Oregon’s Hard Right History

Oregon’s contemporary Patriot movement does not come out of a local void. Despite its reputation as a liberal stronghold, the state has a long history of Hard Right politics—including large grassroots movements. These include the racial exclusion laws the state was founded on; a large Ku Klux Klan presence; various Nazi and White supremacist groups; Posse Comitatus recruiting and activism; Roy Masters’s foundation and media activities; the homophobic and anti-abortion Oregon Citizens Alliance; and Christian Patriot and militia movement in the 1980s and 1990s. Just like the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Malheur occupiers did in 2015 and 2016, in the 1970s to early 2000s Hard Right groups in Oregon—including the Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nations, the Oregon Citizens Alliance, and Southern Oregon Militia—all hitched their horses to land-use issues. And numerous Sovereign Citizens have been arrested in the state for years, especially in Jackson County.

Early Foundations

Racial Exclusion Laws

Oregon was founded on racial exclusion laws. In 1844, when it was still a territory, a law was passed subjecting to lashings any free black citizen who did not leave. This was repealed, but an 1849 law prohibited African-Americans from coming to the territory; this too was repealed. Oregon was accepted into the union as a non-slave state, but its 1857 Constitution prohibited any African-Americans from moving to the state who were not already residents. Voters overturned the law in 1926.(1)R. Gregory Nokes, “Black History Month: Oregon’s exclusion laws aimed to prevent black’s from settling here,” Oregonian, February 9, 2014, www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2014/02/black_history_month_oregons_ex.html. The state also ratified the Fourteenth Amendment (which granted citizenship to freed slaves) in 1866, but rescinded it in 1868; it was only re-ratified in 1973. And Black Oregonians were not the only group persecuted; in 1893, LaGrande’s Chinatown was burned down, and its residents fled.(2)Matt Novak, “Oregon Was Founded As A Racist Utopia,” Gizmodo, January 21, 2015, http://gizmodo.com/oregon-was-founded-as-a-racist-utopia-1539567040. Today, the state is 77 percent White (non-Hispanic/Latino)—one of the most white in the country, which is currently 62 percent.(3)For Oregon demographics, see “Quick Facts: Oregon,” United States Census Bureau, www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/41,00; for the United States as a whole, see “Quick Facts: United States,” United States Census Bureau, www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/00. The figure rises to 88 percent (Oregon) and 77 percent (United States) when combined with those who identity as both white and Hispanic/Latino.

Ku Klux Klan

Oregon’s Ku Klux Klan had meteoric rise and fall; it was founded in 1921, dominated the 1923 state election, and by 1925 had fallen apart. Lawrence J. Saalfield, author of a book about the Oregon Klan, described Portland as “the virtual headquarters of the Klan west of the Rocky Mountains.”(4)Lawrence J. Saalfeld, Forces of Prejudice in Oregon 1920–1925 (Portland: Archdiocesan Historical Commission, 1984), 2. There were 14,000 to 20,000 Klan members in the state by the early 1920s, and before the decade’s end as many as 50,000 may have passed through the organization’s ranks.(5)David A. Horowitz, “Social Morality and Personal Revitalization: Oregon’s Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 90, no. 4 (Winter 1989): 369.

Oregon’s Klan was an overtly White supremacist organization; however, while it occasionally campaigned against people of color—in particular those of Japanese descent—its main focus was against Roman Catholics, many of whom were recent immigrants. At the time, they were demonized in the same way Jews often are: as a fifth column in the nation, who dominate its institutions, but whose real loyalties are to a foreign power. Scholar Eckard V. Toy wrote, “The racial and moralistic attitudes of Klansmen were not significantly different from those of other Oregonians”—who were overwhelmingly white, Protestant, and native-born.(6)Eckard V. Toy, “Robe and Gown: The Ku Klux Klan in Eugene, Oregon,” in The Invisible Empire in the West: Towards a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, ed. Shawn Lay (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 156.

The 1922 vote was a two-fold victory for the Klan. First, the Republican candidate they backed, Walter Pierce, was elected governor; and second, a referendum they supported, aimed at crippling the Roman Catholic private school system, was passed. In March 1923, both Pierce and Portland Mayor George L. Baker paid their political dues by attending a banquet for Klan leader Frederick L. Gifford. Klan-backed legislation was also passed, banning teachers from wearing religious headgear in public schools (aimed at Catholics), and limiting land ownership by non-citizens (aimed at Japanese). But other bills failed. Beset by internal faction-fighting, the state Klan faded from sight in 1925, although there was a brief revival in 1926.(7)For the story of the 1920s Klan movement in Oregon, see Saalfeld, Forces of Prejudice in Oregon 1920–1925. But the Klan’s power had faded so much that, the same year, the African-American exclusion clause was repealed from the state constitution. The private school referendum they had backed was also struck down the year before by the Supreme Court.

Silver Shirts and Japanese Internments

In the 1930s, the state had a visible membership in the Silver Legion of America (better known as the Silver Shirts), a pro-Nazi organization. Former Oregon Klan leaders Gifford and Luther I. Powell even joined the group, which in 1939 had 750 members in the state.(8)Powell even returned to Oregon to work with the state chapter; see Neiwert, In God’s Country, 45, 46.

The pro-Nazi group was suppressed by the U.S. government during the war—but the federal government turned around and enacted its own racist policies in the state. In 1942, the federal government forcibly interned 4,000 Oregonians of Japanese descent (including both Japanese expatriates and native-born citizens) in camps. When they returned after the war, 75 percent of the land they had owned before 1942 was no longer in their hands.(9)Craig Collisson, “Japanese American Wartime Incarceration in Oregon,” Oregon Encyclopedia, www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/japanese_internment.

