Monthly: Mar 23

Greetings, MilitiaWatch readers! Here’s a review of militia activity in March of 2023. Apologies for the delay in publication. Last month’s update (February 2023) is available here. This month’s updates include more Oath Keepers convictions, Kenosha militia appointments, more updates in the Southwest, a late update on a militia leader running for mayor, and some discourse on a county militia in Virginia.

6 More Oath Keepers Convicted for J6 Shenanigans

Six more members of the national militia movement known as the Oath Keepers were found guilty in a trial by jury in Washington, DC, on March 20. William Isaacs, Connie Meggs, Sandra Parker, and Laura Steele were found guilty of entering the Capitol during the riot and trying to reach lawmakers. Michael Greene and Bennie Parker, who did not go into the Capitol Building, were found guilty of contributing to planning the conspiracy. None of these six defendants faced seditious conspiracy charges, which caught up with several other prominent Oath Keepers prior.

Kenosha County Executive Nominates Militia Leader to Committee

On March 7, Kenosha County executive Samantha Kerkman named Kevin Matthewson of the Kenosha Guard an appointee to a country emergency planning committee. Matthewson, a former alder, is perhaps most nationally famous for putting out the militia “muster call” ahead of the night of the Rittenhouse shootings in August 2020.

Another two controversial appointments by Kerkman include those to the Racial Ethnic Equity Commission (REEC), a Kenosha officer who killed Michael Bell in 2004 (a case that remains deeply contested over mistruths from police accounts) and Xavier Solis, who helped raise funds for Rittenhouse after the aforementioned shooting.

On March 23, Matthewson withdrew his eligibility from the appointment, saying that he wouldn’t be able to maintain his neutrality as a journalist if he became part of the committee.

Despite heated opposition and resignations among sitting committee members, both new REEC candidates were approved.

Updates in Southwest

The Yavapai County Preparedness Team (YCPT), an autonomous Oath Keepers chapter and the largest remaining of the movement, continued their biweekly meeting schedule in their new Prescott location. At a March 11 event, they held a brief training/Q&A on “perimeter defense” and announced a late-April “Creation Science” tour of the Grand Canyon.

This month, Veterans on Patrol, a border militia that is not led by a veteran and rarely follows regular patrol patterns, escalated their activity against nonprofits that provide humanitarian aid (food and water) to those crossing the US-Mexico border. Paul “DarkSkyWatcher74” Flores, a media fixture of right-wing border activism, said he was watching these humanitarian groups on hidden trail cameras closely and claimed to know all of the groups’ “drops”. The VOP, specifically Shawna “Butterfly” Martin, also once more documented their coordination with Border Patrol, filming themselves waiting in the desert with children and teens they had detained and given Bibles to.

On March 9, Rolling Stone published an article about Arizona Boogaloo adherent Eric “Enrico Wood” Scionti of Tempe, Arizona. According to the feds, Scionti has been on the run since they raided his home on January 18. Scionti has a slew of felonies to his name, including firearms and narcotics charges, but was also stockpiling weapons and believed that tensions between Trump and Biden would spark further national unrest. Scionti was also a low-level PornHub content creator, and tweets under an anime Nazi avatar with verification by Twitter Blue.

Missed Story: Colorado Militia Leader Runs for Mayor

MilitiaWatch missed this story last month so we cover it here: Tig Tiegen, who founded the United American Defense Force (UADF) in 2020, is running for Colorado Springs mayor. Tiegen is a Marine Corps vet who rocketed to fame for being at the US Consulate in Benghazi during the 2012 attack that resulted in the death of US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens (and writing a book on it). He filed to run for the office in the last week of January and has been campaigning since.

Tiegen’s UADF is the militia arm of Faith Education Commerce United (FEC United), which was founded by Joe Oltmann, a right-wing podcaster who has successfully pushed violent rhetoric further into the conservative mainstream. Oltmann has been wrapped up in a defamation case due to his false statements on the 2020 election.

Colorado Public Radio gathered information from surveys and interviews Tiegen took up through March 17 and helpfully combined them for their readership. Unsurprisingly, Tiegen pushes an extremely pro-cop agenda, dodges 3 questions by saying “having an educated response for any changes would be a fallacy to reality”, and describes his desire to repair roads in the city.

Tiegen spoke at a March 28 event hosted by a militant pastor as a weeknight campaign stop. During the speaking engagement, he compared his militia group to the Oath Keepers and the Three Percent movement, describing a loss of membership due to fallout after the January 6 Capitol storming.

Bedford County Militia Draws Ire, Defense

On March 26, The Roanoke Times published Donna StClair’s opinion piece on the Bedford County Militia, wherein she decries the Bedford County Supervisors’ May 26, 2020 “Militia Resolution”, which recognized the group on a 6-2 split. This op-ed has spurred a series of other citizen responses, to be detailed briefly below.

Two quick key notes:

  • The Roanoke Times covers activity in Roanoke and surrounding areas. Bedford County borders Roanoke County to the east.
  • The Bedford County Militia is one of a handful of county militia groups that were established in the wake of the VCDL’s 2020 Lobby Day. The BCM mustered in mid-February, as part of the first wave of such muster calls (MW post on these musters still in drafts folder, unfortunately…). While most other VCDL-aided county militias have demobilized since 2021, the Bedford County Militia has remained influential. A couple of links on reporting of BCM here and here.

Donna StClair’s March 26 opinion piece focused on a few criticisms of the BCM: that they take the official name of “Bedford County Militia” that should be reserved for the National Guard, that they are anonymous and “might as well be wearing sheets”, and that their official state recognition threatens locals who might disagree politically with their right-wing politics.

On April 4, a week after the initial opinion piece, David Saur wrote a response claiming that BCM “are just neighbors prepared to help their neighbors” and “is a non-political organization”.

On April 5, The Roanoke Times published another letter responding to StClair, this time authored by Keith Franklin, who identifies himself as “on opposite sides of many issues, particularly gun control” from St.Clair. He then takes her stance that anonymity is the militia’s problem, and draws a connection to a book about terrorism.

On April 6, The Roanoke Times published a fourth letter by Robert A. Young, once more responding to StClair’s opinion piece. This one describes the Bedford County Militia as a “hobby group” and criticizes her letter as full of “jump[s] from reality” and “quibbles”. Young then jumps to vague accusations about Hillary Clinton and George Soros before cutting himself short. Just three weeks prior, Young wrote another letter to the newspaper calling on supporters of Bernie Sanders to “Stop buying $900 5G phones and step up!”.

There’s likely to be further follow-up on this topic, as the BCM remains one of only a few publicly-active militia groups in much of the US. They use media opportunities to spread their view of events and their own conceptualization of the “non-political” nature of their group.

Thanks for reading this month’s review of militia happenings. See y’all in about 4 weeks for the April 2023 review.