Or … Property Rights With a Gun.
Paul de Armond — (c) 1996
Note: This chronology is in reverse order, with the latest first so you can easily keep track of what is the latest event by checking this page. You can trace from most recent back as far as you care to go.
July 28, 1996 — John Pitner, Fred Fisher and seven others were arrested on Saturday, July 27, by local and federal law enforcement on charges related to firearms and explosives. Of the nine people arrested, four are believed to be connected to the Washington State Militia. According to reports in the July, 29, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Whatcom County prosecutor Dave MeEaachran said more people had been arrested after the initial nine arrests. Unconfirmed reports indicate that as many as seven people are in custody on related charges in Whatcom County. Some of those arrested were in Tukwila, a Seattle suburb, and in West Seattle, where a search warrant was served. Both state and federal charges are involved, according to the Whatcom Prosecutor’s office.
[This report is current as of 9:00am, Monday July 29, 1996. Information on the arrests is still forthcoming and a press conference by the FBI and local law enforcement is scheduled for 11:00am, at which time more information will become available.]
March 10, 1996 — Pitner and the Washington State Militia hold their second and last large public meeting in Fife, Washington. As in Mt. Vernon, John Trochmann of the Militia of Montana is the featured speaker. Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment director Bill Wassmuth is sharply critical of efforts to form private armies. “It’s a recruitment effort,” said Wassmuth. Pitner denied any recruiting was going on, claiming that the meetings were to inform people. The ties between militias and white supremacists, and the racist beliefs espoused by some militia participants were highliged in a report by the Coalition for Human Dignity, a human-rights watchdog group. “It’s something that we’re deeply concerned about,” said Devin Burghart, a researcher with CHD.
January 31, 1996 — A meeting is held at Skagit Valley Community College to discuss forming a human rights group in Skagit County. Fifty Five people attend. The meeting is moderated by Rev. Barbara Davenport. Minister Shirley Osterhaus speaks about the experiences of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force. Eric Ward, associate director of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, describes the militia movement and the underlying ideas and philosophy that motivate people to join armed vigilante groups. Three Patriots, two of whom are know to be active in the Washington State Militia, are present. The meeting is orderly and the group decides to form a human rights task force in Skagit County.
January 23, 1996 — At a public meeting in Everett held by the Democratic Party, Bill Wassmuth of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment and Devin Burghart of the Coalition for Human Dignity speak about Christian Patriotism, white supremacy and the militias. 30 people, led by David Montgomery and John Pitner, enter the meeting and disrupt it with intimidating behavior. Pitner tells a local reporter that the Washington State Militia has 5,600 sworn-in members, 1,500 of which are in Snohomish County.
January 20, 1996 — Twenty Whatcom Human Rights Task Force volunteers canvass Bellingham business districts as part of the Joining Hands Against Hate project. The community response is overwhelmingly positive and more posters go up in local businesses.
January 19, 1996 — Citizens for Liberty meet at the Harbor Center. Hinkle opens the meeting by saying that the meeting is canceled, so they are just going to talk that night, that they really aren’t having a meeting but people should consider it a “non-meeting.” He repeats these statements several times during the meeting. Hinkle has a table set up with literature from John Trochmann’s Militia of Montana and some literature that he has prepared himself, including a flyer on John Robison’s _Proof of a Conspiracy_ (the original book that started the Illuminatti hoax). On the back of this flyer, a page from an unidentified holocaust denial book is reproduced. It accuses “Zionists” and Communists of murdering Jews.
John Pitner, Fred Fisher and several other members of the Washington State Militia attend the Citizens for Liberty “non- meeting.” Both Hinkle and Pitner deny that there is any connection between CFL and WSM.
January 18, 1996 — Ben Hinkle tells the Bellingham Herald that the Citizens for Liberty meeting is canceled because the featured speaker is not able to attend.
January 15, 1996 — Over 1,000 people attend the Martin Luther King Day celebration at the Mt. Baker Theatre in Bellingham. Whatcom Human Rights Task Force co-chair Vernon Johnson serves as master of ceremonies. WHRTF gains many new members and distributes hundreds of Joining Hands Against Hate posters and buttons.
January 14, 1996 — John Pitner and Fred Fisher represent the Washington State Militia at a meeting in Mt. Vernon. There are about 400 people attending. Over 50 demonstrators from local churches and community groups stage a peaceful protest outside. Some are wearing Not In Our Town buttons and holding signs that say Not In Our Town. WHRTF does not participate in the protests, opting instead to attend the meeting as observers. The featured speaker is John Trochmann of the Militia of Montana. John Pitner opens the meeting by denouncing the “Task Force for Human Dignity — the ADL” [sic]. This is a reference to a Bellingham Herald article which reported the concerns expressed by the Whatcom Human Rights Task force. Pitner concludes his opening remarks by inviting the protesters inside and remarking, “…and you don’t need to be Jewish.”