Posse Comitatus

In the 1970s, Oregon also became a center for the Posse Comitatus movement, centered around Portland’s Henry Lamont “Mike” Beach. A former member of the Silver Shirts, Beach became a key link between Oregon’s past and future Hard Right.
Many of the tactics and organizing approaches used by the 1970s Oregon Posse Comitatus can be seen in use today by the Patriot movement; these includes establishing relationships with radical gun rights groups, establishing fake courts, anti-environmental activism, and armed takeovers. In 1974, a “citizens grand jury” was organized by the Lane County Posse Comitatus. The same group also made links with a gun rights group, the National Association to Keep and Bear Arms (NAKBA).(10)Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 115–16.

In 1973, Beach plagiarized the writings of Posse Comitatus founder William Potter Gale into a short booklet, the Blue Book, and started issuing his own charters for groups. Soon there were at least nine Oregon counties with chartered Posse Comitatus groups.(11)Ibid, 114–15, 447n30. Many were in the same areas where the 1920s Klan had been strong, in Oregon’s south and east—the same political strongholds of Posse Comitatus, and today of the various Patriot movement groups.(12)Ibid, 133.

In 1975, the Klamath County Posse Comitatus chairman sent threatening letters to state legislators, saying they would be tried for treason by his movement’s fake grand juries if they did not repeal a 1973 land conservation act. The threats were discussed on the floor of the state senate, and the Oregon state attorney general was consulted.(13)Ibid, 133–34.

Posse Comitatus activists sued Josephine County for accepting paper money for tax payments.(14)Ibid, 156. And foreshadowing the Malheur takeover, in 1976 Posse Comitatus activist Everett Thoren claimed (falsely) that he owned half of a farm in rural Umatilla County. He recruited Posse Comitatus activists from California and Portland, and engineered an armed takeover of the farm—although Thoren himself did not join in. Like at Malheur, none of the occupiers were locals, but unlike Malheur, they surrendered the same day to authorities.(15)Ibid, 154–67. See also Renee Struthers, “OUT OF THE VAULT: Armed posse takes over Stanfield potato shed,” East Oregonian, January 6, 2016, www.eastoregonian.com/eo/out-of-the-vault/20160106/out-of-the-vault-armed-posse-takes-over-stanfield-potato-shed.

Josephine County: Roy Masters and the State of Jefferson

Many communes, cults, and alternative religious communities set up shop in Oregon in the 1970s and 1980s. One of those was Roy Masters’ Foundation of Human Understanding, which came to Josephine County in 1979. Masters—who promotes a right-wing brand of Christianity, deeply infused with libertarian economics, and patriarchal and homophobic views. The group allegedly tried to take over the county government. Locals soon dubbed his followers “Roybots,” and he was embroiled in numerous lawsuits.(16)Edith Decker, “Preacher Roy Masters brought controversy, uproar to Josephine,” Daily Courier (Grants Pass, OR), April 1, 2010, 3D, http://web.thedailycourier.com/eedition/2010/04/01/Progress/3.pdf.

Masters—host of the radio show Advice Line—later established the right-wing Talk Radio Network, which included Art Bell’s popular overnight conspiracy show Coast to Coast AM. The network passed to Roy’s son Mark Masters, and featured Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham.(17)Caitlin Dickson, “The Godfather of Right-Wing Radio,” Daily Beast, November 23, 2014, www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/23/the-godfather-of-right-wing-radio.html. WorldNetDaily (WND), one of the most popular right-wing conspiracy theory websites today, was originally based at Roy

Masters’ headquarters.(18)“Confirmed: WND Was Headquartered At Roy Masters’ Ranch,” ConWebBlog, May 1, 2012, http://conwebwatch.tripod.com/blog/index.blog/2266001/confirmed-wnd-was-headquartered-at-roy-masters-ranch. The right-wing conspiracy website News With Views, based in Merlin, appears to be part of Roy Masters’ orbit as well; the site features many of his talks. County officials, including former Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, have written for the site while in office. (See Josephine County section.)

The “State of Jefferson” is a movement in southwestern Oregon and northern California to form a new state. Its activists often cross-pollinate with the Patriot movement.
The “State of Jefferson” is a movement in southwestern Oregon and northern California to form a new state. Its activists often cross-pollinate with the Patriot movement.

Josephine County is also one of the centers for the regional separatist State of Jefferson movement. Covering parts of northern California and southwestern Oregon, the proposed state’s flag has two X’s to symbolize it being “double-crossed” by Salem and Sacramento. The State of Jefferson idea dates back to 1852, but today many activists who are involved in the libertarian-leaning secessionist project are closely aligned with the Patriot movement.(19)On the early history, see Stephen Most, River of Renewal: Myth and History on the Klamath Basin (Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press/University of Washington Press, 2006), 192–96; Sarah Goodyear, “Rebellion in California,” Daily News (New York), February 9, 2016, http://interactive.nydailynews.com/2016/02/state-of-jefferson-secessionists-california-gun-totin-rebels; Robert Crawford, S.L. Gardener, Jonathan Mozzochi, and R.L. Taylor, Northwest Imperative: Documenting a Decade of Hate (Portland, OR: Coalition for Human Dignity, 1994), 1.10. State of Jefferson flags are commonly seen at many Patriot movement rallies.

