Leaked records purportedly from the far-right citizens’ militia the Oath Keepers obtained by NPR and WNYC/Gothamist suggest that the far-right group’s effort to recruit law enforcement officers has found some success in America’s largest cities.
The combined investigations uncovered active-duty officers in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago on the Oath Keepers’ membership roster. According to NPR, extremism and policing experts say the findings are reason enough for concern, as the far-right paramilitary organization encourages members to uphold the law only as they interpret it. But defining a clear standard on officers’ affiliation with groups such as the Oath Keepers is tricky, as it could impact the officers’ free speech and free assembly rights.
Founded in 2009 by former Army paratrooper Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers specifically target law enforcement and military personnel for recruitment because they’re already trained to use firearms. The paramilitary organization claims to defend the Constitution and reaffirms the oath of service to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
— Frank Figliuzzi (@FrankFigliuzzi1) November 8, 2021
The Oath Keepers have been on the radar of extremism researchers and federal law enforcement for about as long as the group has existed. But the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol dramatically intensified scrutiny of the group. NPR reports.
That's Ann Vandersteel with the Oath Keepers. 👇 pic.twitter.com/0CP5sSq7Jq
— Karen Piper (@PiperK) November 7, 2021
NPR also reports that among those charged in the January 6th attack are at least 21 people with alleged ties to the Oath Keepers. Prosecutors allege that members conspired over the course of weeks and months to bring weapons and armor to the Washington, D.C.-area ahead of the riot and used military-style tactics to breach the building. There are also allegations that the Oath Keepers have ties to members of Congress who may have assisted them in gaining access to the Capitol on January 6th.
According to NPR, prosecutors have not named Rhodes in any indictments, but he is identified as “Person One” in court papers, including indictments and statements of offense, suggesting that investigators are interested in what he was doing on the day of the riot. Rhodes was allegedly in Washington, D.C., that day, and met with Oath Keepers who breached the Capitol outside the building. Rhodes has not been accused of entering the Capitol himself, and he has said publicly that he was unaware of any plan by any Oath Keepers to attack the Capitol.
As identified in court records, Oathkeepers wanted to go ‘Tifa Hunting’. They wanted to *hunt* humans who are anti fascist. What does that make them? https://t.co/dto49c1qyu
— Joe (@DempseyTwo) November 8, 2021
Read the full report at NPR.