Monthly: Apr 23

Greetings! Here’s another MilitiaWatch monthly, this time covering April 2023. The update for March 2023 is available for your convenience here. This month, we cover several stories, including a BBQ standoff, more hijinx in Shasta County, and some more updates on the never-ending J6 trials.

Ammon Bundy Faces Arrest Warrant, Hosts Barbecue

Ammon Bundy, the man in a cowboy hat and some fan theories about the US government and who is perhaps most known for his 2014 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (for which he faced little to no accountability), is once more in legal hot water. Bundy is facing a warrant for his arrest after failing to disclose financial information during the discovery phase of a case brought against him by the Meridian, ID St. Luke’s hospital. St. Luke’s alleges that Bundy and his followers (specifically the militia-movement-tinged Peoples Rights Network) encouraged harassment of hospital staff while amplifying a related health event to raise money for Bundy and his 2022 gubernatorial campaign.

On April 6, local sheriff’s deputies visited Bundy at his home to serve Ammon court documents and he shouted them off of his property, according to newly-released body cam footage. The cops left paperwork just outside one of his buildings. As reported a couple of weeks later by Kelly Weill at the Daily Beast, he’s been threatening anyone who dares come to serve him his court papers. St. Luke’s Health System has therefore specifically accused Bundy of attempting to intimidate process servers.

On April 18, a judge finally issued a warrant for Bundy’s arrest, citing the fact that he has ignored the lawsuit for almost a year now. Judge Lynn Norton of Ada County determined that Bundy is in contempt of court and set his bail at $10,000. On April 19, Ammon posted a video online saying he isn’t interested in fighting the defamation lawsuit against him. Despite telling deputies two weeks prior that his Emmett home was his property, he now claims to have sold his home. An investigation by the Idaho Statesman turned up some interesting shell LLC shenanigans tied to the sale of an LLC linked to a company whose blog described the process of transferring real estate to an LLC to protect said property from “lawsuits or debt collection efforts that involve that property.”

In January of this year, Bundy pleaded guilty to trespassing at the hospital, which is a separate case. For this charge, Ada County Magistrate Judge Annie McDevitt sentenced him to 90 days in jail, 1 year of probation, and a little over $1000 in fees. Bundy has continued to refuse to recognize legal action taken by St. Luke’s, claiming that the case itself is “harassment” of him.

On April 24, fearing his imminent arrest, Ammon announced a barbecue at his Emmett home, inviting supporters to help protect him from warrants against him while enjoying “Bundy Beef”. He announced the event in part through a strange mass text to his followers. At the start of this standoff, as with the famous 2014 standoff, Bundy described himself as the “point of the spear” against the “establishment of Idaho”. By April 29, the sixth day of this BBQ Standoff, Bundy was literally crying into the microphone about “suffer[ing] under [St. Luke’s] hands”. Many hours of footage of his expositions are available online for the committed viewer, but this standoff doesn’t seem to be gathering much steam for many reasons — not least of which is that the local police don’t seem to be having much of a standoff with Ammon in the first place and have pretty much ignored his antics the final week of April.

Bundy ran for governor in 2022 and earned just over 100,000 votes (or about 17%), ultimately losing to Brad Little, a Republican. According to Ballotpedia, he’s also running in 2026. According to campaign finance records, Bundy paid himself, his defense attorney, and his alleged co-conspirator thousands out of campaign contributions.

Shasta County Supervisor Joins Militia Podcast

Shasta County District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom joined a militia-associated podcast co-hosted by Paul “Woody” Clendenen. Clendenen is notably the man who founded the Cottonwood Militia, a man who has bragged about intimidating BLM demonstrators in Redding and runs a Northern California barbershop adorned with Confederate flags for reasons that can only be interpreted as reactionary. On the most recent podcast episode, aired in early April, Clendenen told a story about seeing an SUV with unknown Black passengers, who Woody bragged about running them off before they could “burglarize some people”.

Supervisor Kelstrom and Militiaman Clendenen are routine Shasta County contacts and pose for photos together, including a photo op together wearing shirts reading “Shas-Taliban Militia” in reference to a phrase coined by a local journalist, Doni Chamberlain.

The Cottonwood Militia is formerly part of the California State Militia but has been removed from the larger so-called CSM over leadership disagreements. Associates of the Cottonwood Militia have also been arrested for violence against racial justice activists in the past 2 years.

J6 trials

Russell Taylor, a III% adherent present at J6, pleaded guilty and has agreed to cooperate with the DOJ to testify against other III% adherents in upcoming trials.

Taylor, who organized actors “ready and willing to fight” in a Telegram chat heading into J6. He was charged as part of criminal conspiracy alongside other III% adherents, namely Alan Hostetter, Ronald Mele, Derek Kinnison, Felipe Antonio Martinez, and Erik Warner. Hostetter is a former police chief.

Other Updates

The state of Colorado convicted Kirk Wertz, who threatened Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold over the phone and described himself to police as an “Oath Keeper”. Wertz thereby earned one felony count of retaliating against an elected official. Police originally arrested Wertz in July 2022, when he was charged for his June 30 2022 phone call to Griswold’s office.

The City of Albuquerque lost a court case against the New Mexico Civil Guard, a militia group connected to Boogaloo and neo-Nazi organizing that was on the scene when the son of a police chief shot a demonstrator in the summer of 2020. Members of the NMCG filed a lawsuit against the city in 2021 claiming that they were wrongfully detained, netting a $300,000 settlement to the militia group from the city this month.

Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy told media he would not enforce new gun control measures in his area of Michigan. He said he refused to enforce these new “red flag” laws in part because he’s a “Constitutional” sheriff, referring to the CSPOA.

At an April 21 anti-drag demonstration in Olympia, Washington, Erik Rohde, the leader of the Washington III%, spoke at a rally alongside other right-wing groups. Rohde, wielding a mic for a while at the demonstration, asked members of the crowd to raise their right hands and solemnly swear to defend the Constitution and uphold the “principles of the III%”. The demonstration was largely in response to a Washington bill that would exempt youth shelters from having to contact parents if a child seeks gender-affirming or reproductive health care.

Further Reading

  • Alexander Panetta and Jason Burles, writing for CBC News, released a long essay on migration at the US-Mexico border, with some emphasis on paramilitary border groups
  • Tucker Ring for Lawfare wrote a blog post on new approaches to legally prosecute border militias, specifically regarding migrant detentions