Racism & Identity in the Patriot Movement

While casual observers sometimes dismiss Patriot groups as “racist militias,” the movement’s actual relationship to race and a systemic understanding of racism is more complex and requires some unpacking.

Most Patriot movement groups today have a “colorblind” approach, and say they are not racist. The Oath Keepers’ bylaws specifically bar open racists.(1)“No person who advocates, or has been or is a member, or associated with, any organization, formal or informal, that advocates discrimination, violence, or hatred toward any person based upon their race, nationality, creed, or color, shall be entitled to be a member or associate member.” See “Bylaws of Oath Keepers,” Oath Keepers, www.oathkeepers.org/bylaws. And Patriot movement activists frequently compare themselves to Civil Rights movement activists who sought legal equality; Ammon Bundy even had the chutzpah to compare the armed Malheur occupation to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s protest activities.(2)“Watch: Ammon Bundy interview from jail,” KGW.com, March 3, 2016, www.kgw.com/news/local/watch-ammon-bundy-interview-from-jail/66722905. See video “Part 1”; starts around 3:30, and mentions MLK around 4:20. Stewart Rhodes also compared the Malheur occupation to the Civil Rights movement, saying “Ammon Bundy’s occupation of an empty building is essentially the same as civil-disobedience sit-ins that the political left has engaged in for decades, from anti-war and civil rights protesters in the 60s and 70s.”(3)Stewart Rhodes, “Warning to U.S. Military and Federal LEO’s: Do Not Follow Orders to “Waco” Ammon Bundy Occupation, or Risk Civil War,” Oath Keepers, January 15, 2016, www.oathkeepers.org/critical-warning-to-u-s-military-and-federal-leo-do-not-follow-orders-to-waco-ammon-bundy-occupation-in-oregon-or-you-risk-starting-a-civil-war Against any historical knowledge of the active role southern sheriffs played in maintaining White supremacy, Richard Mack claims that constitutional sheriffs could have protected Rosa Parks and that, “Today, that constitutional sheriff does the same for Rosa Parks the gun owner, or Rosa Parks the rancher, or Rosa Parks the landowner, or Rosa Parks the homeschooler, or Rosa Parks the tax protester.”(4)Cited in Jonathan Thompson, “The rise of the Sagebrush Sheriffs,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, www.hcn.org/issues/48.2/the-rise-of-the-sagebrush-sheriffs. Mack’s argument is bizarre, as the very idea of empowering the county sheriff to decide what laws were constitutional was originally formulated to nullify federal Civil Rights laws; Gale had sought a backdoor way to return to Jim Crow segregation. At the time of the Civil Rights movement, local southern law enforcement was notoriously linked to the Ku Klux Klan.

Nonetheless, the movement radiates an unspoken White nationalism. (See “Confronting White Nationalism” box.) But since they don’t verbalize it, and even go to some lengths to deny it, what is this unspoken underlying structure?

The origins of the Patriot movement tactics and approaches are tied up in organized racist currents. As mentioned, many of their beliefs were developed as a coherent political package by the racist Posse Comitatus. In the 1980s, one commentator described the Patriot movement as “half” racist.(5)Mark Pitcavage, quoted in Chip Berlet, “Hard Times on the Hard Right: Why Progressives Must Remain Vigilant,” Public Eye, Spring 2002, 9 www.politicalresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2015/07/Public-Eye-Magazine-Spring-2002.pdf. By the 1990s militia movement, perhaps less than a quarter of members were connected to explicitly White separatist groups; Christian Identity members still held prominent positions.

By the 2008 movement revival, connections to organized racism were hard to find in the leadership. CSPOA’s Richard Mack and Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt both have public histories of working with White separatists, but both are also 1990s holdovers. Cliven Bundy’s support from the national Republican Party evaporated when asked about “the Negro”—“I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.” But Bundy is also a movement elder.(6)Adam Nagourney, “A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience That Rallied to His Side,” New York Times, April 23, 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/us/politics/rancher-proudly-breaks-the-law-becoming-a-hero-in-the-west.html.

