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Exactly Who are The Oath Keepers?

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes

More than 600 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breech of the U.S. Capita on January 6, and members of the Oath Keeper militia have been found to be directly involved.

Jason Dolan of Florida has now pled guilty to an Oath Keeper militia-affiliated conspiracy that prompted him to bring firearms to Washington D.C. to storm the Capital. Amid the riot, Dolan joined his co-conspirators in a “stack” formation and pushed against police officers forcing open the doors and unlawfully entering the building.

Dolan admitted that they were trying to impede an official proceeding by stopping the certification of the electoral college vote. Now it’s time to step back and ask, “Who are the Oath Keepers and what do they want?”

The Oath Keepers militia was founded by Stewart Rhodes an ex-army, Yale-educated lawyer in 2009. The organization points out that the military oath is to the constitution itself, not to politicians, and declares that its members will not obey unconstitutional orders, such as orders to conduct warrantless searches, disarm the American people, impose martial law, blockade U.S. cities, force citizens into detention camps, or cooperate with foreign troops should the government ask them to intervene on U.S. soil.

A Worldview of Impending Tyranny

Militia members claim that the federal government has already passed a series of laws that improperly limit the rights of Americans to own guns, associate with anyone they wish, or use their land as they please.

In their view, this means that the federal government has assumed powers that have no foundation in any of the provisions of the Constitution. Some of these powers include the creation of the federal reserve bank, policies of the New Deal, the national security state, centralized national media, and concessions made during the civil rights movement.

Militia members insist gun ownership is legal and argue that any attempt to limit gun ownership is an unconstitutional trampling of fundamental political rights. The fear of potential gun confiscation provides a tangible threat to be organized against, which became the focus of the movement in the 1990s after the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993 and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994


Activating Founding Myths

Oath Keepers draw on American history and core political values to situate its goals and behavior, by retelling the stories of moments of conflict and crises from American history. To do this, the group employs a powerful cultural myth about how the American Revolution was fought and won.

According to the myth, American democracy was won by small groups of patriots who had the courage to face, and the wisdom to effectively fight, the world’s most powerful nation. In reality, during the revolution, militia forces were not effective on the battlefield, and they were a source of constant concern for the Revolution’s military leaders. Most officers in the American army, repeatedly claimed that militia forces were ineffective.

Thus, militia ideology valorizes members as moral actors aimed at saving the community and reconstructing the nation in terms established at its founding. In this worldview, individual freedom and the protection of American liberties are directly linked to gun-owning citizens. In other words, it is up to vigilant, patriotic, and armed individuals to save America.

Organizing for a Second Civil War

Over the past decade and a half, Oath Keepers have been actively involving themselves in land disputes, urban protests, and border infractions. Recently, during the 2016 election cycle, they organized “Operation Sabot,” to form incognito intelligence gathering and crime spotting teams to ensure the election was not stolen by voter fraud. They also enacted “Operation HYPO,” which was an attempt to infiltrate and become embedded in left-wing groups.

While professing not to be racist, in 2017 the group acted as de facto security for the so-called “alt-right,” the younger generation’s attempt at organizing around White supremacy. In 2019, the group encouraged President Trump to declare a national emergency to fund his proposed border wall and organized a security operation on the border of Texas. And in 2020, they consistently sent out successful calls for volunteers to act as security at Trump campaign rallies.

Based on public messages released from the Oath Keepers official Twitter account, they are actively preparing for a Second Civil War. They are convinced the American Left has lost all credibility and that they must stand ready when the government eventually comes to trample upon American’s natural rights (e.g. bear arms, free speech, peaceably assemble).

Perhaps this is why 16 members of the Oath Keepers now face conspiracy charges connected with the U.S. Capital insurrection.

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