How a far-right MAGA think tank Is encouraging militia extremism in law enforcement

How a far-right MAGA think tank Is encouraging militia extremism in law enforcement
Make America Great Again hat in support of Donald Trump at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. // Gage Skidmore

One far-right, Trump-inspired think tank is adding more fuel to the extremism fire.

According to The Bulwark, The Claremont Institute is at the center of a new initiative called the "Sheriff's Fellowship." The disturbing new movement is described as an incentive to "weaponize 'patriotic law enforcement officers' to counter 'the perversion of the justice system by which the revolutionary left seeks to advance its totalitarian agenda.'"

In short, these types of sheriff groups classify more as "militias with badges, guns, and formal law enforcement powers. Or, if you like, secession-by-sheriff."

While the Sheriff's Fellowship is a new initiative for Claremont, the publication notes that other similar organizations like the Constitutional Sheriffs have existed for quite some time.

"Although the Oath Keepers, another anti-government extremist group that recruits from law enforcement, have garnered more media attention in recent years," the Anti-Defamation League said in their report, the Constitutional Sheriff movement "has arguably had more success infiltrating law enforcement, including at the executive level."

The central tenet of [the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association], borrowed from the anti-government extremist sovereign citizen movement, is that the county sheriff is the ultimate authority in the county, able to halt enforcement of any federal or state law or measure they deem unconstitutional.

Trump, members of his administration, and well-known law enforcement officials have echoed the values and beliefs highlighted by the Claremont Institute. In fact, during a previous interview, Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) lauded the practices of "Anglo-American" law enforcement.

"Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people's protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process," said Sessions. "The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office."

Sheriff Mark Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal County, Ariz., is also seen as an upcoming member of the Republican Party. The law enforcement officer, who describes himself as "America's Sheriff," who "fashions himself as more of a vigilante resister, with a heavy dose of anti-government, sometimes militant rhetoric."

Lamb supported the "stop the steal" campaign in Arizona and has expressed sympathy for the Jan. 6 rioters. He has called vaccine mandates "garbage" and spoke at a recent anti-vaccine rally in Phoenix, where he told supporters, "We're going to find out what kind of patriots you are. We're going to find out who is willing to die for freedom." He also makes direct appeals to citizens, an effort that looks more dangerous after former President Donald Trump riled up supporters on Jan. 6.

For example, Lamb, an ardent defender of the Second Amendment, has spoken in support of the formation of private militias — "well within the Constitution," he told a group of supporters in March — and emphasized the power of sheriffs in Arizona, an open-carry state, to call local civilians into service to "suppress all affrays, insurrections and riots that comes to the attention of the sheriff." Last year, as Black Lives Matter protests swept across the country, he formed a local civilian "posse" to assist his office with law enforcement, even though there were no such protests in Pinal County.

Milwaukee's Sheriff David Clarke, a known vocal supporter of Trump, has also expressed extremist views. In the days leading up to the January 6 insurrection, Clarke even urged Capitol rioters not to comply with law enforcement.

"ALERT!!!," Clarke wrote on Facebook at the time. "If you attended the Trump rally in Washington DC last Wednesday and are contacted by the FBI or they come to your home, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TALK TO THEM. DON'T LET THEM IN YOUR HOME EITHER. POLITELY TELL THEM TO LEAVE AND CLOSE THE DOOR."

"If you did not go into the US Capital (sic) you do not have to explain why you exercised your Constitutional right to assemble," Clarke wrote. "TRUST NO GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL right now."

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