© 1995 by Paul de Armond
The area of Maltby is at the southern edge of Snohomish County, northwest of the Seattle suburb of Bothell. The Maltby Community Center is an old building, perhaps a former school house or grange. The weather is overcast and cold, with a light mist of rain falling. Nearby is an industrial supply yard, filled with enormous steel pipes and curved plates of iron, typical of the landscaping style known as “light industrial.” At the last turn, we had seen a crudely painted sign with the word “MOM” and an arrow pointing the way. The community center’s parking lots are already full by the time we arrive. There are about twenty cars, some parked two deep. A sign on the front of building says “M.O.M. 2-11-95.” We go past the Maltby Community Center and park on the side of the road.
As we walk to the door, I look at the cars in the lot. One station wagon has “Cedar County” signs in the rear windows. Cedar County is an attempt by some right-wing “property rights” activists to secede from King County and form a new county east of Issaquah. A red pickup truck has a Rush Limbaugh license plate holder. All of the vehicles have Washington plates but judging from the license plate holders, they are from both King and Snohomish Counties. Inside, we will find people from Whatcom County, 100 miles to the North.
A man with a box of literature set up on the hood of a car has staked out the door. He hands me a copy of Lyndon LaRouche’s New Federalist newspaper as I go by. During the course of the afternoon, I will go out to the parking lot to smoke a cigarette and try to shake off the oppressive atmosphere inside the dimly lit building. He is there every time I go out, attempting to peel off potential recruits for LaRouche’s paranoid legion of quasi-fascist conspiracy enthusiasts. He has certainly come to the right place.
At the door, a woman is sitting at a card table with a sign-in sheet and a donations collection. As usual, I sign a bogus name and address. As I enter the room and look around, a puffy-faced man steps in front of me. It is David Montgomery, a perennial right-wing congressional candidate and former treasurer for the Washington chapter of Rev. Sun Myong Moon’s American Freedom Coalition. Montgomery sticks out his hand and with a decidedly unfriendly expression on his face, asks me if he has my name right. The last time I had a conversation with Montgomery had been at a candidates’ forum hosted by the Snohomish County Property Rights Alliance. He had been very upset over a mention of Moon’s AFC in an article on the county secession movement. Montgomery is not happy to see me. As always, I’m fascinated by the odd appearance of Montgomery’s face. It looks as if it has no bone underneath the flesh.
Montgomery drifts off without an attempt to make conversation. He has made his point. Every time we meet, he lets me know that he is watching.
The previous fall he had finished dead last in the 2nd District congressional primary, having run on a platform of “property rights” and “gun rights.” I had been particularly impressed by some of his campaign literature which claimed that microchips in car windshields would allow remote monitoring and surveillance.1
For the next twenty minutes, Montgomery buzzes around the room, whispering in people’s ears and pointing at me. Some day I’ll have to ask him what conspiracy he thinks I’m part of.
As I work my way along the Militia of Montana vendors table, I have the opportunity to purchase one of twenty-eight video tapes. Each stack of tapes has a small sign describing its subject. The tapes all had handwritten labels. A sampling of the titles: “Fully Informed Jury” with Red Beckman, a notorious anti-semite and right-wing tax resister2; “Government Gone Mad” with Jeff Baker, who stated that “abortionists should be put to death — they are murderers,” at a Wisconsin anti-abortion / militia / tax resistance gathering in April, 19943; “Battle Preparations Now” with Mark Koernke, a militia organizer from Dexter, Michigan. The Militia of Montana catalog lists 53 videotapes. Most of the videos sell for $15.00 each through the catalog, but at the meeting they are available for a mere $10.00. a special discount of 20% is available to anyone who is willing to identify themselves as an “agent.” Agent of whom is not clear, but the offer isn’t very tempting.
Also available are T-shirts, sweat-shirts, and camouflage baseball hats with various militia slogans on them. At a discounted price of five dollars, I can get a cammo baseball hat that says, “Enough is Enough, Militia” or “MOM – Militia of Montana.” The second table also has audio cassettes, most of which are the same as the video tapes. For a mere $75.00 I can get “The Blue Book,” a three ring binder with all of the current “documentation” that MOM speakers use in their presentations. There are badly reproduced color xeroxes of tanks and armored vehicles. A particularly surprising “document” is a clipping from LaRouche’s New Federalist newspaper. In the struggle against the New World Order, one must take what information one can find.
There are also several different types of “Pepper Spray” and at least one “stun baton” for sale. The pepper spray is meant to blind and disable an attacker. The stun baton delivers a powerful electric shock.
The third table is covered with books, mostly U.S. Army training manuals. There are manuals on survival, booby traps, guerilla warfare, hand to hand fighting, sniper training, and “small arms defense against air attack,” as well as equipment manuals, map reading and other topics. The catalog lists nineteen government publications. There are also books on medical topics, survivalism, and lots of conspiracy theories. One title that catches my eye is Escape from Controlled Custody. The catalog blurb reads “…Someday you may be on the inside (concentration/detention camps?) looking out. Do you have what it takes to escape?” [emphasis in original.] Whatever MOM is planning, they seem to understand that it may be both dangerous and unpopular.
By the end of the meeting, Randy Trochmann will have done a considerable amount of sales. The piles of videos will be depleted and most of the “Blue Books” will be gone. Under “TERMS,” the MOM catalog states: “Cash or Money Orders only are accepted by the Militia of Montana for any materials offered in this catalog or any other listing connected with the Militia of Montana. WE DO NOT ACCEPT CHECKS. We have opted out of the system and therefore we do not have any association with BANKS. We cannot cash your checks so therefore we have no use for them. So, please, send cash or M.O. only. Thank you.”
One woman, who identifies herself as “Rosa,” is concerned that without a receipt no one will know that she has paid for the “Blue Book” that she has purchased. Randy Trochmann gives her a brown paper bag and signs it for her.
I move over to the other side of the room, where more tables are set up. These are covered with literature from the local groups. There is a handout titled “Gale Force” from Don Kehoe, one of today’s speakers. It advertises a meeting that Kehoe is having at the Cedar Grange in Maple Valley. The three topics will be “Toll Road Ruins”, “The North Cascades International Ecosystem Preserve”, and “New World Order.”
Kehoe had garnered considerable publicity in October when he had toured the state peddling various conspiracy theories involving the North Cascades Park.4 In November, Homer Bakker, one of his colleagues during the tour, had continued the meetings and dismissed Kehoe as lacking documentation and “might have been out in left field.”5 Bakker will be at tomorrow’s MOM meeting in Port Orchard.
Kehoe has evidently overcome his credibility problems, some of which were triggered by a flyer for the meetings which identified the North Cascades as the site of “electronic fortifications controlled by the CIA.” His fascination with electronics still must persist, since his flyer has a quotation about the toll roads with the passage “from sensors installed throughout the highway network” underlined for emphasis. A similar out of context quote about the park has “protected by geography and electronic fortifications” emphasized.
Kehoe has found a way to put his previous media exposure to good use. A box at the bottom of his flier states that he has been “featured in” nine newspapers and two radio stations. What they had to say about him isn’t mentioned.
Other literature on the tables includes a “Jury Handbook” that claims that as a juror, you can “vote your conscience” regardless of the facts or the law. This doctrine of “jury nullification” is widely held among right-wing fringe groups and promoted by The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA.) Inside the front cover, the pocket-sized booklet bears a rubber stamp impression identifying the source as “EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL,” a Seattle organization run by right-wing tax resister Gene Goosman. Goosman’s specialty is filing multi-billion dollar “liens” and “criminal complaints” against public officials and then trying to use the claimed value of these fraudulent documents as collateral in tax cases.6
The booklet’s annotated index to the U.S. Constitution bears a curious explanation of the 14th Amendment: according to this interpretation, there are first, second and third class citizens in the United States.
Other tax resisters are present at the meeting as well. There are the Ellwangers from Bellingham. Don Ellwanger is a veterinarian who refused to pay taxes since 1984.7 After the IRS sold his veterinary clinic at auction, Terressa Sundstrom of Seattle issued an “alert” and summoned the militias of Oregon, Idaho and Montana to defend Dr. Ellwanger’s “allodial land title.”8Sundstrom’s orchestration of the “stand-off” with the Whatcom Sheriff’s Department created considerable tension, since the “alert” stated that “this action may escalate into another Waco or Weaver episode. …An order has been issued for no weapons.”
The sheriff let them stand around in the rain for several days. Every time a deputy drove by, someone in the group would call the local paper to announce that a raid was about to happen. The paper was less than sympathetic in their coverage. After a few days of this, everyone got tired and left. The sheriff helped Dr. Ellwanger rent a U-Haul van and deputies gave him a hand loading it for the move. In an eviction, personal belongings that are not removed will be put on the nearest right-of-way. As one member of the Sheriff’s department told me, “That’s just a drainage ditch out there. There was no way that we were going to let his stuff sit out in the rain.”
Sundstrom is here today, as is Roger Allen Davis of the Lord Jesus Christ (as he signs his name on one of the pseudo-legal documents which Ellwanger filed.) Mr. Christ works with an outfit called EPIC AGE, an acronym for “Electronic Publishing In Christ, Army of God on Earth” and was a participant in the abortive Ellwanger battle against the Federal Reserve Conspiracy.9
Further along the table is an announcement from the Snohomish County Property Rights Alliance (SNOCO PRA) that they need replacements for their office manager Sherrie Stockland and unpaid executive director Darrel Harting. A press release from “Committee for Equality and Justice,” whose contact is the pseudonymous “Orpheous” [sic] declares “HIGH COURT CANCELS INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS TO PETITION” and deplores the refusal of the Washington State Supreme Court to overturn a superior court ruling on the referendum process. The lawsuit, filed by Snohomish County against the 35 citizens (many of whom are members of SNOCO PRA) who attempted to overturn a land use ordinance by referendum. Ben Sams, a SNOCO PRA member, is the contact for today’s meeting. Sams had also participated in the “park conspiracy” meetings with Kehoe, Bakker and others.
