The small extremist group ‘Oath Keepers’, a kind of anti-government militia steeped in conspiracyism, appears as one of the most dangerous elements to have participated in the assault on the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6.
They are the darkest and most violent side of the troop of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. A group of extremists who prefer the military costume and the combat helmet to the more folkloric outfits used by some of the protesters.
Their role in looting this high sphere of American democracy appears to be gaining importance as the reality unfolds about the level of preparedness and determination to wreak havoc on these paramilitary-like protesters.
“America’s Largest Anti-Government Movement”
“A large number of the detained individuals have links to these far-right militias that had carried weapons and even explosives,” says the portal ABCNews which examined the profile of the first 68 protesters questioned in a week.
One of the groups in this movement drew particular attention, as its members were among the first and most determined to force their way into the Capitol. They are called “Oath Keepers”, and you can see them in various videos making their way through the crowd to reach the front door of the federal building, advancing in a very disciplined and military way.
Easily recognizable — they display their group’s name on their attire or on the back of their helmet — they also appear in several photos taken inside the federal building. For his part, its leader, Stewart Rhodes, preferred to stay abroad, from where he harangued the crowds, calling to “stop” the elected officials who were going to vote to certify the electoral victory of Democrat Joe Biden.
The ‘Oath Keepers’ are just one umpteenth radical movement that, like the Q-Anon, the ‘Boogaloo boys’ or the ‘Proud Boys’, gained visibility during the term of Donald Trump. Because of its history, the profile of its members and its ideology is distinguished in the overpopulated landscape of small groups of the extreme right in the United States.
Founded in 2009 in reaction to the election of Democrat Barack Obama to the Presidency, this militia established itself over the years as “the broadest radical anti-government movement in states. United ”, highlights the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), one of the main NGOs that police the extreme right in the United States. The ‘Oath Keepers’ officially claim more than 30,000 members, but the SPLC estimates that there must be between 2,000 and 3,000 active members.
From Yale to conspiracyism
Its success owes much to the personality of its founder, Stewart Rhodes, a former military man who passed through the very prestigious Yale Law University, and who supported the libertarian candidate Ron Paul in 2008, before falling into the extremist and conspiratorial cauldron .
This firearms fanatic, who lost an eye during the 1990s handling a pistol, thought of his organization as a refuge for members of the forces of order frustrated by not being able to openly defend their extremist ideology within the institutions.
What distinguishes the ‘HatO Keepers’ from the other far-right militias “is the strong propensity of representatives and former members of the various armed forces,” he summarizes The Atlantic in an investigation dedicated to this movement, published in November 2020. The group includes policemen, border guards, at least one Secret Service agent, several members of SWAT (the police rapid intervention force) and a sheriff, among others, counted the portal that could get a file of members and supporters of the ‘Oath Keepers’.
In addition, to be part of this movement it is necessary to take an oath “to defend the Constitution” (hence the name ‘Oath Keepers’), during a ceremony modeled after the one carried out to enter the police force. But for Stewart Rhodes and his cohorts, the Constitution more or less boils down to the famous 2nd Amendment, which establishes the right to own a firearm. And the enemy against which this sacred text must be defended is the government, suspected according to them of trying to confiscate all the weapons in circulation in order to be able to establish a dictatorship more easily.
There is a conspiracy delusion that is also part of the DNA of the ‘Oath Keepers’. They are fervent adherents of the “New World Order” conspiracy thesis, according to which most of the world’s countries would already be under the yoke of a “socialist” globalized government, and the United States would be one of the last bastions. of freedom”.
The “Oath Keepers” have applied its precepts on several occasions since 2013. Their specialty: going en masse during natural disasters or social unrest to “rescue” the population or “protect” businesses, arguing that they should not be trusted The authorities. It was during the protests in Ferguson, following the murder of a young African American by a police officer in 2014, that they first occupied the forefront of the media scene. The images of these militiamen standing, with weapons in hand, on the roofs of the buildings of the city and threatening to shoot on the protesters, went around the world.
Defend Donald Trump at any cost
With the arrival of Donald Trump to power in 2016, the ‘Oath Keepers’ “thought to finally have one of their own in the White House,” analyzes the Anti-Defamation League (ADL, for its acronym in English), another US organization of fight extremism. At that time, members of this militia systematically accompanied the president during his main meetings, improvising to be a kind of second security service.
In their alternate reality, they consider themselves to be the only ones capable of protecting it against “the internal enemy”, which considers Donald Trump as an obstacle to the establishment of this “new world order”. For them, the Black Lives Matter movement was orchestrated by the “Marxists” to destabilize the president, and the “Antifa” are agents of the “new world order.”
That being the case, it is not surprising that the ‘Oath Keepers’ were among the most willing to want to take the Capitol by storm. In 2016, Stewart Rhodes had already indicated that his movement was ready to participate in a “second civil war” if the Democrats had “stolen” the presidential election, recalls the Anti-Defamation League. According to them, the defeat of their champion in 2020 resembles a coup organized by those dark forces, and the Trump camp’s delusions regarding electoral fraud have only fueled their ghosts.
So it is also not surprising that the FBI was concerned about further outbreaks of violence on Monday until Democrat Joe Biden takes office as the new president on January 20. For groups like the “Oath Keepers” who have weapons and military experience, the stakes are crucial.
This article was adapted from its original in French