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Wilson writes: "America's extremist surge got national attention during the Oregon militia standoff and has continued to rise."

Rural decline: the road between Canyon City and Baker City is littered with ghost towns. (photo: Jason Wilson/Guardian UK)
Rural decline: the road between Canyon City and Baker City is littered with ghost towns. (photo: Jason Wilson/Guardian UK)

Extremist Militias Recruiting in Fear of Clinton Winning Election, Activists Say

By Jason Wilson, Guardian UK

19 October 16


Extremist surge got national attention during the Oregon militia standoff and has continued to rise with Trump, with his legitimization of white nationalist politics

n the past 12 months, Jessica Campbell has had her car’s fuel line cut and its wheel nuts loosened. Late last year, she had a GPS tracker surreptitiously attached to her vehicle. She is now accustomed to being tailed by unfamiliar vehicles on Interstate 5 near her home in Cottage Grove, just outside Eugene, Oregon. Strangers have regularly come uninvited onto her property; someone even stripped the barbed wire on her fence “just to send a message”. Online, she has repeatedly been threatened with rape and death.

And last week, when she showed up at the Canyon City community hall in Grant County, she told me that someone shot at her and her entourage. They misread their GPS, took a wrong turn and stopped to get their bearings when a crack rang out with what Campbell thought was a .22 bullet whizzing by their vehicle.

Such threats are part of the pushback her work has sparked in rural Oregon.

Campbell co-directs the Rural Organizing Project, a not-for-profit group that sets out to confront the rightwing insurgency that has been bubbling away in parts of rural Oregon and throughout the west. A political organizer since high school, she now coordinates groups attempting to respond to divisive tactics from rightwing activists on immigration, race and public land ownership.

This extremist surge received national media attention during the occupation of the Malheur national wildlife refuge by the Bundy group, but it has continued to rise alongside Trump, with his legitimization of white nationalist politics and his apparent inspiration of insurrectionists across the country.

The Patriot movement is an overarching description for a range of anti-government groups – from organised militia groups to tax protesters and so-called “sovereign citizens”. They have burgeoned during the Obama years and have carried out actions, such as the occupation of a wildlife refuge to border patrols in Arizona.

This year, Patriot members have run for office in rural counties, and at least one militia leader, Joseph Rice, attended the Republican national convention to cast his vote for the Donald Trump. Some sheriffs, such as Glenn Palmer in Grant County, have clear sympathies and links with the movement.

Elsewhere, according to Campbell, Patriot sympathizers are moving into communities in order to tip the electoral balance towards far-right candidates. She fears this trend will continue long after a Trump defeat. “I’m seeing a lot of paramilitary groups recruiting on the basis of a likely Hillary Clinton win,” she said.

When Trump started talking about rigged elections and how a Clinton win would show that democracy was broken, “it was just amazing seeing how that resonated with people – a sense of democracy being broken, feeling like the candidates don’t represent them or anything they want to see happen in this country,” she added.

Campbell would vastly prefer that Clinton wins but acknowledges that it may be like it was “after Obama won, where there was a huge growth in Patriot movement organizing. I’m worried that we are going to see the same thing.” The alleged bomb plot by militia members in Kansas, timed for the day after the election, shows the way in which those fears might be borne out.

The Rural Organizing Project is not waiting idly for this tide to roll in. The group has just finished a statewide tour in which they presented a report on the growth of the Patriot movement, which they collaborated on with Political Research Associates, a thinktank that watches the far right.

Instead of inviting people to view it online, Campbell and her colleagues went to eight rural towns and delivered the main points in a series of lectures. The tour finished late last week.

Each event followed a pattern developed through long experience confronting those who would prefer that progressive voices aren’t heard. At each stop, after Campbell’s brief Powerpoint summary of Patriot movement organizing in Oregon, they invite written comments that are then read out. In Bend, one question asked about the impact of Patriot movement organizing on tourism; in Canyon City, people wanted to know about the economic roots of the far-right insurgency. Small-group discussions follow. The format is designed to de-escalate the tension that has increasingly riven small-town politics in Oregon, and to minimize opportunities for disruption.