Open racist expressions are more commonly found among local activists, however. For example, Malheur occupier Ryan Payne has said that slavery never really existed.(7)Ted McDermott, “Freedom Fighter,” Missoula Independent, June 12, 2014, http://mtcowgirl.com/2016/01/03/montana-militia-man-who-says-slavery-never-happened-takes-over-government-offices-in-oregon. In response to a post on a Facebook saying, “I’ve yet to met a white supremacist” (assumedly in Oregon Patriot movement circles), Oregon Oath Keeper Sally Telford replied, “I am a proud white/caucasian and I support and stand with all other white/Caucasians,” and elaborated that, “I stand with free white people.”(8)Sally Telford, Facebook posts, July 2015. Screenshots in possession of author. See also “Sally Telford,” LinkedIn page, www.linkedin.com/in/sally-telford-b222022b Many Patriot movement activists are part of the “White Culture and Heritage” Facebook group, the content of which is a continuous stream of White supremacist propaganda. Members include Tom McKirgan (former Southern Oregon Oath Keeper coordinator and current Three Percenter zone leader) and fake judge Bruce Doucette.(9)“White Culture and Heritage,” Facebook group, www.facebook.com/groups/188335821265673; screenshots in possession of author.

Oath Keeper Sally Telford declares in a Patriot movement Facebook group that she is "a proud white/caucasian and I support and stand with all other white/caucasians" and that “I stand with free white people.”

Oath Keeper Sally Telford declares in a Patriot movement Facebook group that she is “a proud white/caucasian and I support and stand with all other white/caucasians” and that “I stand with free white people.”

In the 1990s militia movement, there were a small number of people of color, including leaders like J.J. Johnson and Leroy Crenshaw.(10)Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, “Battling the New World Order: Patriots and Armed Militia,” Research for Progress, www.researchforprogress.us/rwpop/nwo.html; “JJ Johnson speaks to Senate about militia (1 of 3),” YouTube video, 4:30, posted by “kalifornya1,” February 26, 2010, www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-5dVHUTc7M. The same is true for today’s Patriot movement—including those present at conflicts at the Bundy Ranch standoff, Sugar Pine Mine, and the Malheur Refuge. The Malheur occupiers included people of color such as Brandon Dowd, David Fry, and Eric Lee Flores.(11)Sam Levin, “Black Oregon militiamen: Black Lives Matter can learn from occupiers,” Guardian, January 17, 2016, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/17/oregon-militia-black-lives-matters-activist-us-constitution; John Sepulvado, “How A Digital Friendship Created An Unlikely Holdout,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, January 30, 2016, www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/david-fry-lavoy-finicum-malheur-refuge-occupatin-oregon; Eric Lacitis, “For Tulalip 22-year-old, a life gone haywire after Oregon standoff,” Seattle Times, March 7, 2016, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/for-tulalip-22-year-old-a-life-gone-haywire-after-oregon-standoff. Brandon Rapolla of the Oath Keepers and Pacific Patriots Network was at the Bundy Ranch, Sugar Pine Mine, and in Burns. There are also black Sovereign Citizens, often called “Moorish sovereigns,”(12)Leah Nelson, “‘Sovereigns’ in Black,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 24, 2011, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2011/%E2%80%98sovereigns%E2%80%99-black. as well as “Native sovereigns,” who are said to renounce federal tribal enrollment. Rhodes even makes a point to note that he is “1/4 Mexican.”(13)Larry Diffey, “Obama Must be Impeached And Removed To Stop His ‘Amnesty’ Of Illegals,” Oath Keepers, November 20, 2014, www.oathkeepers.org/obama-must-be-impeached-and-removed-to-stop-his-amnesty-of-illegals

Eric Flores (left) and Brand Thornton (right) at a Malheur occupation press conference. Flores is the only Native American known to be part of the occupation. Thornton reportedly holds antisemitic views.

Eric Flores (left) and Brand Thornton (right) at a Malheur occupation press conference. Flores is the only Native American known to be part of the occupation. Thornton reportedly holds antisemitic views.(Photograph courtesy of Spencer Sunshine)

Nonetheless, the movement’s organizational structures and political goals remain largely the same as in the days of open racism—even though the reasoning behind the arguments has changed. Movements for social justice and the environment have focused on making gains in federal law, and the Patriot movement wants to dismantle these protections, but offers nothing in their place. Here you can see that goals, which were consciously formulated as racist positions by Posse Comitatus (empowering county sheriffs to ignore Civil Rights laws as unconstitutional), are given a different reasoning by today’s activists, but have the same potential effect.

While the Patriot movement does not make explicit appeals to racial purity or interests, their sidestepping of racial issues seems to result in them reproducing images and themes of an all-white America, which then resembles White nationalist visions. They base their appeals to social groups that are some of the remaining vast majority-White sections of the United States: farm operators, and what’s left of logging and mining communities, for example.

Of course, merely appealing to the concerns of these communities is not racist; but this is combined with an unreflective approach, a problematic history and imagery, and the centrality given to them. For example, even among farmers, they address their concerns to the owners (who are 96 percent White)—not to farm laborers.(14)U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2012 Census of Agriculture; Race/Gender/Ethnicity Profile, www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Race,_Ethnicity_and_Gender_Profiles/cpd99000.pdf. The number of Black farmers is on the rise, but still only comprises 2 percent of the total. See Leah Penniman, “After a Century In Decline, Black Farmers Are Back And On the Rise,” Yes! Magazine, May 5, 2016, www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/after-a-century-in-decline-black-farmers-are-back-and-on-the-rise-20160505. At the Malheur occupation, a sign declared that the Bureau of Land Management was “Oppressing the Backbone of America.” Economic fallacies aside, the implicit racial implications of declaring ranchers the “backbone” of America—and not to mention claiming that they are “oppressed”—should not go by unnoticed. It is here that we can see “white identity politics” at play.

In addition, a denial of both structural and interpersonal racism is common in the Patriot movement. To most members, “racism” must be a conscious, vocalized action, like segregating lunch counters. For example, one article on the Oath Keepers’ national website instructs readers to “Realize there is no such thing as white privilege or male privilege: In reality, there is only institutionalized ‘privilege’ for victim-status groups. There is no privilege for whites, males, white males or straight white males.”(15)Brandon Smith, “How To Stamp Out Cultural Marxism In A Single Generation,” Oath Keepers, October 27, 2015, www.oathkeepers.org/how-to-stamp-out-cultural-marxism-in-a-single-generation. (Emphasis in the original.)

The Patriot Movement’s Engagement with Black Lives Matter

As a general rule, the Patriot movement has a negative view of the demonstrations in Ferguson and ensuing Black Lives Matter movement, although a minority of Patriot activists have sought an alliance.

Rhetorical attacks on Black Lives Matter in particular are common, and have escalated after the 2016 shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. The Oath Keepers reprinted an article claiming the Obama administration “orchestrated” the Baltimore riots in order to “advance a totalitarian agenda.”(16)Alex Newman, “Orchestrated Baltimore Riots ‘Just The Beginning’,” Oath Keepers, May 10, 2015, www.oathkeepers.org/orchestrated-baltimore-riots-just-the-beginning.

Before the Oath Keepers started to demonize the movement, there were initial sympathies toward the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. These came after police killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, and the protest became  the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.(17)See Matthew N. Lyons “Oath Keepers, Ferguson, and the Patriot movement’s conflicted race politics,” Three Way Fight, August 28, 2015, http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2015/08/oath-keepers-ferguson-and-patriot.html In August 2014 the Oath Keepers wrote a letter to the Missouri governor warning him to respect protestors’ rights, and on November 24, 2014, even called on black veterans to form armed self-defense groups.(18)Larry Diffey, “Oath Keepers Open Letter to the People of Ferguson, Missouri,” Oath Keepers, November 24, 2014, www.oathkeepers.org/oath-keepers-open-letter-to-the-people-of-ferguson-missouri However, Oath Keepers went to Ferguson immediately afterward where they deployed armed members on rooftops to defend stores in Ferguson—thereby pointing guns at demonstrators. While the Oath Keepers were still there, founder Stewart Rhodes said the government intentionally refused to suppress looting in Ferguson as part of a larger attempt “to justify a ratcheting up of police state power, and it will not end until all of our children have the boot of a totalitarian police state on the back of their necks.” At the same time, he reiterated the call for black veterans to police the streets.(19)“Comment by Stewart Rhodes, Founder of the Oath Keepers,” in “Mysterious ‘Oath Keepers’ guard rooftops in downtown Ferguson,” Oath Keepers, November 29th, 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20141207181314/http://oathkeepers.org/oath/2014/11/29/mysterious-oath-keepers-guard-rooftops-in-downtown-ferguson.

A meme shared on social media with the text "Black lives matter, white ranchers, not so much" with photos of several Black men and LaVoy Finicum.
The Patriot movement frequently demonizes the Black Lives Matter movement. They falsely claiming that the Malheur occupiers have been treated more harshly than Black Lives Matter activists.

In April 2015, the Oath Keepers reprinted an article that claimed the raucous Baltimore protests after the funeral of Freddie Gray were “staged for television.” The article said “without a doubt, the mainstream media and many of our most prominent ‘national leaders’ are responsible for stirring up racial tensions to the boiling point.”(20)Michael Snyder, “Are the Baltimore Riots Being Manipulated?,” Oath Keepers, April 29, 2015, www.oathkeepers.org/are-the-baltimore-riots-being-manipulated.

In August 2015, some armed, white, St. Louis-based Oath Keepers led by Sam Andrew went to the Ferguson protests as bodyguards for a reporter from Infowars, a right-wing conspiracy website. After discussions with demonstrators, however, Andrew vowed to organize a mixed-race, armed carry march. He quickly fell out with the national organization over this, although his splinter group did hold an armed march in November 2015. However, it attracted only a few black participants.(21)Alan Feuer, “The Oath Keeper Who Wants to Arm Black Lives Matter,” Rolling Stone, January 3, 2016, www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-oath-keeper-who-wants-to-arm-black-lives-matter-20160103; “No Problems at Open Carry Demonstration in Ferguson,” CBS St. Louis, November 16, 2015, http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2015/11/16/no-problems-at-open-carry-demonstration-in-ferguson.

By April 2016, Stewart Rhodes had completely changed his stance. He called on Oath Keepers’ “civil defense units” to “fight in the street” against “the jihadists and the cartels and the gangs and these radical Black Lives Matter people and the black anarchists, the black flag anarchists; they are all just force multipliers and proxies, just as we saw during the Cold War with communism.”(22)Brian Tashman, “Oath Keepers Founder Ready For War With Liberal, Islamist, Drug Cartel Coalition,” Right Wing Watch, April 18, 2016, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/oath-keepers-founder-ready-war-liberal-islamist-drug-cartel-coalition In July 2016, after the sniper killings of five police by a Black veteran during a Black Lives Matter demonstration, Rhodes wrote:

Sadly, this sniper attack does not come as a surprise after the incessant cop killer inspiring rhetoric of Black Lives Matter and similar radical leftist groups, inciting violence against all police officers while alleging that any and all shootings of black or Hispanic suspects in this nation just must be driven by racism, with condemnation and cries of “racist!” coming before any investigation has a chance to even start. And it also does not come as a surprise given the incessant Marxist mantra that America is a “racist nation” and that police serve as the weapons of that racist nation against all “people of color”—all of which serves the Marxist agenda to divide and conquer along racial lines and inspire blind hatred against all police, and against this nation in general….(23)Stewart Rhodes, “Snipers Kill Five Officers, Wound Six, During Dallas Black Lives Matter Protest,” Oath Keepers, July 8, 2016, www.oathkeepers.org/snipers-kill-four-officers-wound-seven-during-dallas-black-lives-matter-protest.

