Oath Keepers stand down and choose next target

We wrote you on May 7th to tell you about right wing and militia groups from across the country converging in Josephine County for an armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over what was in reality a matter of paperwork.

After over a month of armed encampments, threats to BLM employees, intimidation of community members and local elected officials, a helicopter flying overhead leading to an armed emergency mobilization, and a national right wing media frenzy, the Oath Keepers have issued a “stand down order”. The Interior Board of Land Appeals issued a stay that prevents the BLM from enforcing their regulations until the process in court is complete, which the Oath Keepers are lauding as a victory. Energy now shifts to resist a new law that just passed that requires background checks for private gun sales (see more below).

The Oath Keepers of Josephine County have been speaking to the media about their next steps:

[Media spokesperson Mary] Emerick added that while her group would continue to monitor the situation at the Sugar Pine Mine, it also planned to take up the causes of other local property owners who had “pretty remarkable” issues with the BLM. “…We’ve spent some time vetting those to make sure they’re honest and documented situations…we have some plans to take some actions related to that.”

It appears that they intend to continue their strategy of direct confrontation as a way to stir up media attention, recruit, and fundraise while encouraging even further polarization within the community.

The Oath Keepers are going to celebrate their “victory” by marching in the Boatnik Parade on Saturday in Grants Pass, handing out pocket Constitutions alongside the national Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who recently called Senator John McCain a traitor who should be tried for treason and “hung by the neck until dead.”

Click here to read the previous ROPnet that describes the Oath Keepers’ background, the situation in Josephine County, and how Josephine County residents have come together to organize a visible alternative vision for their community.

Shifting Strategies and SB 941

The Oath Keepers and their friends have found another opportunity to mobilize and build momentum. With the passage of SB 941 into law that requires background checks for gun sales between individuals, I Will Not Comply rallies in Salem and around the state are being organized where the various militia, anti-government, “patriot”, and tea party groups across the northwest intend to network and figure out how to better work together.

Multiple recall campaigns have been launched against legislators who provided the leadership for SB 941. Groups are successfully lobbying their county commissioners to pass resolutions that reaffirm the 2nd Amendment and to oppose any legislation that would “unconstitutionally restrict a citizen’s right to bear arms”.

We have seen multiple county sheriffs issue statements that they will not enforce the new law, citing their oaths to uphold the constitutional rights of community members. This language sounds familiar; in fact, it sounds just like the Oath Keepers’ language, but these sheriffs aren’t known Oath Keepers. Have they been recruited, or are they just using the now popularized lingo? We don’t know yet.

What is happening in your community?

This is where human dignity groups across Oregon come in. What is happening in your community?

We know that the folks who responded to the Oath Keepers’ call to mobilize to Josephine County came from across the country, many with the support of organized groups who are fundraising, training, and recruiting to build their movement. Many of the local Oath Keepers are building up local political power, from taking over county Republican parties, to running candidates for county sheriff, for school board positions, and more.

Here are some questions that can help guide you through mapping your community. It can take some real work to figure out this information, but some of it is hiding in plain sight: event announcements in the local newspaper, discussion in community Facebook groups, or through conversations with our friendly local moderate Republicans. ROP is here to help you answer these questions – get in touch with me now at Jessica@rop.org and we will dig in more at our Caucus on June 13th in Woodburn.

1. Who is organizing and recruiting in your community? Include “patriot” groups, Oath Keepers, tea party groups, 2nd amendment groups, constitution study groups, open carry groups, and militia groups. What do they talk about in their meetings? What kind of speakers do they bring in from out of town? Who is leading your county’s Republican or Libertarian Party?

2. What affiliations do these groups have to local politicians, including legislators, county commissioners, sheriffs, city councilors, school board members, park board members, soil & water conservation district members, watershed district members, etc.?

3. In 2013, we saw Oregon sheriffs writing letters to Vice President Biden about refusing to honor any gun control laws passed after the Sandy Hook shooting. The Oath Keepers played a role in making that happen. Did your sheriff write a letter? Did your sheriff write a letter about SB 941 (background checks for private gun sales) that just passed? Have you seen any local notices about I Will Not Comply rallies scheduled in Salem or other parts of the state? Who is sharing event notices?

4. What groups are opposing local tax levies in your community? Include school, public safety and other proposed taxes. Are there local politicians or other community leaders vocally opposing these taxes?

5. Does your community have groups openly advocating for taking public land away from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Forest Service and putting it under local control? Does your community have groups strongly opposed to environmental protections, such as pro-mining or pro-logging groups?

One of the critical lessons we can take away from this moment is the value of paying attention to what conversations are happening in our communities and making sure that we are active participants in those conversations. Aside from making good political sense, being a part of the conversation helps keep lines of communication open and temperatures low in moments of crisis.

We will be spending time at this year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session mapping what we are seeing in our communities. Can you do some of this research ahead of time?

Update on Josephine County organizing!

Folks across Josephine County have come together to figure out how to overcome the drastic polarization in their communities. One tactic to start that conversation is through a signature ad that over 100 people signed onto that reads:

We are Josephine County residents working to build a prosperous local economy and a safe environment in which to raise our families. We are active community members, including teachers, farmers, business owners, faith leaders and parents who love our children. Some of us have lived in this beautiful county our entire lives, while many of us have settled here after falling in love with it. We may have diverse opinions, backgrounds and experiences, but we are all privileged to call this place home.

The events surrounding the Sugar Pine Mine are troubling to us, since it appears that what is in actuality a legal dispute has been construed by some individuals from outside our community as an opportunity to advance their own agenda. Now is not the time for division, fragmentation, or an “every man for himself” attitude, but rather a time for us to come together to create the Josephine County we want and need.

We support a vision of a county where:

  • All can live in safety and without fear or intimidation
  • Democracy thrives and those living in the community decide who represent and speak for us
  • Problems are resolved peacefully through negotiation and with respect for all parties involved

Please join us in making this vision a reality.

Multiple letters to the editor have made it into the local papers calling for neighbors to “disagree without being disagreeable”, encouraging a quick and peaceful resolution that sends folks back to their home communities, and rallying neighbors to come together to have a longer conversation about how we can create lasting change together.

Together for Josephine is now discussing next steps that create opportunities for community members to bridge the extensive polarization in Josephine County and to create an alternative community vision everyone can collectively work toward. One idea is to organize a community movie night where everyone watches a documentary and Together for Josephine facilitates a community dialog that aims to find common ground among Josephine County residents of all political beliefs.

Meet the inspiring folks organizing in Josephine and think through next steps for Oregon at our Rural Caucus & Strategy Session in Woodburn on Saturday, June 13th! Register your team here!

Warmly,
Jessica

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