Militia Law & Order

Nearly one year after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the militia movement continues to promote anti-government violence and the intimidation of public officials. According to a new report released by the Coalition for Human Dignity (CHD), a Portland, Oregon-based human rights group, the militia movement has established "common law courts" whose purpose is to indict government officials for "treason" and other "crimes." Law enforcement officials are often so intimidated by armed common law activists that they hesitate to arrest these activists when they break the law. Penned by Robert Crawford and Devin Burghart, "Guns & Gavels: Common Law Courts, Militias and White Supremacy," argues that common law courts are the latest example of how a growing network of far-right groups attack democracy and subvert the law. The report also provides a detailed account of the background and ideology of far-right "common law" and its origins in the violent and racist Posse Comitatus of the 1970s and 1980s. "Militias, common law courts and other 'Patriot' groups share the same anti-Semitic beliefs, racist convictions and conspiracy theories of the Posse Comitatus, " says CHD research director Steve Gardner. "When these ideas are coupled with paramilitary activity and the militia belief in a God-given mandate to save America, you have a formula for violence." The report documents violence and threats associated with common law court activity, including:* Montana common law court leaders LeRoy Schweitzer, Rodney Skurdal and Dan Peterson were charged more than one year ago with felonies for threatening public officials. The three men remain at large, heavily armed, holed-up on a farm near Jordan, Montana, where they continue to train activists from around the country in establishing common law courts.* In November 1995, Madison County, Idaho judges received threatening "Notices of Felony" from the Posse Comitatus. The notices demanded their arrest and threatened, "WE the PEOPLE shall bring you to JUSTICE under the Law of the POSSE COMITATUS."* In June 1995, militia "chaplain" and common law court "justice" Michael Hill was killed in a confrontation with Frazeyburg Police Sgt. Matt May during a traffic stop. After a grand jury determined that Sgt. May had fired in self-defense, the National Confederation of Citizens Militias announced that May had been "indicted" by a common law court. Police sources say that common law court members have stated that May would be killed. Common law courts now reportedly operate in 60 of Ohio's 88 counties.The report includes examples of common law court documents, profiles of major court activists and an overview of activity in 21 states, focusing mainly on the Pacific Northwest. For more information or a copy of the report, call report co-author Robert Crawford, 206-233-9775, or contact the Portland, OR-based Coalition For Human Dignity, 503-281-5823.

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