Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Right-Wing Militants Mix Political Fantasy, Violence

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Right-Wing Militants Mix Political Fantasy, Violence

Article excerpt

SEEDS of hatred that erupted with terrible violence in Oklahoma last week have been sown by reactionary groups across the United States.

In Montana, for example, March began with a cold wind whipping snow, and insurrection, across the Northern Plains.

On Thursday, March 2, William Stanton became the first Montanan ever convicted of terrorism. District Judge Kenneth Wilson sentenced the Garfield County rancher to 10 years in jail (the maximum penalty) for using violence for political ends.

The following day, four armed men were arrested when they entered the Musselshell County Courthouse and tried to file papers protesting the seizure of Rodney Skurdal's house by the Internal Revenue Service.

Messrs. Stanton and Skurdal belong to a secessionist group, the "Garfield County Freemen," whose theories of government include their right not to obey the current one. Skurdal is hiding from a warrant for criminal syndicalism, the terrorism statute.

Garfield County is about the size of Connecticut, with a mere 600 households and per capita income of $11,000. Only 14 percent of county residents subscribe to the newspaper. Isolated geographically and economically, it is fertile ground for paranoia.

Three other men, waiting in cars outside the Musselshell Courthouse, were also arrested. They had semiautomatic handguns, six assault rifles, video gear, and $80,000 in cash, gold, and silver in their cars.

Over the past year or so, "freemen" have been filing papers in Montana courts under an idiosyncratic sort of medieval common-law system. They demand millions of dollars in gold from the government and proclaim their own authority as law officers of an independent nation. Their concept of sovereignty springs, apparently, from the observation that small societies can be self-governing, and that the Supreme Being alone reigns.

As with the primitive societies studied by anthropologists, the tight-knit right-wing militants often attach mystical significance to the anniversaries of certain events: The FBI siege of isolationist Randy Weaver's fortified homestead in Idaho on an April day two years ago, for instance. That has become a rallying point among militant groups here.

One of the men who stormed the Musselshell County Courthouse is John Trochmann, leader of the self-styled Militia of Montana, which advocates broad application of the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.