Saturday, October 12, 2013

Wingnut Truckers Vow to Bring 3,000 to D.C., But That's Looking Dubious at Best

Those angry right-wing truckers are still promising that at least 3,000 of their number will be showing up in Washington, D.C., this weekend to bring traffic along the Beltway to a grinding halt as part of a protest of what organizers call “the blatant disregard of our Constitution”.

It’s not so clear, however, whether the protest organizers will be able to deliver on those promises. Some of the participants appear to be backing out – or at least tempering their rhetoric – and the protest so far appears to be, as a conservative Washington Times columnist put it, “disorganized and confusing.”

Much of the confusion was spawned by a leading participant named Earl Conlon, a Georgia trucker who earlier told U.S. News and World Report that the protesters intended to arrest President Obama and members of Congress. A couple of days later, he told a Washington Post reporter that the whole thing was a hoax and that he wouldn’t be showing up there after all.
However, Conlon was never one of the organizers of the event. That title belongs to Zeeda Andrews, a former country singer who appeared on Glenn Beck’s television show this week to explain that indeed the protest was proceeding according to plan. At the protest’s Facebook page, Andrews and other participants dismissed the Washington Post story as disinformation ordered by the Obama administration.

Andrews told Beck that she had 3,000 “RSVPs” from other truckers for the protest. She also urged non-truckers to participate by refusing to buy anything on the weekend.

However, Andrews’ credibility is probably not much greater than Earl Conlon’s, considering her own lengthy history of dubious pronouncements. As Ben Dimiero at Media Matters explored at length, Andrews has a considerable record of imbibing in bizarre conspiracy theories.

That includes her belief that President Obama is actually Osama bin Laden in disguise, as she described in a YouTube post: “He is alive call me crazy but, Osama Bin Laden is our President Obama do your research,” she wrote. “The CIA has been preparing for this since he was a boy. They have same height, bone structure, hands and ears both are left handed the Osama face was created by Hollywood. The fox is in the hen house.”

The report also demonstrates that Andrews has a history of posting racially incendiary material, including photos suggesting the Obama is a secret Muslim, to her Facebook page. Among her “likes” are a variety of conspiracy theories, including so-called “chemtrail” theories positing that passenger jets flying across American skies are secretly poisoning or drugging the population.

Also, as we noted earlier, the truckers’ protest is employing radio host Pete Santilli as one of their chief media spokesmen; Santilli is perhaps best known for wishing on the air that he could shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina. As RightWingWatch notes, Santilli angrily denounced Earl Conlon’s threat to arrest members of Congress, saying the truckers only were demanding the impeachment of President Obama.

But on Wednesday, as Media Matters reports, Santilli called for violence if the trucker protest fails. Santilli referred to a group militiamen who dub themselves “Three Percenters” – that is, a tiny faction willing to take violent action – in the rant: “If we do not rise up this week, peacefully, there is going to be Three Percenters who I will also join, to make it not so peacefully. That's what's going to happen,” he said.

“Okay, our country will be saved. There is a select few of us, we'll call them Three Percenters that will take the next logical step to stop our domestic enemies. It will be stopped, I'm going to say this, this is not a threat. We will defend our nation to the absolute death.”

Cross-posted at Hatewatch.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Arizona Lawmaker’s Call for Constitutional Sheriffs Has Radical Roots

An Arizona legislator recently made headlines by comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler as she decried the closures of national parks within her district, part of the ongoing federal shutdown. She posted the following on her Facebook page:
Barton later defended the Obama-Hitler comparison, telling the Arizona Capitol Times that she believes the president is “dictating beyond his authority,” citing gun-control legislation and Obamacare as examples: “It’s not just the death camps. [Hitler] started in the communities, with national health care and gun control. You better read your history. Germany started with national health care and gun control before any of that other stuff happened. And Hitler was elected by a majority of people,” she said.

But while the inapt comparison may seem outrageous (the claim about gun control under the Nazis, for one, is entirely bogus), Barton’s plea to call out “Constitutional Sheriffs” to nullify the authority of federal park rangers is even more interesting, and certainly more revealing.

Those “Constitutional Sheriffs” that she hopes can “revoke” the power of federal authorities are actually participants in a far-right antigovernment “Patriot” movement effort — descended from old Posse Comitatus teachings — to enlist the sheriffs of America in the belief that individual county sheriffs are the highest law of the land and possess the power to nullify and even arrest federal authorities.

One of the leaders of the “Constitutional Sheriffs” campaign is longtime Patriot movement figure Richard Mack (who counts Safford, Ariz. — Rep. Barton’s home — as his own childhood hometown). His efforts to enlist law-enforcement officers in the conspiracist worldview of the Patriots and militias dates back to the 1990s, but is also credited with helping to spur the movement’s recent resurgence. In addition to his own Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, Mack is also prominent in the Oath Keepers movement.