Campbell and her crew also travel with a highly visible security detail, partly made up of Portland members of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party. Earlier this year, attendees of a workshop were harassed in the carpark outside the event, and they decided that positive, protective steps were needed.

The events are hosted by local progressive organising groups, and at the largest events, such as the one in Canyon City in Grant County, 50 to 60 people showed up – a large number in a county of about 7,000 residents. Although many who come represent the active, progressive minority in small towns, resistance to the militia movement has a way of binding people together who may disagree on a range of issues. Campbell says that the Grant County group features people from “across the political spectrum” who share a concern about who is directing county politics.

These numbers underscore something Campbell stresses: while media reports often suggest that patriots and the far right are representative of community opinion, they are frequently no more than a vocal minority. ROP’s presence encourages those who disagree to the far right’s prescriptions to rise above the intimidation they use to silence their opponents.

There were clear signs that their strategy – which for now Campbell calls “an experiment” – is working to empower locals, and even open up a dialogue with those who have been drawn into the orbit of the far right.

In Canyon City last January, Judy Schuette heard about the plans of militia members to meet in Grant County and perhaps spread the occupation there. Schuette called for a response and a public meeting on Facebook. On the floorboards of the community hall, she recalls: “I didn’t know how many people would show up, and we wound up with about 70 people.”

After being formally organised in February, the group carried out several actions. They visited Harney County to show support for a protest there, and attended meetings of the county court, the local governing council, to protest increasing militia and Patriot disruption of the body.

But ROP’s tour doesn’t just let them put on another big public gathering. Activists also get de-escalation training from the security detail and much-needed information about how to fight and win a long-term campaign against the rightwing insurgency in their community.

For Campbell, local organisers like Schuette are the prime movers for making change in rural Oregon.

“They’re incredibly dedicated and brilliant. They’re mostly women who care about their community. In Grant County and other counties where people are feeling that their lives could be on the line if they don’t act now, that’s where people are doing the best work.”

But Campbell is clear-eyed about the roots of the problem, and her diagnosis cuts through a lot of the armchair debate about where the resentment that underpins rightwing insurgency comes from. “In rural areas the conditions have been ripe for a white nationalist populist movement. Especially in Oregon where we’re facing demographic shifts in a lot of places, and the economy’s hurting so badly, and we’ve had decades of scapegoating of people of colour as the reason why our economies are so bad.”

In some Oregon counties, as in other rural areas, libraries are shutting, and sheriff’s departments can’t provide 911 dispatch after dark. Dwindling services lead to a sense of abandonment. The right can easily step in and provide both a clear political narrative to explain this, and a set of simple-seeming solutions.

“The Patriot movement is attracting people who feel disenfranchised. It’s real out here, where people feel like they have not been listened to at the state level, and particularly by Democrats,” Campbell says.

The same dynamic has been driving the election. “The appeal of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders was that they didn’t feel like establishment figureheads. It didn’t feel like they were going to uphold the status quo.”

Democrats, who hold a rare trifecta of both state houses and the governorship, see no point in outreach to deep red counties in the east and south of the state. “It’s been pretty clear that rural Oregon has been written off. We’re often the only game in town.”

The focus of the tour might be the militia movement, but the real goal is addressing this sense of lost political agency.

“Our goal isn’t to take down the Patriot movement. It’s to build a rural Oregon where people have some access to democracy and are able to create change and have an impact on their communities.”

Helping these communities to demand the resources they need to shut down rightwing insurgencies means having a conversation with them, and not simply dismissing or scapegoating them. It also requires bravery: if you confront the far right on their own turf, you might be threatened, followed or shot at.

We haven’t all been given as big a share of courage as Campbell, the rest of the ROP, and local organizers have. But we can at least listen to what they have to say about the origins of America’s rightwing surge. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+27 # curmudgeon 2016-10-19 09:30
'Extremist Militias'

If they were not white folks, they would be called terrorists or jihadists

Example - Kansas arrests of 3 white guys planning to bomb mosques, Muslim occopied apartments, and churches.

They were called extremist militiamen....N OT terrorists or jihadists....wh y - ????

Only difference is that they are white.

