Jan 6 Has Utah and West Roots

In promoting the ride, Lyman, soft-spoken with a boyish face and salt-and-pepper hair, invoked one of America’s favorite civil disobeyers, Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau, however, seemed an unlikely role model: Several of the protesters carried firearms, including a clean-cut guy with a “Regulator” neck tattoo and a semi-automatic Glock on his hip. A young man wearing an “American Venom” T-shirt had an assault rifle in one hand, his finger never leaving the trigger, while he piloted his four-wheeler with the other. Others carried signs: “Tranfer (sic) Federal Lands to Western States” and “Stop BLM Agenda 21 Road Closings.” Ryan Bundy, the son of scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy, rode a four-wheeler down the canyon, as did a handful of self-professed militiamen who, just weeks earlier, had supported Bundy in his heavily armed standoff with BLM agents in Clark County, Nevada.

The second iteration unfolded in the mid-1990s, provoked by former President Bill Clinton’s conservationist approach to federal land. While that rebellion became violent and coincided with a nationwide surge in anti-federal extremism, the land-use folks rarely crossed paths with the so-called “Patriot” groups. Today, though, the barriers are down. Now, a single event like Recapture, the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff or the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, broadcast globally and instantly via social media, draws supporters from across the extreme right, from other Sagebrush Rebels to pro-gun militiamen to local politicians who have no qualms about standing cheek-by-jowl with people aiming rifles at federal agents.

Four months later, in January 2012, the CSPOA held its first gathering in Las Vegas, followed by a second event that September. By then, Obama was on his way to being re-elected and Tea Partiers had triumphed in a number of Republican primaries. Mack’s attendance rosters read like a Who’s Who of Tea Party politics. They included Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes and Sagebrush Sheriffs such as Spruell and Lopey. Also speaking was Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center, known for spreading fears that the United Nations, under Agenda 21, is taking over the world via bike paths and public transit, and Joe Arpaio, the notorious sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, whom Mack praised for launching an investigation into the validity of Obama’s birth certificate. Ken Ivory, president of the American Lands Council and champion of the federal land-transfer movement, gave a rousing speech at the September gathering about the “revolution of ideologies” he and the sheriffs were engaged in.

Mack’s organization is not unique in believing in sheriff supremacy. The notion was critical to the ideology of the ultraconservative John Birch Society, founded in 1958, as well as the racist, anti-tax Posse Comitatus group of the 1970s. Now, organizations like the Oath Keepers have embraced it as well. The idea acts as a kind of glue that binds many of these libertarian and right-wing movements together; Sagebrush Rebels, Second Amendment advocates, county- and states’-rights groups and border security activists have increasingly looked to sheriffs to use their clout on their behalf.


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