Nazi Skinheads and Aryan Nations

Oregon was one of the centers of the neo-Nazi movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the mid-1980s, racist leaders floated a plan called the Northwest Territorial Imperative, which sought to establish a White ethnostate in the region. The Nazi skinhead movement in particular established a strong following in the state, and in 1988 members of a Portland Nazi skinhead gang—loosely connected to Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance (WAR)—murdered Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw. (20)Ravleen Kaur,”The Mulugeta Seraw Murder: 25 Years Later,” Willamette Week, November 21, 2013, http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-30937-the_mulugeta_seraw_murder_25_years_later.html. (The SPLC won a major lawsuit against Metzger for inspiring the murder, bankrupting WAR.)(21)For the most complete account of this incident, see Elinor Langer, A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003). In 1990, the American Front, one of the largest national Nazi skinhead organizations, relocated their operations to Portland. Elsewhere in the state, other neo-Nazis were active; these included the National Socialist Vanguard, and the national organization Volksfront, which was founded in 1994.(22)Heidi Beirich, “The End of Volksfront?,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 20, 2013, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2013/end-volksfront. Followers of Christian Identity, an openly racist and antisemitic version of Christianity, were also active in the state, and sometimes served as a bridge between the neo-Nazi and Christian Patriot groups.(23)Jonathan Mozzochi, Organized White Supremacy in Oregon (Portland, OR: Coalition for Human Dignity, 1990).

The Aryan Nations, based in Idaho and led by Richard Butler, targeted the state. Butler had been in the same Christian Identity church as Posse Comitatus founder Gale; Butler took the church over, moved it from southern California to northern Idaho, and renamed it Aryan Nations. However, he continued to have a long, on-again-off-again relationship with the Patriot movement.(24)In 1975, Butler was in a Posse Comitatus group in Idaho. He signed on to Gale’s 1984 Committee of States project, and Gale came to the Aryan Nations compound to promote it. Butler was also at the 1992 Estes Park, Colorado meeting. See Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 110, 131, 288, 289–90; David Neiwart, “‘We Are At War’: How Militias, Racists and Anti-Semites Found a Home in the Tea Party,” AlterNet, November 21, 2010, www.alternet.org/story/148946/%22we_are_at_war%22%3A_how_militias,_racists_and_anti-semites_found_a_home_in_the_tea_party.

In 1991, Aryan Nations targeted Oregon for a recruiting drive, attempting to exploit public resentment against environmental restrictions to save the spotted owl, which was then a federally recognized endangered species. The group’s plan to make Josephine County the center of an organizing drive in 1995 was cancelled after an anti-racist march in Grants Pass drew 1,500 people. After Butler died in 2004, a number of splinter groups formed which all took the group’s name. In 2010, one of these splinter groups tried to move its headquarters to John Day, Oregon. This, too, was scrapped after strong local opposition, aided by the Rural Organizing Project.(25)For 1991 drive, see Crawford, et al., Northwest Imperative, 1.18; for 1995, see Associated Press, “1,500 Rally Against Aryan Recruiters White Supremacists Plan To Base Drive in Grants Pass,” Spokesman-Review, February 26, 1995, www.spokesman.com/stories/1995/feb/26/1500-rally-against-aryan-recruiters-white; for the 2010 attempt, see “Rural Oregon is a Hate Free Zone: Grant County Update,” Rural Organizing Project, February 26, 2010, www.rop.org/rural-oregon-is-a-hate-free-zone-grant-county-update.

Oregon Citizens Alliance

The homophobic, anti-abortion Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) became a powerful force in Oregon politics in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a local manifestation of Christian Right-driven culture wars. Formed in 1986 by Lon Mabon, the OCA repeatedly employed Oregon’s accessible ballot referendum system to push a reactionary social agenda. In 1988 the OCA won Measure 8, which repealed the state rule against sexual orientation discrimination, and prohibited any new protections from being implemented. (This was their only state referendum victory, however, and the courts would later overturn it.) Turning to abortion issues, Measure 10 in 1990 required parental notification for abortion for minors, but it was defeated. OCA’s major battle, which attracted national attention, was Measure 9 in 1992, which would have amended the state constitution forcing schools and government agencies to discourage “homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism.”

The measure eventually failed—and opposition to it led to the formation of the Rural Organizing Project. But similar measures were passed in several localities before being overturned by state legislation.(26)Marc Ramirez, “Lon Mabon Sets ‘Em Straight,” Seattle Times, October 3, 1993, http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19931003&slug=1724056; George T. Nicola, “Oregon Anti-Gay Ballot Measures,” Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest, April 3, 2013, www.glapn.org/6013OregonAntiGayMeasures.html; Voters’ Pamphlet: State of Oregon General Election November 6, 1990, comp. by Barbara Roberts, (Salem, OR: State of Oregon, 1990), http://library.state.or.us/repository/2010/201003011350161/ORVPGenMari1990.pdf; Joe Kidd, “City officials put gay issue on fall ballot,” Eugene Register-Guard, July 27, 1993, C1, https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=nkFWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ZeoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2937,6191534. In addition, the OCA closely aligned itself with the corporate-funded, anti-environmental Wise Use movement, incorporated its views into the OCA platform, and sponsored a land-use ballot initiative.(27)For Wise Use, see Stephenie Hendricks, “The Perversion of ‘Wise Use’,” Brooklyn Rail, May 9, 2006, www.brooklynrail.org/2006/05/books/the-perversion-of-wise-use; William Kevin Burke, “The Wise Use Movement: Right Wing Anti-Environmentalism,” Political Research Associates, June 1993, www.publiceye.org/magazine/v07n2/wiseuse.html.

1980s—2000s Militia and Patriot Movement

By the 1980s, post-Posse Comitatus groups operating under the banner of the “Christian Patriot” movement started to appear in Oregon. These were succeeded by a number of militias in the early 1990s.

Republic v. Democracy Redress

In the 1980s a number of individuals and groups in the state continued to employ the fake legal strategies that were pioneered by Posse Comitatus. In Oregon City, this included the racist and antisemitic group Republic v. Democracy Redress, publishers of BEHOLD! They held that only white people could be full U.S. citizens.(28)The group was led by Robert Wangrud. See Crawford, et al., Northwest Imperative, 2.36–2.37; Mozzochi, Organized White Supremacy in Oregon, 25. A website with some the magazine’s archives is at www.beholdonline.info. For more on Wangrud, see Zeskind, Blood and Politics, 81.

The tactics of the newly emerging Sovereign Citizen movement had a more general following in the state, as well. In just nine months of 1982, 15 to 20 “cases which involved combinations of harassing lawsuits and common law liens and common law ‘signature’ liens had been filed” in the state.(29)Mark Pitcavage, “Paper Terrorism’s Forgotten Victims: The Use of Bogus Liens Against Private Individuals and Businesses,” Anti-Defamation League, June 29, 1998, http://archive.adl.org/mwd/privlien.html.

Medford Citizens’ Bar Association

Two Hard Right groups, with an intertwined history, ran a politically based tax scam in Oregon for decades: the Medford Citizen’s Bar Association (MCBA) and the Christian Patriot Association. The MCBA published a paper called the CBA Bulletin, which promoted fake legal, racist, and antisemitic writings.(30)Devin Burghart and Robert Crawford, Guns & Gavels: Common Law Courts, Militias & White Supremacy (Portland, OR: Coalition for Human Dignity, 1996), 14. The group also ran a warehouse bank—an illegal private service which provided checking services to members while hiding its paperwork from the IRS, thereby enabling tax evasion. (Opposition to the federal income tax has long been a popular issue on the Hard Right, and the right-wing tax protest movement was one of the currents that fed into Posse Comitatus.) The bank was raided by the government in 1985. Several members were convicted in 1990, although one, Art Hollowell, fled.(31)Peter Gillins, “IRS to probe ‘warehouse bank’ customers,” United Press International, October 25, 1985, www.upi.com/Archives/1985/10/25/IRS-to-probe-warehouse-bank-customers/3960499060800; Mozzochi, Organized White Supremacy in Oregon, 22­–25. (He was caught and sentenced in 1996; in 2010 he reappeared in Patriot circles.)(32)Associated Press, “Fugitive tax protestor sentenced to year in prison,” Eugene Register-Guard, October 6, 1996, 2C, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19961006&id=KUxWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=HOsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4220,1527402&hl=en; Heidi Beirich, “Midwifing The Militias,” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 2, 2010, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/midwifing-militias.

By 1994 the MCBA’s periodical had changed its name to The American’s Bulletin, and was run by Robert Kelly.(33)Crawford, et al., Northwest Imperative, 2.28–2.30. Two years later, the group itself was reported to be defunct, although the periodical continued under Kelly’s editorship.(34)“Paper prints ‘uncensored truth’,” Eugene Register-Guard, April 12, 1996, 4B, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19960412&id=UUdWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6-oDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4019,2559151&hl=en. The American’s Bulletin defended the militia movement, and in the late 1990s was a leading promoter of the “redemption movement”—a Sovereign Citizen financial scheme to defraud banks.(35)“Redemption” is a financial scam created by Robert Elvick, who worked closely with William Potter Gale, the founder of Posse Comitatus. Redemption is based on the idea that the federal government has a secret bank account for each citizen; when we are born, a large amount of money is deposited in it, which the government uses as collateral. Sovereign Citizens hold that this money can be withdrawn—essentially by passing fake checks, promissory notes, and sight drafts. The Sovereign Citizen concepts of the “straw man” and “flesh-and-blood person” are based on this idea. See Mark Pitcavage, “Old Wine, New Bottles: Paper Terrorism, Paper Scams, and Paper ‘Redemption’,” Anti-Defamation League, November 9, 1999, http://archive.adl.org/mwd/redemption.html; “New Multi-Million Dollar Scam Takes Off In Anti-Government Circles,” Southern Poverty Law Center, December 18, 2002, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2002/new-multi-million-dollar-scam-takes-antigovernment-circles. The American’s Bulletin is still published today out of Central Point, Oregon, just outside of Medford, and in early 2016 ran Sovereign Citizen articles defending the Hammond family in Burns.(36)American’s Bulletin, January–February 2016, 12–13, https://americansbulletin.com/published-archive.

