimidation cannot be tolerated,” Horsford said.

“We must respect individual constitutional liberties, but residents of and visitors to Clark County should not be expected to live under the persistent watch of an armed militia,” Horsford wrote in a letter to Gillespie. “Residents have expressed their desire to see these groups leave their community. I urge you to investigate these reports and to work with local leaders to ensure that their concerns are addressed in a manner that allows the community [to] move forward without incident.”

They aren’t the only residents who feel threatened. According to a report from KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, the militiamen have also threatened people who live in the nearby town of Mesquite, and businesses there claim they have lost over $100,000 because of their presence.

The station reported that a local hotel was forced to evacuate all of its clients one evening following a bomb threat. The hotel also received at least nine threatening calls after it permitted Bureau of Land Management rangers to stay there. The callers demanded the BLM rangers be kicked out or the hotel “would not be standing in the morning.”

One hotel worker told the news crew he had been told by an anonymous militia member that he would be “dragged out in the parking lot and shot”.

News crews were unable to find any armed checkpoints when they went out searching for them. A militia group spokesman named Ryan Payne denied to KVVU-TV that they were conducting such checks.

“We are not to set up checkpoints, we are not to pull over civilians, without, you know, reasonable cause,” Payne said. Of course, militiamen have no legal right to pull anyone over – with or without reasonable cause.

But local residents remain far from assured. “We are not a playground for armed militias,” Horsford said. “This unfortunate incident and the outside groups that have come for their own agenda are putting a black eye on this community.”

Kyle Hunt’s Easter Egg Idea Hatches Hate Messages in Virginia Neighborhood

Even on his way out the door, would-have-been white-supremacist movement leader Kyle Hunt – progenitor of the nationwide “White Man’s March” last month that drew a trickle of participants and a flood of derision – managed to demonstrate the contagiously vile nature of his politics.

Only a couple of weeks before penning his recent letter of resignation, Hunt also published a post urging his remaining followers to try out some creative means of spreading their message – namely, “Diversity = White Genocide,” the slogan shown at all of the March’s events. Hunt’s favorite idea: Put “pro-white” messages in Easter eggs  and spread them around neighborhoods.

Sure enough – as WRIC-TV reports, someone took him up on the idea. Easter eggs with racist messages were planted around a suburban Virginia neighborhood this weekend. And sure enough, the messages were precisely those promoting the White Man’s March ideology.

Parents, unsurprisingly, were shocked and appalled:

“We don't want other kids around here who can read being like, 'Hey mommy what's the million man white march or what's the genocide1 project?' Most of us don't want to explain genocide to our 6-year-olds,” said Jackie.

"It's disturbing knowing my son is walking around the yard a lot and finding that. It’s something he may find and have questions about that not necessarily at his age –I want to explain to him. That there are people in this world who don't think everyone is equal,” said Brandon Smith.

They found several more in people's yards, leaving residents in disbelief.

"Everybody's shocked. We are genuinely floored. Why would somebody do this? Why here?"

Of course, Hunt had promoted his idea with a disingenuous caveat: “Since we are not targeting children, think of some ways to get these eggs into the hands of adults.” Obviously, that did not work out so well.

Planting Easter eggs with white=supremacist messages in them where children can find them is actually not a new tactic or idea, though Hunt seemed to think it was. Neo-Nazis in Pekin, Ill., used a similar tactic back in 2009, and members of the Aryan Nations in Auburn, Mich., did likewise in 2010. Indeed, the idea dates back at least as far as 2006 when neo-Nazis in Olympia, Wash., mixed their white-supremacy messages with pornography for the kids to find.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Interview: On 'Ring of Fire' with Mike Papantonio, Talking About Cliven Bundy

Last week, Mike Papantonio interviewed me to discuss my post about how the Cliven Bundy standoff has not only drawn the Patriots out of the woodwork so that we can now see them in all their glory, but actually has emboldened them and empowered them by giving them -- at least in their own minds -- evidence of the rightness of their Bizarro Planet beliefs.

Notably, this interview took place before Bundy's ruminations about "the Negro" made the rounds -- but everything I said fit perfectly well into that context.

And I have some thoughts about the underlying motivations for the rush of the mainstream right to come to Bundy's defense. Yes, the Koch Brothers have a role there ...

Here's the entire episode. Thanks to Mike and his producer, Farron Cousins, for having me on.