Despite this, the Patriot movement has co-opted Black Lives Matter slogans and even tried to reach out to activists. In 2014, a Patriot movement-organized Cave Junction meeting included a presentation about fake courts, billing them as being a “people’s answer to Ferguson.”(24)See “Neighborhood Watch ‘Community Meeting’ December 15, @5pm,” A Better Cave Junction, December 14, 2014, https://abettercavejunction.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/neighborhood-watch-community-meeting-december-15-5pm. After the Malheur occupation, there were a spate of “Rural Lives Matter” and “Rancher Lives Matter” rallies, which used various Black Lives Matter slogans. At the February 2016 rally in Harney County, Patriot movement activists held signs with Finicum’s photo and the slogan “#AllLivesMatter,” while chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” At a March 2016 rally in Portland, Oregon, for Malheur occupation prisoners, Nate Seim (brother of Washington state internet broadcaster Gavin Seim), called on Black Lives Matter and Native American activists to join forces with them. His call was, unsurprisingly, rejected.(25)Amelia Templeton, “Occupation Supporters Try to Sway Broader Audience in Portland,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 5, 2016, www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/portland-oregon-standoff-protest-rally-lavoy-finicum. Witness account of the February 2016 rally, as told to author, August 12, 2016.

Relationship with Native Americans

Where the claims of Patriot movement activists involve land-use issues, there are sometimes direct conflicts with Native American historical narratives and claims to the land.

The Patriot movement frequently relies on images of Manifest Destiny, westward expansion, and the independent settler on the rugged frontier—all central to American mythology. The movement appeals to these images as a recruiting strategy. It is also an approach which implicitly endorses Native American genocide, which was necessary for the creation of the colonial farming, ranching, and mining industries. In one case, protestors specifically invoked “Cowboy versus Indians” imagery: During 2001’s Klamath Basin Water Crisis, a march of largely White farmers including protestors on horses—dubbed the “U.S. Freedom Cavalry, Headgate Detachment”—rode in opposition to the Native American tribes, whom they were battling over water rights.(26)“US Freedom Cavalry, Headgate Detachment—Citizens Descend on Headgates on Horseback!!,” Klamath Bucket Brigade, July 20, 2001, http://klamathbucketbrigade.org/Headgates_CavalryRides042001.htm; Matt Hall, “Klamath Bucket Brigade comes home,” Herald and News (Klamath Falls, OR), October 28, 2002, www.heraldandnews.com/klamath-bucket-brigade-comes-home/article_f11be763-78e7-5752-8ffa-dce2469ecd11.html.

Tribal councilman Jarvis Kennedy of the Burns Paiute Tribe speaks at a podium.

Tribal councilman Jarvis Kennedy of the Burns Paiute Tribe was an outspoken opponent of the occupation. (Photo courtesy of Peter Walker).

The occupation of the Malheur Refuge was a replay of this. The occupiers wore cowboy hats and other traditional western ranch clothes in their media appearances. At one point the occupiers asked that the publicly owned land revert to the descendants of the previous owners, who were ranchers. (To them, the fact that the land was purchased by the federal government was irrelevant, since they claimed the federal government had no right to own it in the first place.) However, before U.S. colonization, it was the Burns Paiute Tribe’s land—many of whom still live in the area today, and hold certain rights on the refuge. The tribe’s chairwoman said the land should remain in federal possession—but if it did change hands, it should go to the tribe.(27)Charlotte Rodrique, “Don’t Change the Status Quo – Unless It’s to Return Land to Tribal Control,” New York Times, January 7, 2016, www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/01/07/who-should-control-the-west/dont-change-the-status-quo-unless-its-to-return-land-to-tribal-control This, of course, is not the Patriot movement’s vision of dismantling federal land ownership. It suggested that their vision for federal lands is really to finish the project of settler-colonialism: a project of displacement and enclosure on the last remaining lands that were not parceled up and given to private (largely White) hands for commercial use.

Sometimes the words and actions of the occupiers were more explicit. Native Americans are termed “savages” in a document produced by the Harney County Committee of Safety, the faux-governmental structure originally set up by Ammon Bundy before the Malheur occupation.(28)“Responsibility and Duty of Committee of Safety,” Harney County Committee of Safety, www.hccommitteeofsafety.org/responsibility-of-the-committee.html In 2014, Ryan Bundy rode in an illegal Utah protest ride of all-terrain-vehicles on federal land that contained Native American artifacts.(29)Brian Maffly, “Feds charge five Utahns in Recapture Canyon protest ride,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 7, 2014, http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/news/58403975-78/canyon-ride-blm-lyman.html.csp At Malheur, he said that the occupiers would be “delighted” to give the thousands of artifacts stored at the refuge headquarters back to the tribe, but also said that the occupiers “recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim.” Ryan Bundy added, “There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important.”(30)Ibid; Molly Jackson, “The ‘hostages’ of Oregon standoff: 4,00 Paiute artifacts?,” Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 2016, www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA-Update/2016/0117/The-hostages-of-Oregon-standoff-4-000-Paiute-artifacts-video.