Christian Patriot Association

The 1985 IRS raid of the MCBA did not stop the illegal banking activities, which were handed over to the Christian Patriot Association, run by Richard Flowers, the following year.(37)Crawford, et al., Northwest Imperative, 2.15. The banking operations of the MCBA and Christian Patriot Association were conducted under various names, including the American Freeman Association, National Currency Exchange, Natural Coin Exchange, and Horizon Sun Business Trust. See David Cay Johnston, “IRS Arrests 6 in White Supremacist Group on Tax Charges,” New York Times, November 17, 2000, www.nytimes.com/2000/11/17/business/irs-arrests-6-in-white-supremacist-group-on-tax-charges.html. The Christian Patriot Association published a periodical (The Patriot Review) and books, as well as distributing other titles. They distributed fake legal works, as well as racist, antisemitic, and Christian Identity texts, and weapons manuals.(38)Crawford, et al., Northwest Imperative, 2.13–2.15; see also Richard Hatch, “The Populist Action Committee,” Political Research Associates, May 1993, www.publiceye.org/racism/popactcom.html. In 1996, it was  raided by authorities, and in 2000 a number of members were arrested. In 2002 they were convicted, and after a lengthy appeals process, the main sentences were handed down in 2005. The Department of Justice claimed that between 1986 and 2000, the Christian Patriot Association had “provided anonymous banking for 900 members nationwide and handled deposits totaling over $186 million.”(39)Associated Press, “IRS seizes Christian Patriot records,” Lewiston Tribune, May 21, 1996, http://m.lmtribune.com/mobile/northwest/article_63b1718d-8c54-5703-89b7-80b7fa6dcb37.html; David Cay Johnston, “IRS Arrests 6 in White Supremacist Group on Tax Charges,” New York Times, November 17, 2000, www.nytimes.com/2000/11/17/business/irs-arrests-6-in-white-supremacist-group-on-tax-charges.html; “Federal Jury Convicts Oregon Extremists in Fraud Case,” Anti-Defamation League, June 13, 2002, http://archive.adl.org/learn/news/convicts_or.html; “Three Defendants Imprisoned for Tax Fraud Conspiracy,” United States Department of Justice, February 18, 2005, www.justice.gov/archive/tax/txdv05070.htm.

In addition, many people connected to the MCBA and Christian Patriot Association made headlines for violent criminal activity. Maynard Campbell, from Ashland, advertised his how-to guides for making biological weapons like ricin in the CBA Bulletin. In 1992 he was arrested after a standoff with police, and was murdered in prison in 1997.(40)Jonathan B. Tucker, Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (Boston: MIT Press, 1994), 167.

In 1996, during the Justus Township standoff, two armed men—Mike Bartee and Tad Silveira—tried to reinforce the compound with food and ammunition; they said they had The American’s Bulletin press credentials. Bartee also identified himself as associated with the Embassy of Heaven church.(41)The Justus Township in Montana was an area that was declared to be under the control of the “Freemen,” who were Sovereign Citizens. When federal agents attempted to execute an arrest warrant, a standoff ensued, but ended peacefully after an 81 days. Associated Press, “Freemen backers seek common law solution to conflict,” Eugene Register-Guard, April 4, 1996, 4C, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19960404&id=Z0dWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6-oDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3548,587895&hl=en. In 1997, this church—which was also utilizing these fake legal strategies—was foreclosed on in Sublimity, Oregon. Scott Roeder, who murdered abortion provider George Tiller in 2009, had previously received instruction from the church, although he did not receive “citizenship”—which the church granted its followers—from them. (The church, which today is in Stayton, Oregon, opposes violence.)(42)See “Embassy of Heaven Leader Evicted,” Militia Watchdog: Neo-Militia News; Anti-Defamation League, last updated March 5, 1997, http://archive.adl.org/mwd/oldnews4.html; Judy L. Thomas, “Investigation looks into whether Tiller shooting was part of conspiracy,” Wichita Eagle, June 14, 2009, www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/article1008046.html. The church’s website is Embassy of Heaven, www.embassyofheaven.com.

In 1997 in Damascus, Oregon, a bomb was set off at a pornographic video store as a diversionary tactic before a bank robbery. In 2002, two men—Fritz Springmeier and Forrest E. Bateman, Jr.—were arrested in connection to this. They had met at a meeting of the Christian Patriot Association, and both were also connected to the violent anti-abortion group Army of God.(43)“Oregon White Supremacist Sentenced For Role In Bank Robbery,” Anti-Defamation League, November 25, 2003, http://archive.adl.org/learn/news/or_suprem_sentened.html. Springmeier was the author of several conspiracy theory books, and after his release spoke in Sellwood (just outside of Portland), hosted by the 9/11 Truth Alliance, in both 2011 and 2012.(44)Rose City Antifa, “Portland 9/11 Truth Alliance Hosts Right-Wing Bomber Courtesy of Citybikes President, Tim Calvert,” Libcom.org, September 29, 2012, https://libcom.org/forums/news/portland-911-truth-alliance-hosts-right-wing-bomber-courtesy-citybikes-president-tim.

Despite their obsession with fabricated paperwork and secret banks, the Christian Patriot movement didn’t ignore land use issues. A 1990 report by Portland’s Coalition for Human Dignity quotes a Christian Patriot movement activist as saying, “Oregon is 50% controlled by the Federal Government—by those who control the Federal Government—because 50% of the land is natural forest. So this state is dominated by a foreign power… [look at] the spotted owl and the lack of funding for industry, and the movement of industry down south….” The report also noted that all the MCBA members worked in the wood products industry.(45)Mozzochi, Organized White Supremacy In Oregon, 26.

Fake Courts

In the mid-to-late 1990s, a number of fake courts based on Posse Comitatus/Sovereign Citizen ideas sprang up around Oregon. Rodney Elliot Askelson, who helped run the Christian Patriot Association in the 1980s, was a founder of the Common Law Supreme Court of Oregon.(46)Burghart and Crawford, Guns & Gavels, 22, 23. The other courts included Our One Supreme Court of Wasco County, the United States District Court of Oregon, and the Multnomah County Common Law Court.(47)Ibid, 22; Lori Linzer and David Rosenberg, “Vigilante Justice: Militias and ‘Common Law Courts’ Wage War Against The Government,” Anti-Defamation League, 1997, 42, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/adl-report-1997-vigilante-justice.pdf. The latter pledged support for the Embassy of Heaven when it ran afoul of the law.(48)Coalition for Human Dignity, “2. Multomah County Common Law Court in Disarray” [sic], Northwest Update, June 1, 1997, 1.