JUst like the young white man who killed 9 black churchgoers...a terrorist act .....but since he was white...'troble d youth'
+10 # RMDC 2016-10-19 09:33
This same thing happened in the 90s when Bill Clinton was elected. It led to Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was the pre-cursor to the Patriot. The act was supported by both republicans and democrats and signed with great fanfare by Bill Clinton.

I don't know why someone does not tell these right wing militia groups that the Clintons are right with them. They are right wingers too.

But I guess as this article makes pretty clear this is a growing war between rural people and central governments.
-7 # guomashi 2016-10-19 09:53
Aw hell, let them rebel.
It will just let the government implement its programs of total surveillance and total control that much easier.
It's 1984 all over again.
I'll even bet it's one of Hillary's wet dreams:
Big sister is watching...
America is at war with Russia, we have always been at war with Russia...
-3 # ericlipps 2016-10-19 17:40
Quoting guomashi:
Aw hell, let them rebel.
It will just let the government implement its programs of total surveillance and total control that much easier.
It's 1984 all over again.
I'll even bet it's one of Hillary's wet dreams:
Big sister is watching...
America is at war with Russia, we have always been at war with Russia...

Zzzzzzz . . .
-13 # HowardMH 2016-10-19 10:02
Got to get that Extremist Militia to DC for a real protest.

Send this to your elected scum sucking whore on capital hill and tell them they have been notified.

The American Spring will start when there are thousands of really, really pissed off people at the Capital (with 2x2s and baseball bats) all at the same time raising some serious hell against the Lunatics, and idiots absolutely nothing is ever, ever going to happen to these totally bought and paid for by the richest 400 families in the world that are becoming more and more powerful with each passing rigged election thanks to the stupid people.

So, scream, yell, chant, stomp your feet, threaten to hold your breath, and beat your drums so the media can show it on the evening news, while all of those who can actually do anything about it are home counting their donation money and laughing all the way to the bank.

How is that Hopie Changie been working out for you so far?
+5 # Jaax88 2016-10-19 11:41
Nice ranting! But where are any intelligent solutions being proposed or any facts so that we the people might have a way of understanding you.
-1 # Caliban 2016-10-20 16:48
Sorry, only maniacal rants are sold here.

For good sense political solutions. please move towards the center of the mall complex.
+1 # lorenbliss 2016-10-19 10:15
There would be no "Extremist Militias" had the Democratic (sic) Party not betrayed the 99 Percent by becoming the party of forcible-disarm ament Republicans.
-1 # ericlipps 2016-10-19 17:42

What does "forcible-disar mament Republicans" even mean? And there have been "extremist militias" since forever. Perhaps you've heard of one of the big ones: the Ku Klux Klan.
+7 # Buddha 2016-10-19 10:21
I say we just offer them all the Old Confederacy and the flyover states, and the sane rest of us go our own way with the wealthier blue states. As someone living in a blue "donor" state, I'm tired of my federal taxes subsidizing these "moocher" red states anyways.
+8 # RMDC 2016-10-19 10:55
Buddha -- good idea. They would not need the fly over states. The old south would be big enough. And many of them already fly confederate flags. The US really does need to split up. These are good lines. Increasingly the central regime in Washinton is making war on rural popluations. The case in N. Dakota right now over the federally approved pipe line right through someone else's land is a perfect case. Native Americans have every right in the world to tell the federal regime and its crony oil companies to go somewhere else.
+1 # Stilldreamin1 2016-10-19 11:42
Domestic terrorism of the direct or false-flag varieties.
+1 # ericlipps 2016-10-19 17:45
"Extremist Militias Recruiting in Fear of Clinton Winning Election, Activists Say"

They could recruit some of the folks here, to judge from some of the posts I've seen on RSN these past six months or so.

Maybe they already have.
+2 # StuBones1960 2016-10-19 20:07
These "patriots" are nothing of the sort.
0 # Aliazer 2016-10-19 21:32
"Right Wing Extremist Militia"???

Would it be more acceptable if they were "Left Wing Extremist Militia"? Such as the "All African Revolutionary People's" Party?
+2 # griffey1 2016-10-20 14:55
Actually if you think about it, these people are really pathetic, with their drills, dressing in camos, & firing off their AR 15's. They ranted & raved & drilled for 8 years of Obama's administration, & to my knowledge, they didn't change a thing.

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