Rep. Barton also has a history of far-right activism. Her page at the website of the Arizona House of Representatives trumpets her mid-1990s activism in the so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion” — an antigovernment land-rights movement popular in the West in the 1980s and ’90s — and says she was “an elected officer in People for the West, a land-rights group.” This latter organization was a major player in the so-called “Wise Use” movement, which in the 1990s became a fertile recruitment ground for the Patriot movement and efforts to organize militias.

The notion of the supremacy of the local sheriff originated with the Posse Comitatus movement, a radical anti-Semitic organization, fueled by conspiracy theories and race hatred, that sought to dismantle the federal government and its civil-rights institutions. The Posse laid the groundwork for various Patriot-movement organizations in the 1990s, including the Montana Freemen and Richard Mack’s own early organizations.

Rep. Barton so far has not responded to the SPLC’s queries regarding her promotion of the “Constitutional Sheriffs” and its Patriot movement agenda.

Cross-posted at Hatewatch.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Truckers' Protest in D.C. This Weekend to Demand Obama Impeachment

A group of politically right-oriented long-haul truckers is attempting to organize a day of protest in Washington, D.C., wherein they essentially bring all traffic around the nation’s capital to a grinding halt by creating traffic jams on the “Beltway” system surrounding the city.

The only problem with the protest – scheduled for the coming weekend of Oct. 11-13 – is that it isn’t exactly clear what the truckers are protesting, nor is it clear what will meet their demands. It appears, though, that they expect Congress to impeach President Obama, overturn the congressionally approved health care reforms, and to disband the Department of Homeland Security.

The only aspect of the planned protest that is clear is that it is fueled by conspiracy theories regarding President Obama and fears about an imminent economic collapse. And it is being promoted by “Patriots” and radio-show hosts with a history of far-right agitation.

One of the would-be participants told U.S. News and World Report that the truckers intend to inspire the masses to force the arrest of President Obama and members of Congress.

The chief organizer of the “Truckers Ride for the Constitution” is a former country music singer named Zeeda Andrews who created a website and Facebook page for the campaign earlier this summer, and it has been gradually building momentum with the help of right-wing radio hosts.

Andrews’ website details the “demands” of the truckers in a somewhat oblique fashion, presented as a list of paranoid fears of supposed “unconstitutional” behavior by the government. Indeed, the list of demands begins: “Long before he was president, Barry Soetoro, aka Barack Obama, was already plotting with others, to overturn the Constitution for the United States.”

It then goes on to list a variety of offending actions – including emissions regulations for trucks in California, and a lack of truck parking (“More truck stops have went out of business because of this administration’s economic impact,” the manifesto reads). Among the actions the truckers appear to believe are unconstitutional are the Affordable Care Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Patriot Act, since the truckers insist the Department of Homeland Security is an “unconstitutional” entity.

It also claims the Obama administration is violation the War Powers Act by “exposing, and administering experimental, psychotropic, mind altering drugs for control over soldiers during secret, clandestine operations.”

Andrews told U.S. News and World Report that among the actions that Congress could take to prevent the “shutdown” by the truckers would be the impeachment of President Obama. But not all of the participants agree.

"We are not going to ask for impeachment," a Georgia trucker named Earl Conlon, who claimed to be in charge of logistics for the protest, told the reporter. "We are coming whether they like it or not. We're not asking for impeachment, we're asking for the arrest of everyone in government who has violated their oath of office." Among those he expected to see arrested are former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

One of the most avid supporters of the protest is radio host Pete Santilli, who recently joined up with fired Pennsylvania police chief Mark Kessler to cohost a Patriot-movement radio show. He hosted Andrews on his show recently to promote the protest, promising to “shut Washington down.”

On that program, Andrews made clear that the purpose of the protest was to warn Americans that the government was conspiring to bring down the nation’s economy. “They are going to crash the economy, there’s no doubt about that,” she said. “That’s what they’re planning.”

Conlon, in the meantime, appears to be promoting the classic Patriot-movement strategy of applying a “Citizens Grand Jury” – in which ordinary “sovereign citizens” can convene a jury and declare federal laws unconstitutional without court approval – to the elected officials in Washington. He told the U.S. News and World reporter that such a jury would be used to indict various liberal officials.

"We want these people arrested, and we're coming in with the grand jury to do it," he said. "We are going to ask the law enforcement to uphold their constitutional oath and make these arrests. If they refuse to do it, by the power of the people of the United States and the people's grand jury, they don't want to do it, we will. ... We the people will find a way."

However, the movement is already showing signs of fractiousness: Andrews has angrily disclaimed Conlon’s participation, warning him on the protest’s Facebook page that he has been “advised NOT to misrepresent himself as a spokesperson for this peaceful event.” One post commented: “Although Earl riled up a sensational title, he stepped out of bounds of our peaceful intent and methods. DHS would love to have a reason to use their bullets.”

Cross-posted at Hatewatch.