This post is a follow-up on some of the loose ends of a previous piece on splinters within the III% movement, particularly with regards to the III% Security Force and its affiliated activists and figureheads.
Much has happened since this earlier piece, but this update seeks to focus on the November 9th gathering anticipated in the previous article alongside the politics, uprisings, and fallout surrounding the event. I strongly recommend reading this previous bit of writing before diving into this one.
From a “redress of grievances” on February 23, 2019 (termed “223”) to its March 23 follow-up to a planned November 9 rally in DC, Chris Hill of the III% Security Force (III%SF) and Georgia Security Force III% (GSFIII) seemed to be organizing a new era of national militia gatherings.
His excited posting on Facebook and YouTube in June drew consistent responses from all the active members of his loosely-organized militia brand. He seemed excited about the prospect of this November 9 gathering in DC, where they would march, rally, and hand over a list of their grievances to the national government. The Facebook event had gathered over 5,000 potential attendees (participation is usually in single-digit percentages of these sorts of numbers, but that thousands were cued into the planning of the event is notable).
In August, though, after months of planning and building hype, Hill followed a pattern familiar in these militia spaces and with himself, too: he deleted the primary organizing Facebook group for his network.
Skylar Steward, one of the more active members of the III%SF, very quickly moved to disparage his former comrade and to say outright that the “III% Security Force has dissolved.” Multiple quotes from Steward alongside some other good reporting by Jordan Green can be found in the Triad City Beat here. Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog also covered this split in its immediate happenings in an article here.
In the wake of this split, Steward wasted little time in forming his own new group. This new organization was named the American Constitutional Elite (ACE) and publicly declared in an August 27 video that Steward shared in Facebook groups like “UNITED AMERICAN PATRIOTS & HEROES!”, “2020 Trump for President Group”, and “Yellow Vest Ohio”. These groups didn’t earn him much engagement but his now 4-month-old video received over 100 comments hailing from all over the country.
Rather than post “guns up” in the chat like folks have been doing in III%SF cyberspace, people commented, “ACES UP”. People commenting from Oregon, Missouri, New Hampshire, etc asked Skylar how to join the organization. Arizona’s AC Lytle, previously reported as defending Chris Hill, commented to Steward about the affair.
The “hundreds of us that left” III%SF, according to Steward, formed the backbone of this new organization. The executive leadership of ACE, according to Steward, is comprised of three “generals” of equal authority to oversee another loose network of state chapters. The leadership of state chapters of ACE then form a national committee for the militia group to update each other about their respective state activities.
The announcement video from Skylar included much discussion on standard operating procedures (SOPs) that ACE would follow. To be discontinued are “drunken ramblings” on Facebook Live, a clear reaction to Chris Hill’s late-night live-streams.
By the end of Steward’s announcement stream, he was pushing the group’s new t-shirt design, which features the III% logo with “A.C.E.” printed below it over the left breast and the larger ACE shield/card graphic on the back.
A point of great chagrin for the III%SF was a disagreement over copyright with the III% logo after a falling out with another III% organization that owned the copyright for the roman numeral logo.
The ACE shirt was also part of a fundraiser for the National Veterans Foundation Inc, part of Steward’s announced plan that this new iteration of post-III%SF militia programming would include more public service and fundraising to bolster the group’s image and to meet their agreed-upon mission.
Some ACE chapters have made Facebook pages, but the organization appears to be less online than previous III% iterations. One of those online is the “Wisconsin American Constitutional Elites III%”, with a Facebook page created on October 6, 2019, and 1 member in the group. There is also a fan page for “American Constitutional Elites III% West Virginia” with 23 likes. This chapter of ACE describes itself as a “III% based Brotherhood”. There is also a page for “American Constitutional Elites Texas” with 89 likes at the time of writing. This page has a screenshot from ‘constitutionus.com’ as its display image.
There are other chapters that do not have an official Facebook presence, such as a Michigan chapter led by William Daniel Hatton and the Ohio chapter from which Skylar Steward hails.
Though maybe a function of time or of more clandestine organizing by the group, ACE doesn’t have nearly as large of a footprint on social media as the group from which it splintered. However, it isn’t too hard to dig into some of these chapters to examine their leadership, membership, and any changes to their ideology or aesthetics. For this, we will use the “American Constitutional Elites Texas” (or Texas ACE III%).
Texas ACE III% has 3 primary leaders. These men all sign things with their militia aliases noted above.
Chris “CDub” Ingrassi, for example, has used this split to pretty much continue as he has been with his III% involvement. He posts photos of himself kitted out in his kitchen, throws up III% hand signs in photos from FTXs, and ends a lot of public Facebook posts with “!!!%” (for example, ending a post about being tired of work with “let’s get this paper!!!%”).
Since the split with III% Security Force, ACE has been pretty quiet. It is clear, however, that they have been hosting some FTXs. These events, for many III% movements, were not only a chance to network and train in person but an opportunity to grab film and photos for the group’s public propaganda. It remains unclear if ACE III% collected this media or will be putting out videos from their exercises, but there is substantial evidence from individual members’ pages that they have been attending these gatherings.
Feuds Anew: A bitter split and the figures involved
This split not only led to the creation of ACE, but ignited new bitter feuds within a movement that had been decently cohesive for months. This involved some of the more active members of Hill’s old Facebook organizing group, who turned on one another but especially against him.
Michael Boggus, a Georgia resident and former member of GSFIII, responded to a comrade, William Daniel Hatton (another former III%SF, mentioned above as head of ACE’s Michigan chapter) posting drama saying, “Brother he [Hill] isn’t worth it. He is the type that would call the law after a ass whooping”.
However, despite the massive upswell in drama and badmouthing between people who might have been friendly and interested in working together just the week before, it’s important to also recognize that many relationships did continue in the aftermath of this schism.
The creation of ACE, while being notable of the splinter, did not necessarily disrupt some of the planning that Chris Hill and III%SF had been doing for their November march. Two figures rose to great prominence in the wake of Hill deleting his militia Facebook group, and the two have remained quite recognizable through the start of 2020.
These two are “Tammy Lee” and “Mike Rage”. Both use aliases based on their real names, which are not difficult to find, as Tammy oscillates between both on her personal pages, but uses “Tammy Lee” as her public militia name. Mike Rage also has a whole collection of public videos from before the schism where he used his full real name, too, but “Mike Rage” was the name he elected to put forward in the wake of this disjointed coup d’etat of sorts. For this article, I will keep using their selected public aliases to keep things consistent.
(Tammy Lee was previously affiliated with the American Freedom Keepers (AFK), partially detailed here. Mike Rage has been affiliated with the III% United Patriots (III%UP), who are significantly overlapped with AFK’s membership, especially post-2017. They are not newcomers to the militia movement, but their explosive rise to prominence revolves in many ways around the events detailed here.)
Immediately after Hill’s breakdown, Mike was on Facebook Live to let everyone know that the November 9th rally and march was still going to happen, but under new leadership. He immediately contacted police in DC and Virginia to secure the permits under his own name since Hill had done that groundwork previously.
Before the time of writing, Rage posted his DMs with Hill, but has since deleted or restricted the posts to keep the drama out of the public eye. After the media began discussing this split, Mike Rage and many of his cohort appear to have tried to cover their bases, opting to go silent publicly on this affair.
It appears that it wasn’t too difficult for Rage and Lee to reconstitute a lot of the more active members of Hill’s prior militia page, something that speaks to how interconnected so many of these active users have become over the past few years. (Connections through these spaces have led to multiple offshoot organizations and even active organizations of great concern such as the III%SF’s Crusader spinoffs.) If a similar cyberspace event were to have happened in 2014, I’m not sure that Mike Rage and his cohort would have been able to reorganize themselves so quickly.
Mike’s angry live streams on Facebook and the distance he put between himself and Chris Hill earned him a new following from within what was the III% movement. Prior to the crisis, he wasn’t too well-known in some of the spaces his new followers were fleeing, though he was obviously quite aware of their organizing and efforts.
In the following couple of months, Tammy Lee would ascend to her role of influence within this reconstituted militia movement around the November rally. Her streams, a weekly feature of those involved in this thread of the militia movement, were unapologetic and usually quite pointed at both Democrats and her opponents within the militia environment.
On January 6, 2020, Tammy made a fan page for her streams. Within just a few days, she garnered over 300 likes and 400 follows (likely this page precedes her announcing a run for office and she still uses personal pages to post about militias and conservative issues publicly today). This brings up an interesting point regarding militia organizing in the contemporary: the movement is always claiming local autonomy and influence yet keeps platforming and encouraging national thought-leaders and figures. If it isn’t Georgia’s Chris Hill, it’s Ohio’s Skylar Steward or Montana’s Stewart Rhodes that are earning a great audience and following.
Under the leadership of Mike Rage and Tammy Lee (and before the creation of Tammy’s fan page), the November 9th gathering/rally/march was to happen. The event, though, was renamed to the “Declaration of Restoration” and involved the creation of an edited Declaration of Independence, a document with all sorts of font choices and italics over areas that seemed especially pressing to the militia folks who redrafted the historical document.
This organizing has partially happened through a Facebook group dedicated to the Declaration of Restoration event. Michael Boggus, mentioned above, is one of the moderators of the group.
November 9th: 2 days of action
On November 8, several members of the militia cohort arrived early to DC ahead of their coming event.
A small corps of these folks toured around some of the sights and sites, posing for photos with monuments and in museums in a day of mostly relaxation before their big day.
Mike Rage and Tammy Lee took several photos together. This was likely their first time meeting in person and they seemed thrilled to finally be sharing their company at such an exciting time for them.