Yellow cards announce the February meetings of the Everett Freedom Forum. One of the leaders of the Forum, Darryl Lord, had been identified as one of two men who made death threats against an Everett environmentalist at a Snohomish Planning Commission meeting in November. Lord, who admitted bringing a hangman’s noose to the meeting, has denied involvement in the threats. According to newspaper accounts, Lord presented the noose to the woman and a still-unidentified man told her, “If we can’t get you at the ballot box, we’ll get you with a bullet, …we have a militia of 10,000.” The matter has been under investigation by the Everett police, but no charges have been filed. One of the presentations announced in the Freedom Forum card is on “allodial land titles.”
“Allodial land rights” are part of the tax-resister’s legal tool kit. The theory is baroque enough that few agree on how it is correctly applied, but the basic notion is that land that is owned free and clear can somehow become a sovereign nation and thereby exempt the owner from income tax. Each Christian Patriot (as these people call themselves) has a slightly different version of the legal theory. The notion of “sovereign citizenship” is another variant on the attempt to free oneself from the control of the IRS and the “international monetary fund” conspiracy. Like the Philosopher’s Stone or the Holy Grail, immunity from law and taxation is an elusive quest. The competing legal theories have a flavor of magic about them — if one holds one’s mouth just right and says the correct phrases, one can break free of the conspiracy.
There are copies of “The Balance,” the newsletter of the CAUSE foundation. The lead article deplores the withdrawal of a $50,000 grant from the National Rifle Association’s Civil Rights Defense Fund to the CAUSE Foundation. The foundation is attempting to file a “Omnibus Civil Rights Complaint” against all the FBI and BATF agents involved in the Waco tragedy, a conspiracy complaint against two FBI agents involved in the Weaver siege in Idaho, as well as complaints against Attorney General Janet Reno. According to the newsletter, the NRA withdrew the grant offer after discovering news “articles pointed out the [sic] CAUSE had previously represented such diverse groups as the Ku Klux Klan and Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance (WAR).” An “emergency appeal” on the back of the newsletter asks for “your most generous contributions” to “help stop Reno and her Gun Grabbing Goons.”
A somewhat cryptic announcement invites people to a gathering at “Either Bellevue or Renton conference Center, Washington” [emphasis in original] on March 10, 1995. The speakers will be Sheriff Richard I. Mack of Graham County, Arizona; Retired Supreme Court Judge of Washington, William C. Goodloe and Brigadier General Diane Roberta Burton, J.D. USSF.
Sheriff Mack is well-known in right-wing circles for filing a suit that challenged part of the Brady Bill. He has also co-authored From My Cold Dead Fingers, a book about “gun rights” andGovernment, God and Freedom, which claims that Mormon prophet Joseph Smith’s prophesy about the U.S. Constitution “dangling by a thread” has come true.
Mr. Goodloe served a single term on the Washington Supreme Court. His tenure was distinguished by a series of complaints about his ethical and professional conduct. He was widely criticized following his appearance at a political workshop organized by the American Freedom Coalition of Washington (see above.)10 He is a familiar figure on the right-wing circuit. Brigadier Burton is identified as “Deputy Judge Advocate General” and “Commandant, Investigative Services Division.” The home of the “Adjutant General” of the United States Special Field Forces was recently raided by FBI investigating the counterfeiting of government identification.11
The meeting announcement states: “ACTUAL LOCATION AND LIST OF LODGING FACILITIES WILL BE ANNOUNCED VIA LETTER OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PREPAID REGISTRATION.” The sponsors of the event are only identified by the initials “W.S.C.S.C” and payment is requested by postal money order made out to those initials. The registration form has a line for the serial number of the postal money order.
There are many more inscrutable handouts. The literature hints at dire events, insidious conspiracies, and a legal system that is mystically baroque. Seven folding tables are covered with all sorts of documents, booklets, fliers, handouts and pamphlets. Most of it is free of charge — it’s important that get this information get to the people who need it. The literature is curiously consistent, not only in subject matter — usually some conspiracy involving money and government which people are desperately struggling against — but also in appearance and typography. Almost all of the documents have an eclectic approach to typography. The more fonts that are used, the better. Important words and phrases are emphasized with italics, underlining and CAPITAL LETTERS. Extra super important words and phrases are emphasized in underlined italic CAPITAL letters. Sometimes, even this isn’t enough and the person who has made blurry xeroxes of other Patriots’ literature has done additional underlining by hand.
The emotional tone is one of dire urgency teetering on the edge of panic, coupled with an anxiety that floats freely through the out of context quotes and mysteriously insubstantial legal references. It suggests a fear of being explicit, the mystical possibility that stating something openly might be dangerous to the writer, or worse yet — cause the word to become flesh.
One gets the impression that there is a ferment of occult organizations furiously undermining the freedom, moral fiber and financial structure of the United States. The patriots who have gathered here today are obviously serious about doing something about the conspiracy that they feel tightening around them like an invisible noose. They want to regain their rights as “white sovereign citizens.” The mood in the room is grim, determined and seething with frustration.
Welcome to the militia movement in the Pacific Northwest.