After the militia meeting in Mt. Vernon, several people in the Mt. Vernon area who participated in the protest are targeted for intimidation. One receives an anonymous letter with enclosures of anti-semitic literature and the others get anonymous phone calls. The intimidation incidents involve direct references to the militia.
Trochmann gives his “Enemies — Foreign and Domestic” speech. Trochmann identifies “enemies” as Communists, socialists, U.S. Corporations, “traitors” in the U.S. government, “commies” in law enforcement, “greenies” (environmentalists), members of the B’hai faith, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Trochmann also explicitly endorses Louis Beam’s Leaderless Resistance strategy of terrorism, as well as referring to Leaderless Resistance as “public meetings and private cells.”
Ben Hinkle announces the next meeting of Citizens for Liberty as featuring a speaker on the “international park.” Fred Fisher announces that the Washington State Militia will be holding monthly meetings at the Rome Grange beginning in February.
After the Bellingham Herald story on the Mt. Vernon militia meeting is published, the Granges refuse to support the militias or allow the Rome Grange to be used for further meetings.
January 13, 1996 — John Pitner speaks at a militia meeting in Port Angeles to a crowd of approximately 100.
December 1995 — The third issue of “Sighting In” is distributed. Keith Anderson holds a “tax seminar” at a motel in Bellingham.
Whatcom Human Rights Task Force launches a public awareness drive around the PBS documentary “Not In Our Town” as part of a national campaign against hate crimes. Elizabeth McInerney, Not In Our Town Week national coordinator, will later describe the WHRTF action as “one of the most successful in the country.” WHRTF’s Not In Our Town campaign spreads to Skagit County.
On December 17, 1995, WHRTF celebrates the success of Not In Our Town Week and announces the launching of the Joining Hands Against Hate project. Joining Hands Against Hate was inspired by the actions of the citizens in Billings, Montana. Joining Hands Against Hate posters are distributed and begin appearing in windows of homes, businesses and offices all over Bellingham.
Ken Stern, the author of the American Jewish Committee’s March 1995 report, publishes A Force Upon the Plain, the first comprehensive study of the right-wing vigilante movement.
November 1995 — An assault by skinheads on Western Washington University students galvanizes the Bellingham community. Two men, Jason LaRue and Banner Dawson, are arrested on charges of malicious harassment in connection with the attack. A woman, Cordelia Dollar, will later be arrested in Oregon on felony charges stemming from the incident. The WWU Ethnic Students Center and the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force participate in a rally and march to demonstrate community opposition to hate crimes.
The Washington State Militia holds its first public meeting at the Rome Grange, approximately half-way between Bellingham and Deming. John Pitner conducts the meeting. Speakers include Sharon Pietila, a board member of CLUE and a promoter of “county secession”; Fred Fisher, a Citizens for Liberty participant; and Keith Anderson, a Christian Patriot from Port Townsend. Anderson’s subjects are “sovereign citizenship” and tax resistance.
October 1995 — The Everett Herald runs a Sunday feature expose on the Christian Patriots in Snohomish County. A portion of Ben Sams’ “sovereign citizen” papers are published and Sheriff Patrick Murphy attempts to disavow his activities with the Christian Patriots. The Snohomish County Property Rights Alliance (SNOCO PRA) is not mentioned by name, but the front page photo of a man brandishing a sponge-mop fitted with a gunstock — which was going to be used to “clean up” the county — was taken at the Everett Freedom Forum / SNOCO PRA meeting with Dick Carver in March 1995. The man holding the “assault mop” in the picture is Norman “Ander” Stockton, president of SNOCO PRA. On October 31, Sheriff Murphy is charged by Special Deputy Prosecutor with obtaining prescription narcotics “under false, misleading and deceptive circumstances.”
September 1995 — A symposium at the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon brings together militia researchers from all over the United States. The proceedings of the symposium will be published as a book in 1996.
August 1995 — The second issue of “Sighting In” is published.
June 1995 — The first issue of “Sighting In, the militiaman’s newsletter” is distributed from an address in Deming. None of the articles are signed and the only attribution is to a “Washington State Militia” with a Deming Post Office box.
May 1995 — Whatcom County Sheriff Dale Brandland is the featured speaker at Citizens for Liberty. Flyers announcing the meeting are distributed at the information desk in the Whatcom County Courthouse. Sheriff Brandland tells the group that it is his job to see that laws are enforced and that he can not and will not interfere with federal agents who are performing their duty. When Sheriff Brandland tells the group that he does not believe that there are any militia in Whatcom County, the audience laughs.
