Monthly: Jan 24

Greetings, reader of MilitiaWatch, and welcome to the first post of 2024! This time, this Monthly covers January 2024 (with a few quick jabs towards some news updates since the start of February). Here are some of the things covered here:

  • The fiasco in Eagle Pass, TX draws many weirdos
  • Vermont militia training site owner officially goes fugitive
  • Democrats put forward anti-militia federal legislation
  • VCDL hosts annual Lobby Day, Boogaloo fans attend

The previous MW Monthly (November 2023) can be read here:

And if you didn’t get a chance at the end of last year, here’s the review of 2023 posted at the end of the year:

The fiasco at Eagle Pass

(and the self-incriminating posting wars)

At the end of this month, a slew of Patriot Movement-type actors coalesced on the Texas-Mexico border. They promised 700,000 participants, which they came nowhere near. The convoy to the border, called both “Take Our Border Back” and “God’s Army” (the latter showing the group’s obvious overlaps with Christian supremacist ideology), has been rife with infighting and paranoia but has created strain on locals in southwestern Texas.

The media environment around the mobilization has been tense, with powerful people calling for or claiming an impending civil war over the standoff between federal agencies and state National Guard corps. As analysts have added, the fiasco has been a “magnet” for the far-right. A couple of crucial points from the militia side of things:

  • On January 20, Greg Gibson of the United Patriot Party of North Carolina (UPPNC) led his network in a convoy to the Mexico border with the intent to stay armed on rancher property for as long as possible. They packed up and left on January 23 after claiming they got a visit from some federal agents. Texas cops arrested two bloggers, Celeste April Sparks and Jerry J. Pena-Ahuyon, after finding “a white powdery substance”, weed, and edibles in their SUV. The bloggers were leading the United Patriot Party of North Carolina members on a tour of the border during the stop. One of the UPPNC guys in the convoy, Jeremy Allred, reportedly had multiple guns in his vehicle and admitted to brandishing a rifle around migrants.
  • On January 29, evangelical pastor and Texas House District 4 candidate Joshua Feuerstein tweeted his “offer” to Texas Governor Greg Abbott to “lead an armed civilian militia to the border”. He included a picture of himself holding a .50 cal Model 95 anti-materiel rifle in the post, which he also tagged “#2A”. 

More on the fallout in next month’s roundup, but the convoys culminated in three separate rallies on February 3: 

  • Eagle Pass, Texas
  • Yuma, Arizona
  • San Ysidro, California 

Other February fallout from the Eagle Pass fiasco includes these developments (many of which will come with updates next month):

  • On February 1, the situation resulted in enough threats from militia-associated people that Border Patrol evacuated certain buildings. 
  • More details next month, but feds arrested a Tennessee man who was plotting violence at the border. Paul Faye, the defendant, allegedly planned as early as October 2022 to join militia members on the border alongside other federal defendants arrested in May 2023.
  • Again, more details next month but a man in Casper, Wyoming attempted to take a cop’s gun, for which he said he “intended to go to Texas” to “join the war”, referring to the situation around Eagle Pass. 

Banyai goes fugitive

The Slate Ridge saga continues…

At the start of January, Vermont State Police and the Rutland County Sheriff’s Office claimed that they have been unable to locate MilitiaWatch staple Daniel Banyai in an attempt to serve arrest warrants at the end of the year. It appears that Banyai has fled the state of Vermont after losing his battle over his militia training site in the state. [For more info, check out VTDigger’s continuing coverage]

Banyai joins Idaho-based Ammon Bundy on the short-list of Patriot Movement leader fugitives fleeing legal accountability for their actions.

Dems Draft Anti-Militia Bill

And unhinged guys react

On January 11, Representative Jamie Raskin introduced HR6981, the Preventing Private Paramilitary Activity Act of 2024, to the House. HR6981 aims to target armed vigilante activity and unify provisions across many states into national legislation. It has, of course, resulted in convulsions within the militia world, who see the legislation as a direct threat to their networks but also an individual and collective threat against gun ownership in the US. The bill has 11 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats. 

On January 30, Justin Mohn of Pennsylvania killed and beheaded his father in his home, filming the aftermath of the gruesome scene and calling for revolt against federal authorities over the so-called militia bill. He bought the gun he used to kill his father the day before. His neighbors said he had been acting “unhinged”. Mohn claimed to have led a Patriot Movement network called “Mohn’s Militia”, but it doesn’t appear that this was a real grouping. Mohn had previously attempted to sue the US government for $10 million over his student loans, claiming he was misled. He faces charges of murder in the first degree and abuse of a corpse. 

VCDL Hosts 2024 Lobby Day in Richmond

Boog show, say they don’t like their brand anymore

On January 15, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) held their annual Lobby Day during the MLK Day holiday. As has been the pattern in the years previous, pro-gun activists of several stripes attended, including the Virginia Boogaloo cell known as the Virginia Kekoas. 11 members of their network showed up with rifles, marched to the State Capitol, and stood around outside of the firearms exclusion zone around the Capitol to talk to the press. Kekoas also claimed that the anti-militia bill would necessitate resistance including, as one member described, potentially “force-on-force” scenarios. It very well may be bluster, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on these types of narratives.

Two of the armed pro-gun activists wore III% symbols, including one associate who also had a patch for the 7 City Alliance (7CA), a Virginia-based militia group. More on this in next month’s review, but feds arrested a leader of the 7CA on February 8 for his alleged role in J6. This year, the VCDL rally featured a “gun bus” that allowed activists to check their firearms before walking into the restricted area. The pro-gun events also drew a counter-rally by advocates for restrictions on firearms. 

In other news

III% Pleads guilty, 2020 denier calls for armed action

Cody Tarner, a man from Maryland who set fire to vehicles outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC in July 2020, pleaded guilty to arson in early January. Tarner still has a III% logo on his Facebook banner image (first uploaded in January 2017) and police said he “expressed what can be referred to as anti-government and militia extremist ideologies”. He also ran a small Facebook page that explicitly called for the “Destruction of the Ink Machine of The United States Government”, likely meaning the Federal Reserve, a common target of right-wing libertarians. Tamer will be sentenced in May.

On January 22, election denier Douglas Frank used a Shasta Elections Commission meeting to call for armed resistance against laws he claims are unconstitutional during his 45-minute-long exposition. Urson Russell, who is part of a Patriot Movement network known as Patriot Force California, also spoke at the meeting.

Further reading:

  • For the Rolling Stone, Avery Schmitz uncovers another form of law enforcement failings in responding to mass shootings: involvement by paramilitary fascists
  • For the Niagara Gazette, Emily Russell and Zach Hirsch write on far-right extremism in Upstate New York