Page 13


Fry, held in San Antonio in September 1994 by the Texas Sportsmen Legal Fund, a group opposed to the federal Endangered Species Act, Eubanks said, “It became clear that there was a much closer relationship [between the extremists and the mainstream groups] than we had known about. I’ve been an environmentalist 25 years and I’ve seen a bunch of snakes crawl out in that time, but I’d never seen anything like this.” Among the pamphlets available at the event was a five-page document, “How Did We Become Slaves,” a chronology of the perceived deterioration of personal rights from the American Revolution to the present. Echoing the anti-civil rights rhetoric of the 1960s, the document finds the federal government veering away from states’ rights in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. It argues that the federal government now slyly requires people to declare themselves as U.S. citizens on most official documents, which waives their rights as “sovereign state citizens”; libertarians are advised to rescind and revoke their signatures on all such contracts to assert state citizenship. Also handed out at the event was a “Declaration of Treason and Call for Prosecution” from the Sons of Liberty, who have resolved that by passing unconstitutional laws such as the Endangered Species Act, members of Congress have committed treason. In the past, when he was pushing the federal government to require shrimpers to use turtle excluder devices, Eubanks said he received death threats, but it was clear that those people were mad for the moment. Facing treason charges is a new wrinkle. “I’m not convinced these people on the far right will let their anger dissipate,” he said. “These people are mad at the world.” OVER THE PAST few years groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and Klanwatch have been tracking the rise of militias, including organizations near Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and in central Texas. Both groups sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno last October expressing their alarm at the growth of the militia movement. “They are conspiracy-obsessed extremists who are armed to the teeth and are basically paranoid that the federal government is taking over their livesparticularly the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,” said Jonathan Bernstein of the Anti-Defamation League in Houston. “They are opposed to gun control and they rally around the Waco incident and the Randy Weaver shootout [in Idaho].” They share some ideology but it is a mistake to confuse the militias with white supremacists, Bernstein said. “While we have found a number of members and leaders tied to the neo-Nazis and the Klan, we’re dealing with a new crop of extremists here,” he said. “They’ve been successful in attracting people to their cause because of the popular anti-government sentiment. You’re not going to find too much diversity in these groups, but racism isn’t what drives them.” Still, there is an element of racism and anti-Semitism that underlies in their rage. “The U.S. government is the enemy, particularly the FBI and ATF,” said Mark Briskman, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Dallas office. “They believe there will be a takeover by the United Nations and that the first step will be the confiscation of weapons and that eventually the FBI and the ATF will break down your door looking for weapons. Where they get into the anti-Semitic rhetoric is in the New World Order that they believe is behind all this,” he said. They believe the New World Order is driven by the international bankers, who are controlled by eight families, seven of which are Jewish [the other being the Rockefellers.] “It’s like peeling away the skin of an onion before you get there, but it’s there,” Briskman said. “It took me one time three hours of conversation with one of these militia members to get down to the antiSemitism, because they usually try to sidetrack you.” Out of an estimated 10,000 militia members nationwide, Bernstein said, perhaps 100 are identified in Texas. \(Texas militia spokesmen claim upwards of 2,000 regular members, although they consider every citKlan has been on a downward spiral in membership and financing, Bernstein said, the militias and patriot groups have been growing. TEXAS MILITIAS HAVE not been publicity-shy. Jon Roland, a founder of the Texas Militia Correspondence Committee, issued a press release in August 1994 announcing that “constitutional militias” had been organized in 15 states, including at least 10 counties in Texas. He stated that the recruitment was being done mainly by word of mouth and announcements on talk radio. He said the main motivator was the gun-control provisions of the crime bill. “People everywhere see it not only as a major assault on their constitutional rights to keep and bear arms, but as a more sinister preparation for depriving them of their other constitutional rights after they have been disarmed,” he said. “They perceive a greater threat from criminal officials than from criminal street gangs.” But gun-rights advocates were not the only ones involved, he said. “This crime bill is only the latest move in what people perceive as a progressive overthrow of the Constitution by a conspiracy of special interests that are not accountable to the people and which operate above the law.” He said the assault on Mount Carmel was a “wakeup call for our generation. The whole world saw agents of the U.S. government, supposed to be the standard for liberty, get away with murder. We no longer regard the Feds as the good guys, without question.” William Utterback of San Antonio, a former commander for the Texas Constitutional Militia in southern Texas, agrees with the sentiments but he quit the militia in January. “I decided that the militia was not the answer; if anything, it’s part of the problem, because it’s based on violence,” he said. “Even through the Texas militia is pretty non-violent it is still based on the potential for violence and we have a very sick society … The way I explained it to the county commanders was that I had felt a better understanding of God’s love and I chose not to be responsible for violence in any way.” His political views have not changed and he will remain active in politics, where he ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for Bexar County sheriff in 1992. \(He got 12,960 votes, and I believe in the Constitution. I also know that the federal government is far exceeding its constitutional authority,” he said. A few militia members are reconsidering their activity as a result of the bombing, Utterback said. “I think everybody is upset and concerned about the way the federal government, with the cooperation of the media, is portraying it. If anything they have made it worse [with] the government, through the media, trying to connect the militia to white supremacists and killers and bombers.” Utterback, who operates a “spiritually oriented” bookstore in San Antonio, said the militia leadership has tried to discourage racist talk among its members and he cautioned that militia members should not be confused with sovereignty activiststhe ones who are obsessed with the 14th Amendment and don’t believe in drivers’ licenses or taxes. Both groups are part of the broader-based patriot movement, united by their desire to limit the federal government. Alejandro De Pena of San Antonio, the new commander of the Texas Constitutional Militia for the southern region, said he respected Utterback’s “spiritual awakening, where it is difficult for him to conceive of arming anyonemay we all get therebut I still remember that Jesus said if you don’t have a sword, sell your robe and buy one.” De Pena said the resolve of the remaining militia members has not wavered. “All the county militias have realized that they have done no wrong and don’t intend to. I can’t speak for all militia memberswhich is the entire population of the statebut those who have gotten together to exercise their THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7 , .