John Pitner, later to identify himself as the head of the Washington State Militia, warns Sheriff Brandland: “…if you were to assist these federal authorities to take away our weapons, you would be in direct violation of the Constitution, therefore jeopardizing yourself.” Sheriff Brandland does not appear to understand that Constitutionalists view “violating the Constitution” as treason and punishable by death. He does, however, recognize the threatening tone and informs Pitner: “I’m here to enforce the law.”
Racist and anti-semitic literature is distributed at the CFL meeting, as are copies of Jack McLamb’s “Aid & Abet” newsletter, which is directed towards indoctrinating law enforcement personnel into Christian Patriotism and promoting militias.
April 1995 — The American Jewish Committee releases a report on militia activities that warns of possible violence.
A truck bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing over 160 people. After irresponsible statements by federal officials trigger a three-day wild-goose chase for non-existent “Arab terrorists” — which leads to mob violence in several areas of the country — Christian Patriots are arrested for the bombing.
Ben Hinkle is quoted in the Bellingham Herald blaming the federal government for the Oklahoma City bombing. He identifies himself as “chairman” of the Citizens for Liberty, but is also quoted as saying that they have “no members.” Hinkle will later explain that Citizens for Liberty is a public group with anonymous membership, which Hinkle claims is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Nowhere in the Constitution is a right to form secret societies mentioned — privacy rights are mentioned in the Fourth Amendment, not the First, which guarantees freedoms of religion, opinion, speech and the press.
March 1995 — A joint meeting of the Everett Freedom Forum (EFF)and the Snohomish County Property Rights Alliance (SNOCO PRA) hosts Dick Carver, a “county supremacy” leader from Nye County, Nevada. Carver has appeared at several Christian Identity gatherings in California and Idaho, including being a featured speaker at the 1994 “Jubilation” near Bakersfield, California. The “Jubilation” is an annual event of The Jubilee, a major Identity newspaper.
At the EFF / SNOCO PRA meeting, newly-appointed Snohomish County Sheriff Pat Murphy was asked by Carver to protect him from arrest by federal agents whom Carver claimed were in the audience. Murphy agreed and later made statements outside the meeting that he “wasn’t going to have any Wacos in this county.”
The appointment of Darrel Lord, who had been identified as one of Ellen Gray’s assailants in November, to be executive director of SNOCO PRA and the election of Don Kehoe, one of the Citizens for Environmental Justice who has been promoting “international park” conspiracy theories, to the SNOCO PRA board is announced.
CovertAction Quarterly publishes an article by Daniel Junas, “The Rise of the Citizen Militias: Angry white guys with guns.” This article accurately summarized most of what was known about the militias at the end of 1994.
February 1995 — Essentially the same group as Citizens for Environmental Justice, an off-shoot of the Snohomish Property Rights Alliance, sponsor an appearance of Militia of Montana at the Maltby Community Center in South Snohomish County. Bob Fletcher of MOM does most of the speaking. In the course of his speech, Fletcher announces that there is a high probability that there will soon be a terrorist attack to “blow up a city or poison its water supply.” Fletcher states that the blame for the coming attack will be placed on the militias or “Arab terrorists.”
At this meeting, Ben Hinkle describes his plan to recruit members of Whatcom County law enforcement agencies by distributing copies of Christian Patriot Jack McLamb’s Aid & Abet newsletter.
In mid-February, a hoax by the Special Forces Underground, a group that includes active duty soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia, panics the militias with a rumor that federal agents are planning nationwide raids on militia leaders. By late March, the hoax will drag in the NRA and Rep. Steve Stockman, who will demand that the Treasury and Department of Justice disavow the non- existent raid plans.
January 1995 — “Standoff” between Christian Patriots and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office delays the eviction of Dr. Donald Ellwanger from property that was seized by the IRS for failure to pay income taxes, interest and penalties. Approximately 40 militia and Christian Patriots from several states delayed the eviction for three days. No confrontation or arrests resulted and Dr. Ellwanger’s possessions were removed from the premises with his cooperation.
Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment hosts the first national conference to discuss the militias. In February, NWCAMH releases a summary of the conclusions reached at the conference.
November 1994 — Ellen Gray, program director of the Pilchuck Audubon Society’s SmartGrowth Campaign, receives death threats at a Snohomish County Planning Commission meeting. Only one of her assailants, Darrel Lord, is identified. No arrests are made and no charges are filed. Lord is the leader of the Everett Freedom Forum, which promotes both Wise Use and militia conspiracy theories about the “International Park.” Lord will later serve briefly as the executive director of the Snohomish County Property Rights Alliance.
October 1994 — Whatcom CLUE leaders Skip Richards and Kathy Sutter host a meeting at the Laurel Grange with presentations by Citizens for Environmental Justice.