Other Sovereign Citizen Activity

The Oregon Observer is a Patriot newspaper founded in 1992, and is still published today as the US~Observer. Referred to as “Oregon’s premier patriot organ,” publisher Ed Snook of Josephine County took part in hanging a black lawmaker in effigy in Salem in 1998. In 1999 he was involved in campaigns to recall elected officials in southwestern Oregon.(49)For founding, see “All About US-Observer,” US~Observer, www.usobserver.com/archive/jan-11/all-about-us-observer.html; for “premier” quote, see Coalition for Human Dignity, “2. Multnomah County Common Law Court in Disarray,” Northwest Update, 1; for effigy, see Coalition for Human Dignity, “5. Effigy-Hanging Patriot Sues State,” Northwest Update, January 15, 1998, 2; for recall, see Chris Bristol, “Judge speaks out against ‘lunatic fringe’,” Mail Tribune (Medford, OR), May 13, 1999 (updated December 16, 2010), www.mailtribune.com/article/19990513/News/305139992.

Herbert Crawford was arrested in March 1996 arrest for drug manufacturing; he had been an associate of the Montana Freemen.(50)Linzer and Rosenberg, “Vigilante Justice,” 6, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/adl-report-1997-vigilante-justice.pdf. In March 1998, Ronald A. Griesacker, who was affiliated with a range of Patriot-style groups, was arrested on fraud charges in Oregon.(51)“Calendar of Conspiracy: Volume 2, Number 1: A Chronology of Anti-Government Extremist Criminal Activity, January to March 1998,” Anti-Defamation League, April 24, 1998, http://archive.adl.org/mwd/cocv2n1.html.
Other arrests and threatening activity by Sovereign Citizens in Oregon include:

  • In 1999, the Jackson County sheriff complained he was harassed by activists associated with Freedom Bound International, a Sovereign Citizen group.(52)Coalition for Human Dignity, “3. Oregon Sheriff Continues to Lean on Militia Members,” Northwest Update, May 15, 1999, 1. Led by Brent Johnson (host of the radio show American Sovereign, which is now the Voice of Freedom), Freedom Bound International is based in Klamath Falls and still around today. They sell DVDs and books, including Johnson’s The American Sovereign: How to Live Free From Government Regulations. You can even buy an “international driver permit.”(53)“Books,” The Voice of Freedom, October 29, 2008, www.freedomradio.us/vof/index.php/products/books; “Webcast: The Voice of Freedom,” The Voice of Freedom, www.freedomradio.us/vof/index.php/webcast; “Idaho Observer: Interview with Brent Johnson,” Pro-Liberty Network, August 2004, www.proliberty.com/observer/20040810.htm; “Freedom Bound International Address And Phone Number,” Voice of Freedom, www.freedomradio.us/vof/index.php/contact-us/1-freedom-bound-international-mailing-address-and-phone-number; “International Driver Permit,” Voice of Freedom, January 1, 2007, www.freedomradio.us/vof/index.php/products/international-driver-permit.
  • In 2001, two Sovereign Citizens in Medford, Donald Harley Carter and Floyd Bradley Howe, received three-year sentences for their participation in redemption schemes.(54)“2001 Extremist-Related Criminal Activities: Oregon,” Anti-Defamation League, http://archive.adl.org/learn/criminal_activity/or_jan_mar_01.html.
  • In 2005, Oregon’s John David Van Hove, a.k.a. Johnny Liberty, was arrested while in Hawaii on tax fraud, wire fraud, and obstruction charges, and sentenced to two years. In the 1990s, he had been noted for promoting Sovereign Citizen theories to progressives and environmentalists. Van Hove wrote a number of books, including the massive Global Sovereign’s Handbook, which includes many conspiracy theories and a focus on Native American sovereignty. Today he runs the Global Source Center in Ashland, and still sells his old books and audio courses.(55)“Christian Patriots & the Counter-Culture,” Northwest Update, May 15, 1995, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/1602214/larryprattg00010.txt; Department of Justice, “Hawaii Man Arrested On Tax Fraud, Wire Fraud And Obstruction Charges,” United States Department of Justice, May 19, 2005, www.justice.gov/archive/tax/txdv05251.htm; Attorney’s Office, District of Hawaii, “Press Release,” United States Department of Justice, May 30, 2006, www.justice.gov/archive/tax/usaopress/2006/txdv06_0605vanhove.html; Johnny Liberty, The Global Sovereign’s Handbook (Ashland, OR: Institute for Communication Resources, 2014), http://freedom-school.com/books/johnny-liberty-the-global-sovereign-handbook.pdf; “Freedom Catalog: The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction,” Global Source Center, www.icresource.com/pages/e-commerce/freedom-catalog.
  • In March 2010, people involved in Pinnacle Quest International were convicted of tax and wire fraud, and money laundering. They included Ashland restaurant owner Eugene “Gino” Joseph Casternovia, who had run a group called Southern Oregon Resource Center for Education, which advocated Sovereign-style tax evasion strategies.(56)“The Lawless Ones,” Anti-Defamation League, 2012, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Lawless-Ones-2012-Edition-WEB-final.pdf; Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, “Eight Promoters of Sham Tax Elimination Scheme Convicted of Tax Fraud Charges in Florida,” United States Department of Justice, March 31, 2010, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/eight-promoters-sham-tax-elimination-scheme-convicted-tax-fraud-charges-florida; Sanne Specht, “Ashland man gets 7 years in prison,” Mail Tribune (Medford, OR), September 21, 2010, www.mailtribune.com/article/20100921/news/9210315.
  • In October 2011, a “de jure Grand Jury” sent every Oregon district attorney an indictment for “treason, kidnapping, and slave trafficking. The documents also called on ‘provost marshals’ to arrest the officials and suggested that in some cases the death penalty might be appropriate.”(57)“The Lawless Ones,” Anti-Defamation League, 2012, www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Lawless-Ones-2012-Edition-WEB-final.pdf; see also Jessie Higgins, “Turning the tables, DA gets ‘served’,” World (Coos Bay, OR), October 28, 2011, http://theworldlink.com/turning-the-tables-da-gets-served/article_70352f20-0181-11e1-abe5-001cc4c03286.html.
  • In October 2011, Ronald and Dorothea Jolings from Coos Bay were indicted for tax evasion; apparently afterwards they embraced Sovereign Citizen ideology, filing false liens against federal officials and claiming each one owed them $100 million. In 2015 they skipped their sentencing, although were caught soon after; Ronald received eight years and Dorothea four for tax evasion. In February 2016, they pled guilty to new charges related to filing the false liens.(58) Bill Morlin, “Sovereign Oregon Pastor and Wife Flee Sentencing Hearing On Income Tax Evasion Charges,” Southern Poverty Law Center, April 26, 2015, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/04/27/sovereign-oregon-pastor-and-wife-flee-sentencing-hearing-income-tax-evasion-charges; Jack Moran, “Coquille pastor, wife charged with filing false, vindictive liens,” Bend Bulletin, November 25, 2015, www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/3735190-151/coquille-pastor-wife-charged-with-filing-false-vindictive; Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, “Oregon Husband And Wife Plead Guilty to Crimes Relating to Filing False Retaliatory Liens Against Federal Judges and Other Federal Officials,” United States Department of Justice, February 18, 2016, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/oregon-husband-and-wife-plead-guilty-crimes-related-filing-false-retaliatory-liens-against.
  • In June 2014, Gary Lewis, a Sovereign Citizen, was arrested for murdering a tenant in his fortified Northeast Portland house.(59)“Police: Murder Suspect Gary Lewis in Custody,” KOIN 6, June 12, 2014, http://koin.com/2014/06/12/police-murder-suspect-gary-lewis-in-custody; Bill Morlin, “Suspected ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Sought in Oregon Woman’s Murder,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 11, 2014, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2014/06/11/suspected-sovereign-citizen-sought-oregon-womans-murder.
  • Also in June 2014, a police SWAT team killed 73-year-old Ashland resident Earl Cranston Harris after he greeted police efforts to enter his house to serve an eviction notice with a shotgun. Harris spent years filing Sovereign Citizen documents in an attempt to prevent his home’s foreclosure.(60)Thomas Moriarty, “The Sovereign Among Us,” Mail Tribune (Medford, OR), February 8, 2015, www.mailtribune.com/article/20150208/news/150209683.
  • In December 2015, Winston Shrout, a Hillsboro, Oregon, Sovereign Citizen “guru” who traveled around the world teaching his legal theories, was charged with 19 counts of tax evasion. He later received additional charges for attempting to defraud banks with fake documents. An advocate of the redemption scheme, Shrout gave seminars in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain.(61)Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, “Oregon Man Indicted for Failure to File Tax Returns,” United States Department of Justice, December 9, 2015, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/oregon-man-indicted-failure-file-tax-returns; “Winston Shrout: The Rise and Fall of a Sovereign Citizen Guru,” March 21, 2016, Access ADL, http://blog.adl.org/extremism/winston-shrout-the-rise-and-fall-of-a-sovereign-citizen-guru; Anna Merlan, “Conspiracy Cruise Presenter Winston Shrout Indicted on Charges of Making Fake Financial Documents,” Jezebel, March 17, 2016, http://jezebel.com/conspiracy-cruise-presenter-winston-shrout-indicted-on-1765464325.


Militias were part of the same political milieu of illegal banks, Sovereign Citizen periodicals, and pretend courts that dotted Oregon in the 1990s.

The Southern Oregon Militia, founded by Ralph Bowman and based in Jackson and Josephine Counties, was formed in 1993; the secretive group still exists today. It threatened to intervene during the 1996 Justus Township standoff in Montana.(62)Coalition for Human Dignity, “5. Southern Oregon Militia in the Spotlight,” Northwest Update, June 1, 1997, 2. In 2001 they also threatened to intervene in the Klamath Basin Water Crisis (see below).

Carl F. Worden, the group’s liason officer, describes the Southern Oregon Militia as a “clandestine” group. However, its secrecy does not preclude the group from endorsing candidates for office, and in May 2014 the militia gave its seal of approval to Corey Falls’s successful bid for Jackson County sheriff, which it later revoked. It refused to join the Sugar Pine action or support the ongoing Malheur occupation. However, Worden defended Malheur’s occupiers from repression, saying, “If this stupid bitch Governor Brown gets the feds come in and kill ANY of those protestors in Burns, we will come in and will exact the kind of revenge only revered on battlegrounds. Dear Ms. Brown: Your life and the lives of everyone you care about are on the line here. Make the wise choice, BITCH!”(63)Carl Worden, Facebook posts, 2015 and 2016. Screenshots in possession of author.

Carl Worden of the Southern Oregon Militia threatens to kill “stupid bitch” Oregon Governor Kate Brown if any of the Patriot movement activists in Burns are killed.
Carl Worden of the Southern Oregon Militia threatens to kill “stupid bitch” Oregon Governor Kate Brown if any of the Patriot movement activists in Burns are killed.

In the summer of 1994, the Portland suburb of Hillsboro was home to the Oregon Militia.(64)Jim Redden, “Sleep Well Tonight: The Oregon Militia is on the March,” PDXS, July 4–17, 1994, 3–4. The larger Northwest Oregon Regional Militia, led by Mike Cross, formed in October 1994. It claimed members in 18 counties, but was disbanded following the shock of the Oklahoma City bombing.(65)Associated Press, “Oregon militiamen say role is defensive,” Eugene Register-Guard, April 24, 1994, 5A, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19950424&id=rvxQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7eoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2975,6163439&hl=en; Associated Press, “Oregon militia organizer fears spies, calls it quits,” Eugene Register-Guard, April 30, 1995, 3B, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19950430&id=ovxQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7eoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6750,7636593&hl=en. The smaller Central Oregon Regional Militia, based in Prineville, but also active in neighboring Deschutes County, was founded the same month and also disbanded following the bombing.(66)Associated Press, “Another Oregon militia quits in wake of bombing,” Eugene Register-Guard, May 13, 1995, 3B, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19950513&id=1ERWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7OoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4327,2892980&hl=en; see also Russell Miller, “Local militia formed to protect rights,” Central Oregonian, November 15, 1994, front page. Image in possession of author.(Kenneth Medenbach claimed he was a member of this latter group when he ran into legal problems in 1995 for claiming rights to federal land. In 2016, he was the first person arrested in connection with the Malheur Refuge takeover, after driving into Burns in a stolen Refuge truck.)(67)Associated Press, “Man Ready To Fight Feds Over Land,” Spokesman-Review, May 12, 1995, www.spokesman.com/stories/1995/may/12/man-ready-to-fight-feds-over-land; Rob Eure, “Land Grab,” Oregonian, July 24, 1995, A1, www.oregonlive.com/search/Oregonian (newspaper archive, paid access only); Les Zaitz, “Protester arrested in Burns, accused of driving stolen refuge vehicle,” Oregonian/OregonLive, January 16, 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/01/protester_arrested_in_burns_dr.html. In 1996, the Eastern Oregon Militia made an appearance by also threatening to intervene in the Justus Township standoff.(68)Associated Press, “Oregon Militia Ready To Declare War If Standoff Doesn’t End Peacefully, Groups Says It Will Target Military,” Spokesman-Review, May 10, 1996, www.spokesman.com/stories/1996/may/10/oregon-militia-ready-to-declare-war-if-standoff. In conjunction with other groups, they also suggested setting up a common law court to resolve the standoff—similar to how the Pacific Patriots Network offered to intervene between the FBI and the Malheur occupiers in 2016, and using almost the exact same language—to prevent the government from “trying to instigate another Waco-type situation.”(69)Associated Press, “Eastern Oregon militia group supports Montana Freemen,” Ellensburg Daily Record, April 4, 1996, 18, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=860&dat=19960404&id=slhUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=444DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5302,1229556&hl=en.

Klamath Basin Water Crisis

In the Klamath Basin water crisis of 2001–2002, militias capitalized on land-use conflicts to forward a much broader political agenda, just like what happened at the Malheur Refuge occupation.

The Klamath River Basin (which spans southern Oregon and northern California), is more than 60 percent federal land, and is the site of a still-unresolved dispute over water rights.(70)Most, River of Renewal, 49. There are multiple parties involved, including farmers dependent on river irrigation, local governments, Native American tribes with water rights, fishers, environmentalists, and the federal government.

In April 2001 the federal government bowed to pressure from the tribes, reducing the water flow significantly in order to reverse fish die-off. In response local farmers organized a protest in the form of a “bucket brigade,” where they symbolically drew water from the river. They specifically relied on cowboy imagery, riding on horses dressed up as cowboys, to show their opposition to the Native tribes’ water claims.

While these protests were rooted in the local community, outside Patriot movement groups joined in. The Southern Oregon Militia sent an email which fantasized about killing Bureau of Land Management employees. The local sheriff refused to enforce trespassing laws against the protestors, and a local police officer was put on leave after an incendiary speech threatening violence against local environmentalists. One man who was arrested claimed to be part of a fake court which was involved in “proceedings” against real officials. An out-of-state convoy that came there in August 2001 was organized by Patriot movement activists, including the Militia of Montana. While this militia did not actually follow the convoy into Oregon in order to downplay tensions, at least one member did on his own. And just as in the Malheur conflict in 2016, Patriot movement activist Richard Mack made an appearance, and U.S. Representative Greg Walden weighed in on the farmers’ side.(71)Most, River of Renewal, 230–43; Montana Human Rights Network News, “Supporting Klamath Farmers Draws ‘Patriot’ Interest,” Klamath Forest Alliance, September 2001, www.klamathforestalliance.org/Archives/newsarchives090101.html; Sheldon Rampton, “Fools Rush In: The Militia Movement and Klamath Falls,” Klamath Forest Alliance, www.klamathforestalliance.org/Organizational/truthandjustice/articles028.html; “Conflict in Klamath,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 29, 2001, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2001/conflict-klamath.


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