MilitiaWatch has been covering the Three Percent movement for nearly 4 years now. In that time, splinter, disintegration, and reintegration events have been plentiful as a field of highly competitive and extremely opinionated armed folks vie for influence and authority in outbursts that punctuate the seasons’ passing. A new shattering of the III% movement has led to new realignments amidst a season of great turmoil and action.
Within the III% movement, the splinter that has often been fairly central to a lot of these ground shifts within the field is that of the Security Force. This brand of III%, previously disavowed by the III% Originals and often avoided by the III% United Patriots, has been run by “General BloodAgent” Chris Hill of Georgia for years. Several articles on the III% Security Force and some of these schisms are available on MilitiaWatch, but a quick review of relevant details will be provided below.
The III% Security Force saw a major schism in late summer 2019 following a shift towards greater III% militia ‘civil disobedience’ protest gatherings on top of usual threats of violence and work as security detail. This was notable principally ahead of a national gathering planned for Arlington/DC in November 2019. Within this massive upheaval, the Declaration of Restoration coalition under Mike Rage/Tammy Lee was created to take up the reins for the November gathering, and the American Constitutional Elite (A.C.E.) III% was created by some of the former top commanders of the III% Security Force.
In late 2019 and early 2020, Hill’s discussion of the “Boogaloo” began to materialize more in the aesthetics and discourse of his leadership of his own group, as he posted memes about the coming second US civil war and even began wearing Hawaiian shirts to some of his appearances around the Southeast (a now well-known symbol of the Boogaloo ‘movement’). This seems to have mostly been an individualist ‘radicalization’ towards the Boog, and does not yet seem to indicate that his III% brand has accepted or incorporated Boogaloo modalities in any otherwise meaningful way. However, alongside this personal shift and the COVID lockdowns of the spring and early summer, a new Security Force metastasized into what was seen in the late summer.
Militia groups, like activist groups and popular movements, respond to events that may be external to them. On 4 July 2020, a Black armed movement called the Not Fucking Around Coalition (NFAC) showed up at Stone Mountain to protest alongside the historic site where the modern KKK was forged. This garnered all sorts of media coverage, especially from a quite startled conservative media apparatus with which most US residents are quite familiar. This reaction led to a few dynamics that are relevant to the story of the III% Security Force, the first of which being that many of the more dormant militia members became quite interested in doing something to counteract this new movement, and the latter of which being that the NFAC and related movements gained more interest than they’ve really ever had in recent years.
More interest in the NFAC meant that the group had a larger pool of potential members to bring to other future events and gave the leader, Grandmaster Jay, the confidence to begin organizing further events, including some that could lead to confrontation. This, in turn, also energized predominantly-white militias and armed neo-Confederate movements. It also ignited a wave of paranoia and rumor-spreading about other potential NFAC gatherings, including a 15 August protest at Stone Mountain.
On 22 July, Hawaiian-shirt clad Chris Hill, the head of the Security Force III%, streamed a video titled “Born to Boogie” in which he detailed the plans he and his group had over the next few days. These included Louisville, Kentucky; Grayson, Kentucky; McDonough, Georgia; and Stone Mountain, Georgia. He noted that 3 out of the 4 of these events involved rumored plans by the NFAC that they were responding to (the fourth being the Henry Square statue in McDonough, Georgia), adding, “We hear you. We see you. I’m not overly impressed, but I am overly concerned with these terroristic statements that are coming out.”
Louisville, the first
On 25 July 2020, an NFAC corps gathered and marched in Louisville, Kentucky, 3 weeks after their first showing in Stone Mountain. More than 300 affiliates of the NFAC showed in the downtown, demanding justice for Breonna Taylor as they marched from Baxter Park to Metro Hall. The about 1km walk down a main street in Louisville was not marked by violence beyond an accidental discharge in the park before the start of their walk.
However, prior to the NFAC arriving, a smaller gathering of III% militia members began to form in downtown Louisville. These protesters were outnumbered by NFAC and remained behind a barricade a few blocks away. Among the groups present were representatives of the Kentucky Security Force III%, Wildcard III%, and remnants of the Ohio American Constitutional Elites III% (Ohio ACE III%).
The Kentucky Security Force III%, despite being under the umbrella of Hill’s Security Force movement, does not seem to have coordinated too much with him for the gathering. The Wildcard III%, another unaffiliated III% movement mostly organized through connections from Florida, is now essentially defunct. Finally, the Ohio ACE III% contingent was led by Skylar Steward, one of the key commanders that defected from the Security Force movement last year. Chris Hill and the colleague he traveled with to Louisville with stayed in their car around the corner for a good portion of the day’s events, filming protesters from the front seats.
According to members of Chris Hill’s entourage in Louisville, the militia members he was in charge of did not fully arrive at Louisville until 3 pm the day of, and by that time NFAC was “long gone”. Disappointed members of this cohort later blamed this late start on the previous night that involved “the moonshine drinking and the weed-smoking”.
Following their success in Louisville, the NFAC announced they would be making other future plans. This sparked a series of events among the militia and neo-Confederate right that likely irrevocably changed the trajectory of the III% Security Force in particular and the III% movement as a whole.
Before the Rally
This August 15 gathering very quickly saw some online right-wing organizing in response. Most notably was the coalition formed between the Confederate States III% (CSIII) and a Georgia “Heritage Note Hate” organization. These two groups were started by Rodney Huffman and Debbie Guin, who created a joint Facebook page and for their associated movements hereto after referred to as “CS/HNH”. Both movements had separate recruitment and member groups but both Huffman and Guin were listed as admins for each. The “Defend Stone Mountain” event that they created together called for all neo-Confederates to come show the NFAC their opposition to the group’s prior presence at the site. The Atlanta Antifascists put together an extensive article on just who was involved in this page, how they were connected to other hate groups, and even gathered an extensive collection of archived links to some of the content from the now-deleted pages.
The Confederate States III% is a relatively small militia gathering given the massive geography they claim to represent. It is headquartered out of Arkansas, which joined the Confederacy after the capture of Fort Sumter in April 1861 that marked the start of the Civil War. The actors of the CSIII% have a history of White Nationalist and Neo-Confederate organizing outside of the III% militia structure, and the CSIII% seemingly seeks to skim Neo-Confederate militia members from the national III% militia movements rather than splintering from an existing movement.
A hoax right-wing page for the NFAC announced a 15 August return to Stone Mountain, but no official channel appears to have ever made this announcement. This hoax was likely to encourage further outrage and thereby further recruitment for the ensuing 15 August event. Conveniently, leaders of the 15 August rally also claimed at the last minute that the NFAC had canceled their plans to attend. A good bit of the CS/NHN coalition also seemingly canceled. However, some still showed up and were met by major opposition, and not from the NFAC.
Ahead of the gathering at Stone Mountain, the park authority closed off all access to the park where the initial rally permits were declined, meaning much of the activity of the day happened just outside the park.
The FrontLine Organization Working to End Racism (FLOWER) coalition gathered hundreds of anti-racist protesters to counter any Neo-Confederate or militia groups that showed up. After a bit of waiting, some did show.
Chris Hill’s III% Security Force showing was about 10 people, who gathered by their pickup trucks before marching to where counterprotesters were waiting after discussing the need to ‘secure’ a nearby gas station. Some came wearing Confederate flags on their clothing/gear.
Other militias involved in the gathering include the relatively new American Brotherhood of Patriots (ABP), which is linked to the American Patriots USA (APUSA) organization. APUSA is a hate group founded by Neo-Nazi Chester Doles and with heavy involvement from former Georgia Security Force III% member Michael Boggus.
Also in attendance were several right-wing Christian groups, such as the Free Patriots Forever. The group also has overlap with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Neo-Confederate activist organization gathering in opposition to tearing down or moving Confederate statues and monuments. While these groups are fairly distinct from militia movements they were attending alongside, there is some record of overlap between right-wing militia movements and Christian extremism, through both “Crusader” imagery/ideology and anti-Muslim sentiment.
One relatively new development that first appeared at this Stone Mountain rally was the use of anti-wasp and anti-hornet spray by the right-wing cohort (below, images provided by WFT from the gathering).
This new appearance of wasp/hornet spray is in some ways an escalation from the pepper spray often used by these folks at these clashes in that it’s using a product that launches a mist of neurotoxin suspension up to twenty feet out. The labels on these products clearly indicate that they should never be pointed at another human being, and the labels are technically legally enforceable, according to the EPA. That this legal enforcement has yet to be the case isn’t particularly surprising, but these sprays are also likely less for self-defense and more for inflicting harm and generating fear. Most self-defense experts point to the fact that wasp spray does not have an immediate effect like pepper spray, which blinds and chokes the victim, opting to label it not particularly useful in real self-defense applications.