The Burns Paiute Tribe was clear from the very beginning that the occupiers should leave, and they refused to engage in dialogue with them. Late in the occupation, Ammon Bundy said he was trying to reach out to them; this was followed by a video of LaVoy Finicum rooting through the artifact storage area. This incensed the tribal council, who called on federal authorities to quash the occupation and prosecute them under antiquities laws (they feared artifacts were being looted and sold online). Last, the occupiers both made a new road and dug a latrine in areas where Native American artifacts were located.(31)Les Zaitz, “Oregon standoff leader warns feds: Back off,” Oregonian/OregonLive, January 19, 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/01/post.html; Isaac Park, “Oregon Militia Standoff Spotlights Federal-Tribal Quandary over Artifacts,” American Prospect, February 3, 2016, http://prospect.org/article/oregon-militia-standoff-spotlights-federal-tribal-quandary-over-artifacts; Jacqueline Keeler, “‘It’s So Disgusting’ Malheur Militia Dug Latrine Trenches Among Sacred Artifacts,” Indian Country Today Media Network, February 17, 2016, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/02/17/its-so-disgusting-malheur-militia-dug-latrine-trenches-among-sacred-artifacts-163454.

Despite this, at least one Native American activist visited the occupation to show her support, and at least one occupier was also Native American.(32)Jennifer Dowling, “Paiute Tribe: ‘It’s not about possessing’ artifacts,” KOIN6, January 24, 2016, koin.com/2016/01/24/paiute-tribe-its-not-about-possessing-artifacts; Eric Lacitis, “For a Tulalip 22-year-old, a life gone haywire after Oregon standoff,” Seattle Times, March 7, 2016, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/for-tulalip-22-year-old-a-life-gone-haywire-after-oregon-standoff. Additionally, a Native American resident of Burns helped form a local Three Percenter group and blessed the ground where LaVoy Finicum was killed.(33)“LaVoy memorial site blessed by local Indians. Burns Oregon,” YouTube video, 6:25, posted by “Rocky Hall,” April 24, 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkmuwEuKsdQ; Andrew Selsky, “Oregon refuge takeover is over, but aftershocks remain,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 26, 2016, www.sltrib.com/news/4051576-155/story.html. (However, none of the three are members of the Burns Paiute Tribe.)

Amongst the Oregon Patriot groups, it is hard to find direct organizational connections between the Patriot movement groups addressed in this report, and the anti-Native movement. However, the latter are often friends or “friends of friends” of the Patriot movement: for example, there is anti-Native organizing among opponents of federal land holdings and Tea Party groups, groups which are linked to the Patriot movement.(34)See Charles Tanner Jr, “The American Lands Council and the Anti-Indian Movement,” IREHR, October 19, 2015, www.irehr.org/2015/10/19/the-american-lands-council-and-the-anti-indian-movement; Charles Tanner Jr, “Tea Parties, Property Rights and Anti-Indianism in the Klamath River Basin,” IREHR, August 2, 2012, http://www.irehr.org/2012/08/02/tea-parties-property-rights-and-anti-indianism-in-the-klamath-river-basin/.

The Pacific Patriots Network, in its attempt to mediate a solution during the Malheur occupation, proposed turning the refuge over to the joint control of the county and the Burns Paiute Tribe.(35)“Before the Board of County Commissioners for Harney County, State of Oregon, Proposal for Resolution of the Peaceful Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Citizens for Constitutional Freedom,” dated January 8, 2016, Pacific Patriots Network, www.pacificpatriotsnetwork.com/downloads/Proposed Resoulition of Peacful Occupation – Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.pdf. At least two Oregon Patriot movement activists interviewed regarding this issue, including Josephine County Oath Keepers leader Joseph Rice, unambiguously told me they have no interest in diminishing Native American reservations or water rights.(36)Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016; email exchange on April 29, 2016, with an Oregon Three Percenter, who wrote that: “The reservations and the tribes are sovereign nations and I believe they are paid for by the blood of their ancestors and I or no one I know wishes to take them from them.” (However, this person stressed that they did not speak for all Three Percenters in Oregon.)

