READY TO REVOLT: Oath Keepers pledges to prevent dictatorship in United States
Group asks police and military to lay down arms in response to orders deemed unlawful
Oct. 18, 2009 Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal By ALAN MAIMON
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNALDepending on your perspective, the Oath Keepers are either strident defenders of liberty or dangerous peddlers of paranoia.
In the age of town halls, talk radio and tea parties, middle ground of opinion is hard to find.
Launched in March by Las Vegan Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers bills itself as a nonpartisan group of current and retired law enforcement and military personnel who vow to fulfill their oaths to the Constitution.
More specifically, the group's members, which number in the thousands, pledge to disobey orders they deem unlawful, including directives to disarm the American people and to blockade American cities. By refusing the latter order, the Oath Keepers hope to prevent cities from becoming "giant concentration camps," a scenario the 44-year-old Rhodes says he can envision happening in the coming years.
It's a Cold War-era nightmare vision with a major twist: The occupying forces in this imagined future are American, not Soviet.
"The whole point of Oath Keepers is to stop a dictatorship from ever happening here," Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and Yale-trained lawyer, said in an interview with the Review-Journal. "My focus is on the guys with the guns, because they can't do it without them.
"We say if the American people decide it's time for a revolution, we'll fight with you."
That type of rhetoric has caught the attention of groups that track extremist activity in the United States.
In a July report titled "Return of the Militias," the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center singled out Oath Keepers as "a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival."
The Patriot movement, so named because its adherents believe the federal government has stepped on the constitutional ideals of the American Revolution, gained traction in the 1990s and has been closely linked to anti-government militia and white supremacist movements.