However, the longer-term effects of insect spray and the spectacle accompanying its use is almost certainly the real point. The label for Raid says the product is harmful if it comes into contact with skin, and warns especially of it getting in eyes or being otherwise ingested. According to an article on Angie’s List, similar sprays can cause “difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting, stupor and sometimes tremors or seizures”. Perhaps even more important than these health impacts is how frightening it is to be sprayed by pesticides, given that they are intended to be used to kill insects quickly.
Also of note is that insect sprays like Raid are usually cheaper than pepper spray or bear mace and are more readily available at more stores, meaning they can be bought in large quantities en route to a gathering and easily distributed among a cohort of activists.
The 15 August gathering was punctuated by a series of extremely tense moments. Several fights broke out in front of the Stone Mountain First United Methodist Church involving armed militia members, Confederates, and counterprotesters. Members of the Free Patriots Forever group were highly involved in the brawls. A tense faceoff between Chris Hill and a counterprotester involved them gripping their handguns only a few feet away from each other.
Later on in the afternoon, police in riot gear showed up to clear the protests, advancing with the chief on a bullhorn and cops chanting “move back” in unison as they walked forward. Activists chanted back at the police “cops and the Klan, hand in hand”. Another confrontation between Hill and an activist with a shotgun was extended over several minutes just ahead of the phalanx of riot police.
Some may be wondering how the III% Security Force saw a poor showing at Stone Mountain, given that the leader lives in Georgia. This is partially explained by yet another schism among the III% Security Force militia ahead of the 15 August gathering.
Following the 25 July rally in Louisville 3 weeks prior, members of most major militias were subject to a common line of discussion among the American right-wing militia movement: the mobilization from keyboard to pavement. Chris Hill’s III% Security Force had a notably light showing in Louisville, partially due to a diminished and splintering Kentucky chapter.
Disgruntled militia members from within his realm of organizing publicly condemned Hill for a string of abuse related to his station as de facto III% Security Force leader. This culminated in a series of III% Security Force chapters outwardly and publicly encouraging other militia-seeking individuals to avoid the III% Security Force in its entirety.
Audio leaked from a particularly aggressive exchange featuring Hill fantasizing about killing and raping one of the members of his militia. Some of those leaving III% Security Force alleged more problems with Hill’s over-drinking (a common claim by members when they are breaking ranks with Hill) as well as violence against women (a relatively new claim by this round of defecting members). It was an exceedingly messy period of disintegration that resulted in Hill deleting his Facebook accounts, purging his militia’s Facebook groups, and taking a brief respite from his live streams.
In the wake of the schism, some new units have appeared and others remain within a transformational space, saying they will reappear with new names and missions in the future.
The massive Facebook crackdown on militia pages (and also QAnon and Antifa pages) has largely disrupted this re-establishment on the platform, as pages that would have been one of only a few remaining avenues for spreading information of these new formations have been removed or are under constant threat of potentially being removed. Those that have been able to have migrated to their own sites, often with locked-down private forums with little outside moderation. Others have moved to sites that have opened their doors to those kicked off of Facebook and Twitter for sharing false information or hate speech, including Parler, Gab, and Wimkin.
One new formation that has made itself known publicly, though, is the National Patriotic Defense Team (NPDT), who made their new presence known on 22 August 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky, as the group defended a parking lot from whatever threats of antifa violence they claimed to be arriving to oppose. The group partially comes out of the further transformation of the Wildcard III% organization, headed by Tara “Hoggirl” Brandau.
A new(ish) face
Tara Brandau, the previous leader of the Wildcard III% and now leader of the NPDT has years of history organizing around defense of Confederate monuments, which very well may have been her introduction to the III% militia movement.
Prior to Louisville, Tara was a member of the Florida III% Security Force and intimately involved in organizing with the CSA II, or the New Confederate States of America, going briefly viral in late 2017 for joining two other out-of-state activists in organizing a rally in Virginia to defend a Confederate monument. The rally did not go in Tara’s favor and she and her other “Heritage Not Hate” organizers fled the scene in a pickup truck before starting a gofundme for travel costs out of Richmond. Prior to this, Brandau was also involved with the Florida chapter of the Save Our Southern Heritage (SOSH) organization. Even before that, in late 2015, she was also involved in the Stone Mountain Confederate flag rally, too. This event very well may have been Brandau’s introduction to the III% Security Force, as its leader, Chris Hill, was photographed in attendance by Steve Eberhardt in the Guardian’s article about the event.
Tara also has a fascinating history with the League of the South (LoS), a group previously covered on MilitiaWatch as they tried (and failed) to launch their own militia organization, the Southern Defense Force (note: it appears that elements of the Southern Defense Force may have returned).
Brandau used to be very close with a Florida LOS member named Mary Barlow, who is now well-documented by the SPLC in sowing dissent among her local LOS chapter. The drama within FLOS garnered Barlow an endorsement from the head of the LOS, Michael Hill (no known relation to III% SF’s Chris Hill). Brandau and Barlow in the past few years have had a falling out due to Brandau’s commitment to the Confederate Battle Flag being a marker of history rather than of racism, whereas Barlow (and the greater LOS body, too) claim that the flag is indicative of and aspirational to a white Confederate ethnostate.
In another indication of this split between Brandau’s HNH and the LOS organization, Tara Brandau’s 2017 retreat from her own rally garnered scoffs from a LOS-affiliated Confederate group who referred to Brandau and her cohort as “nothing more than yella-belly flaggers”.
Skylar Steward’s Ohio ACE III% has also seen some major fluctuations before Louisville and in the wake of it. The whole of the ACE III% structure has been fairly quiet since late 2019, when a frenzy of interest and organizing in the wake of the III% Security Force schism was occurring. The de facto leader of the ACE III% movement and the head of the Ohio chapter, Steward, seems to have since moved on from the group. His new organization, the Ohio Patriotz III%, has seemingly attempted to provide yet another outlet for non-aligned III% organizing in his state. Here’s a picture of Steward among other Ohio Patriotz III% from their website, edited for clarity:
Steward has moved through a whole slew of different III% movements and been filmed at all sorts of armed events, whether attending with his group or on his own. He, of course, was involved in the III% Security Force’s move towards anti-abortion activism in 2019, where he publicly replied to Chris Hill with the following about doctors who provided abortive services:
Louisville, the second
Following the events covered above, the NFAC declared that it would once more be marching in Louisville, this time on the day of the Kentucky Derby, 5 September. In response, several right-wing armed groups began discussions of their own response.
On the day of the gathering, two armed contingents convened and marched in mostly-separate areas of the city. The first gathering was led by the NFAC, featuring some of NFAC leader Grandmaster Jay’s first ‘official’ media interviews. The second gathering featured an amalgamation of several right-wing militia groups led by Dylan “Angry Viking” Stevens, including the National Patriotic Defense Team and several unidentified Three Percenter militia. Another individual identified himself as a representative of the “B.E.A.R. Militia” but was perhaps the only militiaman present with the lime green letters emblazoned on their rig.
While there was no direct confrontation between the militia groups, there were a lot of familiar patterns from the Stone Mountain gathering. One of the more concerning is the repeat presence of wasp/hornet spray, with journalist Ryland Barton reporting on right-wing activists bringing and passing out the poison sprays to other people in the protest. This is a worrying trend that now seems to be catching on with anti-BLM activists in multiple areas of operations.
Also during the day of the gathering, anti-racist and right-wing activists clashed outside the Louisville Metro Hall, prompting the militia groups to quickly turn to leave the area. Within half an hour of this militia withdrawal, the Louisville Metro Police arrived on the scene, armed with pepper guns and riot gear.
This final point is something of another emerging pattern, wherein forces excuse their response as LMPD did, by declaring that they “did not want to escalate the situation with police presence” despite a record of disproportionate response against peaceful protests in Louisville.
There’s a lot up in the air right now about the US militia movement, just as there is a lot of movement politically in the US. These changes within the III% movement, previously likely the largest national militia movement, are going to have rippling effects throughout much of the armed organized right-wing. That these changes are happening in concert with many other crucial dynamics is likely less than coincidental, and future MilitiaWatch articles will be covering some of these other shifts.
Revisions: 21 September 2020 – Updated text regarding NFAC “plans” for 15 August 2020 to reflect that the group indeed had no intention to come to Stone Mountain and the claims of their planned attendance were fabricated by right-wing activists to curry further support for the CS/HNH rally at the site. Many thanks to Atlanta Antifascists for their continued deep research into these dynamics.
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