Add another right-wing extremist group to western Nevada County’s local lineup: A local contingent of Oath Keepers — a loosely organized anti-government militia group — has been meeting at the county Tea Party’s “Liberty Center” in Grass Valley, according to the Tea Party’s calendar.
Oath Keepers describe themselves as fulfilling “the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”
The group is composed of members who have, or previously had, some sort of connection to law enforcement or the military.
Like others, I’m noticing that conservative politics in our community is increasingly becoming intertwined with guns and law enforcement (even though law enforcement is supposed to be “nonpartisan”). This has clearly morphed into a political strategy for the local right.
This weekend, for example, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal was the keynote speaker at last night’s “spring dinner” of the Nevada County Republican Party. The right is rallying around a marijuana cultivation ordinance, which has polarized the community. Loud anti-marijuana activists have only made matters worse.
The mix of guns and GOP politics is on the rise throughout rural Northern California. In a report this weekend, the Sacramento Bee observes “the proportion of Republicans in a county correlates with the rate that concealed carry handguns permits are issued to residents (see chart at bottom).” The number of permits in both Placer and El Dorado counties rose by about 50 percent from 2012 to 2015, the Bee reported.
“I believe an armed society is a safe society,” El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini told the Bee. D’Agostini has long been associated with the “Constitutional sheriff” movement.
Constitutional Sheriff Richard Mack is a board member of the Oath Keepers. “Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack is speaking!” the Nevada County Republican Party website announced back in 2014, when he came to speak in Grass Valley. Sheriff Royal was going to introduce Mack, but he backed out at the last minute.
Meanwhile, the Nevada County Tea Party has launched its own “Back the Blue” campaign that includes providing local officers with search tools. In a fundraiser last year, the Nevada County Tea Party raffled off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, among other guns, as previously reported.
Among hard-right political groups, the Oath Keepers — essentially a citizens militia group — are among the most extreme.
“Men, all of them white and heavily armed”
Members of the Oath Keepers were present at the Bundy Ranch standoff in Clark County, Nevada; they appeared on the streets of Ferguson, MO, during the protests and unrest (“‘men, all of them white and heavily armed,” as the Washington Post put it); and they traveled to Kentucky trying to prevent Kim Davis from being arrested when she refused to marry gay couples — violating a court order.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as a “fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group.”
One Oath Keeper told the New York Times in 2014 the group’s membership includes “a really broad group of citizens, and I’m sure their motivations are all different. In many of them, there’s probably a sense of patriotism.”
As the June primary and November election near, we can expect to see more extremist political activity — both in our community and nationally. In the past, a local war of words has been waged over issues such as Proposition 23, the global warming denier’s effort to suspend the “Global Warming Act.” Now we’ve “kicked it up a notch,” with guns to go with extremist opinions and nasty rhetoric. It can be intimidating — but of course that’s the point.
Here’s the Sacramento Bee’s chart showing the proportion of Republicans in a county correlates with the rate that concealed carry handgun permits are issued: