Four members of the Oath Keepers, a US anti-government, conservative organisation, composed of former military personnel, police and first responders, showed up unannounced at the Ferguson protest yesterday that marked the one-year anniversary in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a cop. These Oath Keepers carried high-powered weapons, but were not challenged by the police. So who are they? Below, we summarise what is known of them…
The Oath Keepers’ stated aims confuse: they are anti-gun control, but they also claim to be anti-violence, supportive of the right to protest and also advocate police officers to refuse orders that contradict the US Constitution. They also don’t like warrantless searches; and they worry about government crackdowns on political speech, protest, and freedom of assembly. In other words, the usual contradictions associated with anti-government, conservative libertarians (US-style).
Oath Keepers is one of the largest “patriot” groups in the US. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) includes the organization in its list of Hate and Extremist Groups and its Patriot Movement Timeline.
Oath Keepers was first registered as a nonprofit organisation in Nevada in 2009. Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of the organization, is a Yale graduate and former Congressional staffer for Ron Paul. Founding directors included Richard Mack, who continues as a director and the organization’s most prominent spokesperson.
In 2014, the organization claimed 40,000 members in chapters in all fifty states, up from 30,000 reported in a 2011 interview with Rhodes in the libertarian Reason Magazine. Full membership is available for current and former members of the military, National Guard, Reserves, police, firefighters, and first responders. Others are eligible for associate membership.
The “Friends of Oath Keepers,” listed on the organization’s website, include the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Tenth Amendment Center, and S.W.A.T. Magazine.
According to the Oath Keeper’s own publicity… “Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That oath, mandated by Article VI of the Constitution itself, is to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and Oath Keepers declare that they will not obey unconstitutional orders, such as orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches, or to detain Americans as “enemy combatants” in violation of their ancient right to jury trial…
“Oath Keepers reaches out to both current serving and veterans to remind them of their oaths, to teach them more about the Constitution they swore to defend, and to inspire them to defend it… Our motto is “Not on our watch!””
Note: to see their oath, go to Appendix (below).
Currently the Oath Keepers are run by: Michele Imburgia (Texas State Vice President), Richard Mack (Former Sheriff of Graham County, Arizona), John D. Shirley (Active Duty Peace Officer – Houston, Texas. National Liaison to Peace Officers), Jay Stang (Veteran US Marine Corps – Texas Chapter President), Steven C Homan (US Marine Corp Vietnam Veteran, Western States VP) and Jim Ayala (Oath Keepers Merchandise).
Appendix: the oath
1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.
2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people .
3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.
4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.
5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.
6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.
8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control.”
9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
10. We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances. See also: