Gun Rally Too Extreme for Oath Keepers

| Wed Apr. 14, 2010 1:45 PM EDT

Oath Keepers, the controversial patriot group profiled in our March/April issue, is a national organization comprised of cops, firefighters, and soldiers who promise to disobey any order they personally consider unconstitutional. And while it's not the group's official line, at least some members say they are prepared to use force if that's what it comes to. So it's kind of a big deal for them to call someone else extreme.

But that's more or less the reason founder Stewart Rhodes has withdrawn Oath Keepers' name from a planned April 19 "Restore the Constitution" gun rally where Rhodes himself was slated to speak. Organized as an alternative to the Second Amendment March the same day in Washington, DC, this rally will be held in Fort Hunt, Virginia—which, unlike DC, allows people to show up toting firearms. The armed rally has come under fire for its timing and its aggresive tone: April 19 is a hallowed day in "patriot" circles, and not because of morning baseball; it's also the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, the siege at Waco, and the battles of Lexington and Concord (not to mention Oath Keepers' one-year anniversary). In a statement posted yesterday on the group's website, Rhodes attributed the decision to aggresive positions taken by other attendees of the event:

[B]ecause of published statements by some participants in the upcoming Virginia rally, Oath Keepers as an organization feels that a confrontational stance, such as has been published, places this event, in public perception, outside the terms of our stated and published mission...Confronting the government is not included in the Oath Keepers stated and published mission and as an educational organization focused on the current serving, Oath Keepers refrains from confrontation in deed and rhetoric.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

While he stopped short of telling members not to show up, Rhodes requested that they not represent themselves as Oath Keepers at the event. So just what were these "published statements" that prompted the damage control?

Rhodes didn't specify, but it might have had something to do with Mike Vanderboegh. The latter is a professed three-percenter, former militia leader, and scheduled speaker at the Fort Hunt rally who—following passage of health care reform last month—instructed readers of his blog to break the windows of Democratic congressmen: "Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM."

Just like Gandhi.

Vanderboegh wasn't just angry about health care, though. Earlier this month, when the FBI arrested members of the alleged would-be cop-killing Huttaree Militia in Michigan, Vanderboegh, citing Waco, warned: "If you [the FBI] kill anyone or burn somebody’s house or church down with them inside, you will have started a civil war." As for specific comments about the Fort Hunt event, Vanderboegh has cautioned that while he and his attendees would be peaceful, that could soon change: "19 April on the Potomac will be serious, no-shit freedom work...It may be our last chance to convince them without violence that we are done backing up."