Monthly: May 23

Another month, another MW Monthly. Here’s some news from May 2023 (the past month). If you’d like to read about April 2023, that post is available here.

Some things this month include some major Oath Keepers sentencings, a VT paramilitary site organizer refusing to comply with state orders, and a transphobic prankster joining a militia patrol of the US-Mexico border.

Oath Keepers Sentenced

Late in May, the courts sentenced several key Oath Keepers who were involved in the storming of the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. Most notably, Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, earned over eighteen years behind bars and another three under supervision from the US government. Rhodes was not penitent for his actions and received the longest sentence of any defendant thus far. Jessica Watkins, the Ohio Oath Keeper who notably said from the capitol on a Zello channel that she was “sticking to the plan”, earned eight and a half years. Kenneth Harrelson of Florida, considered the “right-hand man” to Kelly Meggs (who himself is serving twelve years) received a shorter sentence of four years.

Paramilitary Site Owner Refuses to Abide by New Vermont Law

In February, the state of Vermont passed a bill that bans the operation of paramilitary training camps in the state, informed by an ongoing feud between Pawlet community members and Slate Ridge, a militia-associated training site owned by Daniel Banyai in the town. After community members initially voiced concern over the training site, the owners and their associates apparently threatened multiple community members.

At the start of June, Banyai filed a federal lawsuit to prevent his training site from the law after he turned away town inspectors. A locked gate to the property bears a sign that reads “Trespass here, die here”.

Residents are fighting against similar sites in North Carolina:

  • In Robeson County, an LLC called “Alottabang” (yes, seriously) is trying its hardest to start an explosive ordnance disposal training facility in a portion of swamplands in the county. Locals oppose Alottabang’s site, partly due to the >100 decibel sounds more than 1000 feet from the explosives site.
  • In Richmond County, nine community members have sued a military/police/paramilitary training site owned by Oak Grove Technologies. Notably, two former employees of Oak Grove Technologies were also involved in an armed assault in Atlanta in December 2020.

Explosives sites serve to be a major nuisance for local communities, for the noise and environmental impact as well as for the toxic interface between training participants and locals. Similar concerns are central to the movement against “Cop City” in Atlanta, which has plans to create an explosives-related training area in a majority-Black area of South Atlanta.

In Oregon, a bill intended to deter paramilitary activity in the state passed the state House in a 36-23 vote. The bill was initially submitted in February and does not specify the ideologies targeted by such a bill.

VOP and Fans Detain Migrants at US-Mexico Border, Again

In mid-May, armed operatives from conspiracy-driven right-wing group Veterans on Patrol (VOP) confronted people in the Sasabe area of the border with Mexico. Ethan Schmidt, an unfunny comedian who has made a name for himself through homophobic and racist content, seems to have carried a rifle with the group. A Proud Boy from an Arizona chapter also allegedly attended. It seems that the end of Title 42, which wrapped a day before the group’s actions, has encouraged this type of activity.

BBQ ‘Standoff’ Continues in Idaho Despite Mexico Vacation

Ammon Bundy, who is attempting to avoid a warrant for his arrest through an ongoing “standoff” at his home in Idaho, continues his efforts through May. However, the authorities seem disinterested in fulfilling their half of the “standoff”, making this event still a one-sided affair. On one hand, this hasn’t stopped Bundy from speaking publicly in inciting ways. On another hand, Bundy and his family spent a week in Cabo, Mexico at the end of May and Ammon took it as an opportunity to gloat about not being arrested at the border or during US customs.

Further Reading

  • Western States Center put out a useful guide for staying safe during Pride, specifically to avoid attacks from far-right groups.