But November 8 wasn’t just for socialization and tourism. Mike and Tammy showed up early to deliver their “Declaration of Restoration” to representatives of the US government. The representatives, it turns out, were the office of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, and Patty Murray. It does not appear that they actually met with Cruz or Jordan, but they did confirm that they handed in a signed document to their offices. Murray was present to receive her copy.
This declaration, a subject of great excitement for months of posting online, was delivered with little fanfare and a small group of militia folks involved. Regardless of the humble showing, Rage and Lee were thrilled that they had dropped off a redress of grievances with the federal government at some level.
The next day was the highly-anticipated march. Dozens showed up for the event, but nowhere near the number of people claimed by militia representatives or Facebook events. They marched across the bridge and took photos on the Mall, networking in person with militia members from several states.
For the rally at the Mall, several speakers addressed a crowd of a few dozen. The speakers, taking the podium in front of a pick-up truck with a “Declaration of Restoration” banner attached to it, covered a good range of speaking styles and topics and stayed for photo ops.
At the march, Mike Rage declared that this was not just a declaration, but the start of a movement, the “American Movement”. It is yet unclear what his plans for this specific movement are, but it has already changed his Facebook bio, which now reads “The American Movement”. Before this American Movement could catch on, though, Rage and Lee have pushed forward with their organizing along the lines of the Declaration of Restoration group, which Rage often cites as “DoR” (pronounced “door”). DoR, in some ways, is an acronym that has become a stand-in for any other acronym’ed militia group that Rage and Lee’s organizing might be publicly affiliated with and might be one of the more successful attempts to gather (former) III%SF, III% United Patriots, and ostensibly ACE III% despite past divisions or disagreements.
Afterlives of this split
Mike Rage and Tammy Lee are fairly different from Chris Hill. Skylar Steward is also different from Chris Hill. In some ways, these four represent different shades of the Patriot militia movement going into 2020, not necessarily by ideology but by public outlook and optics.
Rage posts publicly his opinions in rambling posts showing his anger at the current system or people starting fights among militia groups. While he doesn’t shy away from posting about the III% or about his involvement with the US militia movement, he doesn’t seem to be as interested in showing himself as very armed, wearing a collared shirt or a t-shirt instead of a plate carrier or chest rig. He has been having some private health issues and has mostly remained pretty quiet about a lot of things since the DoR event. As he is heading into post-DoR organizing, he says he will no longer be holding his tongue for civility’s sake, though.
Skylar Steward, on the other hand, often shows himself to emphasize the armed and combat-ready side of his idea of the militia. He has locked a lot of his more public organizing down and seems to be taking operational security a bit more seriously than a lot of Patriot militias organizing on Facebook have been.
Tammy Lee, like Mike Rage, has been less interested in showing herself as an armed and camo-clad militant, preferring to post daily streams and to relay news articles about whatever organizing in which she is taking part. She has taken on a very public persona, unafraid to boost her videos to a wide audience over multiple platforms and unafraid to call out people within the militia movement with whom she disagrees.
Chris Hill, a long-time spokesperson for the militia movement and endlessly quoted in mainstream media accounts despite the recent fractures has been known for his incendiary and casual style. He’s shown himself as a camo-wearing armed militant, an open-carry activist in collared shirts, and a guy interested in late-night hangouts on Facebook Live after a few beers.
Some (A)Critical Support for DoR and Old Faces Renewed
Hill has been understandably bitter during some streams, expressing his sadness and anger at his November 9 organizing being taken over by these folks, but it’s also interesting seeing some other militia responses to their rallying and organizing.
For example, George Curbelo, the second in command of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia at the time of the #UniteTheRight in Charlottesville, Virginia, has expressed his support for the November 9th gathering.
Curbelo has been associated with what some might consider the more “moderate” end of militia activity in the US, and his endorsement of Rage’s activities is likely fairly meaningful among Constitutionalist tendencies within the field. It is unclear if there has been any coordination since and Curbelo has taken a few steps back from being a public representative of militia activity in his state, likely due to the disaster at Charlottesville a little over 2 years ago.
DoR also allowed for organizers of sometimes disparate movements within the militia arena to meet and hit the ground together. It provided space for their activism to take center stage and a meeting in physical space that wasn’t for an FTX or first aid training.
So why is this all so important right now?
You may have heard the news of militias and 2nd Amendment groups preparing to gather in Virginia on January 20th, Martin Luther King Jr Day.
Many of those groups discussed here, and in particular, the figureheads of these programs as identified above, are planning to attend this rally. The rally has been a massive point of discussion within the militia sphere and some of these tensions have played out even as folks are planning on appearing in the same space together. How these tensions may affect the gathering is yet to be known, but MilitiaWatch will be following up on this event in its aftermath, too.
In the meantime, here are a few relevant stories about this upcoming rally for you to read:
The Virginia 2A rally is not the only bit of similar organizing going on from the DoR folks right now, either, as they prepare for New York action in the coming months (to be covered in an upcoming article).
Originally posted on MilitiaWatch on .
Exported and reposted on July 28, 2020.