Gender, Sexuality and Abortion

Unlike the 1990s militia movement, opposition to social issues like feminism, LGBTQ rights, and abortion are not an organizing focus for the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, or CSPOA. While doubtlessly these views are held by the majority of movement participants, as a right-wing Protestant worldwide undergirds the movement, they are downplayed in public.

Some exceptions to this include in September 2015, when the Oath Keepers offered to guard Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. In the same month, Oath Keepers kept watch over a sign saying “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” at the entrance to Hawkins, Texas. The city had wanted to remove it, but others claimed it was on private property.(37)Cara Prichard, “Oath Keepers stand guard at ‘Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins’ sign,” East Texas Matters.com, September 25 (updated September 26), 2015, www.myeasttex.com/news/local-news/oath-keepers-stand-guard-jesus-welcomes-you-to-hawkins-sign; Glenn Evans, “Jesus sign in Hawkins watched day and night,” Longview News-Journal, October 9, 2015, www.news-journal.com/news/2015/oct/09/jesus-sign-in-hawkins-watched-day-and-night.

Anti-abortion sentiment is also common among activists but is almost never an organizing issue for the main groups. The Constitution Party of Oregon opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, but is only on the fringes of the Patriot movement. The last Malheur occupier, David Fry, complained about his taxes paying for abortion just before he surrendered; this was specifically noted by commentators, as this issue had not come up in the occupation before.(38)Dave Seminara, Richard Pérez-Peña, and Kirk Johnson, “Oregon Standoff Ends as Last Militant Surrenders,” New York Times, February 11, 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/us/oregon-standoff.html. Patriot movement propagandist Gavin Seim has denounced abortion, but his exception seems to prove the rule.(39)Gavin Seim, “Why You Can’t Support Liberty AND Abortion!,” Gavin Seim Liberty Speaker, January 23, 2014, http://callmegav.com/2014/01/abortion-government-the-constitution.

Shawna Cox, one of the Malheur occupiers, speaking at a press conference.  Ammon Bundy can be seen behind her with two other men.

Shawna Cox, one of the Malheur occupiers, speaking at a press conference. (Photograph courtesy of Spencer Sunshine).

And despite the movement’s overwhelmingly macho tone, it is not an entirely male movement, and despite its hostility to feminism, women can take roles as either leaders or “helpers” in the movement. Lawyer KrisAnne Hall is a well-known movement lecturer regarding the Constitution. Brooke Agresta is the “intelligence officer” for the 3% of Idaho. Self-proclaimed judge Anna von Reitz of Alaska wrote a widely read Sovereign Citizen letter to Harney County Sheriff Ward before the conflict. Nevada assemblywoman Michelle Fiore is the leader of the pro-Bundy COWS (Coalition of Western States) group, and Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder heads the American Lands Council. With her husband and two of her sons behind bars, Carol Bundy has spoken out and become a public figure. Maureen Peltier (better known as SSG Moe) has become a vocal supporter of those arrested at Malheur. Those arrested at Malheur include two women, Shawna Cox and Sandra Anderson, the latter of who was one of the last four occupiers to surrender. A number of other women were also present at the Malheur occupation, but stayed behind the scenes and took on traditional domestic roles cooking and cleaning, including Melissa Cooper, Kristi Jernigan, and Debra Bass.(40)Amanda Peacher, “Meet The Women Of The Occupied Refuge,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, January 22, 2016, www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/oregon-militia-meet-the-women-of-the-occupied-refuge/; Lauren Fox, “The Women Who Changed The Course of the Oregon Standoff,” Talking Points Memo, February 15, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/women-played-a-big-role-in-the-oregon-standoff; on Agresta, see Les Zaitz, “Oregon standoff: Sheriff’s stance in LaVoy Finicum shooting draws outrage,” Oregonian/OregonLive, February 9 (updated February 23), 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/02/oregon_standoff_sheriffs_stanc.html.