This short-lived group was composed of Wise Use and Christian Patriot activists from Skagit County. Ben Sams, a Christian Patriot and participant in John Trochmann’s United Citizens for Justice, is one of the presenters with Citizens for Environmental Justice. Literature from Militia of Montana and other Christian Patriot sources is distributed at the meeting. Most of the speakers dwell on the “International Park” as a conspiracy involving the “New World Order.”
Citizens for Environmental Justice toured the North Cascades region meeting with many of the Wise Use groups that Chuck Cushman had held “international park” meetings with the previous winter. Citizens for Environmental Justice’s tour covered Okanogan, Chelan, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom Counties. At the Arlington meeting in Snohomish County, a man stepped up to an open microphone and announced that he was recruiting people to join “cells.”
ADL releases a special report, “Armed and Dangerous: Militias Take Aim at the Federal Government.” Shortly afterwards, information from this report is distributed by federal law enforcement to police throughout the nation.
September 1994 – Southern Poverty Law Center / Klanwatch releases the text of a letter from their director, Morris Dees, to Attorney General Janet Reno. The letter calls attention to the militias, their connection to white supremacists and the potential threat of organized violence.
August 1994 — A cross burning at a migrant labor housing in North Whatcom County catalyzes the formation of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force. Incidents involving the harassment and intimidation of migrants continue for several months. In October, the same migrant housing is attacked and several shotgun blasts are fired. No people were injured, but a car is damaged in the attack. No arrests have resulted from any of these incidents.
US News & World Report publishes the first national article on militias.
A national “gun rights” rally in Washington D.C. draws militia participants from all over the nation. Rally sponsors include Alan Gottlieb’s Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Second Amendment Foundation, the NRA and Larry Pratt, leader of Gun Owners of America and one of the participants in the 1992 Estes Park meeting called by Identity minister Pete Peters to discuss forming paramilitary vigilante groups in response to the killings at Ruby Ridge.
Linda Thompson calls off the “armed march” on Washington D.C. in a bizarre statement that claims that militia organizing has influenced such disparate events as the O.J. Simpson trial and Congressional schedules. Thompson’s statement also alleges that elements of the U.S. government have tried to sell her nuclear weapons.
July 1994 — Approximately a dozen political researchers, human rights activists, environmentalists and investigators meet in a rural Washington location to discuss the militias. The group concludes that this is a major push by white supremacists to recruit Wise Use, anti-abortion militants and other elements of the Hard Right. The participants agree to coordinate research and begin a public awareness campaign.
The “gun rights” rallies at state capitals get coverage in The Spotlight. The article also cites militia organizing by Militia of Montana. From this date, The Spotlight will run stories about a possible “invasion,” frequently citing militias as the source of this information. The John Birch Society condemns militias and warns members against participating in violent groups. The NRA begins to issue a series of conflicting and contradictory statements on militias. NRA involvement in the issues surrounding the militias will be continuous from this period to the present.
Officials from Planned Parenthood Federation of America meet with Attorney General Janet Reno and brief her on what is know about militias and organized violence against abortion providers. Department of Justice officials discount the information and state that they see no evidence of illegal conduct by militia organizers.
May 1994 — Montana Human Rights Network releases “A Winter of Discontent,” the first comprehensive research report on the Militia of Montana.
April 1994 — Militia of Montana literature and advertisements for Linda Thompson’s video “Waco: The Big Lie” are distributed at meetings of the Everett Freedom Forum (EFF) and the Snohomish County Property Rights Alliance (SNOCO PRA). At the SNOCO PRA meeting, Freedom County secession leader John Wise Use founder, Alan Gottlieb, is the featured speaker at the April EFF meeting. On April 3, 1993, Don Kehoe, using the name “Blowing in the Wind,” speaks before a professional landscapers’ group on Waco and New World Order conspiracy theories. Kehoe distributes his “Blowing In the Wind” conspiracy literature at this meeting, as well as militia literature and copies of the “Waco: The Big Lie” video from Linda Thompson’s American Justice Federation.
Nationwide, the public organizing drive for militias kick into high gear. Linda Thompson announces her plan for an “armed march” on Washington D.C. to arrest Congress and try its members for treason. Anti-gun control organizations in many states begin organizing “gun rights” rallies for the 4th of July weekend.
March 1994 — Whatcom Coalition for Land Use Education (CLUE) meeting at Rome Grange. Featured speaker is Chuck Cushman, a Wise Use activist from Battleground, WA. Cushman’s presentation is on the North Cascades Park Proposal — which is called the “International Peace Park” or “International Park” by both Wise Use and Christian Patriot participants. The first speaker at this meeting is CLUE member and “chairman” of Citizens for Liberty, Ben Hinkle. Hinkle speaks about the “Ultimatum Resolution” and distributes Militia of Montana flyers which he has altered to promote his Citizens for Liberty Group. Also present at this meeting is Sharon Pietila, a CLUE board member and participant in the Independence County secession movement.