'Patriot' Rhetoric Becomes Increasingly Violent
By Leah Nelson and Larry Keller
VALLEY FORGE, Pa. — The Forces of Freedom are ready for war.
In mid-August, about 100 self-described “Patriots” and “strict Constitutionalists” gathered in a hotel ballroom here for the Freedom Action National Conference organized by the conspiracy-minded American Policy Center (APC). United by rage at a federal government they believe is undermining state sovereignty in collusion with the “New World Order,” they were determined to take back the country for the people.
The conference, hosted by APC founder and president Tom DeWeese, featured a parade of antigovernment Patriot movement heroes. Each outlined a theory on the roots of the alleged sovereignty crisis, offered a solution, and encouraged the audience to take action before time ran out."
"The most overt call for violence came from former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. “My dear friends, I pray for the day that the first sheriff in this country [is] the one to fire the shot heard ’round the world and take out some IRS agents!” Mack said.
Mack is famous in Patriot circles for joining a lawsuit against the federal government over the Brady Bill requirement that law enforcement agencies conduct background checks on prospective gun owners. Mack, who draws inspiration from the late Cleon Skousen (an ex-FBI agent and constitutional fundamentalist whose disciples in law enforcement swear never to enforce an “unconstitutional” law), refused, saying that the feds had no right to order him to enforce their laws. He and several other sheriffs basically won their lawsuit — weakening the Brady provisions and scoring a win for advocates of state and local sovereignty.
Speaking before a rapt and adoring audience, Mack lambasted the federal government. “The President of the United States has no power, no jurisdiction, I don’t care if it’s George Washington himself, to tell anyone in your state to change one damn thing,” he said. “The sheriff is the one who determines what is and is not enforced in his county. … Your sheriff is the only person who can call up the militia or call up the posse. And he should! We should be so prepared in our counties that when FEMA [comes], we can say, ‘Go home, go to some other county, we’ll call you if we need you.’” (Many on the radical right, including the now-defunct anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus group and much of the contemporary “sovereign citizens” movement, believe, like Mack, that county sheriffs are the highest legitimate law enforcement authority.)
One-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarick insinuated that a new revolution is in the offing. “Is the government evil? Yes. Are they willing to do anything to subdue us? Yes. But as I said, we just bought 85 million guns,” Badnarick said, a reference to the estimated number of gun owners in America. “Dying for your country is not really the question. Are you willing to kill for liberty?”
Pennsylvania State Rep. Sam Rohrer, who earlier this year lost his primary bid to become the Republican candidate for governor, echoed his call. “There is a time to pray and a time to fight,” said Rohrer, paraphrasing Revolutionary War hero and pastor Peter Muhlenberg. “And I think the time has come to fight.”
Speakers were uniform in believing that the United States is headed for a catastrophe for which strengthened state sovereignty, won by words or by force, is the only antidote."