Militia Forum Draws Army of Curious Gathering Sparks Debate, Debunks Myths, and Becomes Arena for Conspiracy Theories

By Wood, Daniel B. | The Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 1995 | Go to article overview

Militia Forum Draws Army of Curious Gathering Sparks Debate, Debunks Myths, and Becomes Arena for Conspiracy Theories


Wood, Daniel B., The Christian Science Monitor


THEY have become sort of a sociological exhibit in a zoo -- America's citizen militias, these men and women who run around in fatigues, brandish menacing weapons, and chant scary slogans about government.

Yet a growing number people want to dip beneath the stereotypes and caricatures to find out who these people are, what they believe, and, most importantly, whether they're dangerous.

It is that curiousity that recently drew hundreds of citizens from the ranches that dot this windswept desert area, as well as cities as far away as Seattle and Phoenix, to hear about the now-infamous militias.

The headliner was Mark Koernke, the Michigan militia leader who has moved into the national spotlight as an extoller of underground militias as a way to defend "yourself, your home, your community, and your nation when the time comes."

The "Taking Our Country Back" conference was a five-hour affair, scheduled three months ago to educate the general public on the militia movement by a Del Mar, Calif.-based advocacy group called Citizens Against Legal Loopholes.

An overflow crowd of 500 partook of the day -- not counting the protesters, who made sure that the sleepy, sunny afternoon was anything but sleepy. Well before the appearance of Mr. Koernke, the crowded Hilton Hotel courtyard was asplash with patriotic debate.

"I love my country and I don't want to be destroyed by the Clinton bunch," said a man wearing a "What Part of Infringed Don't You Understand?" T-shirt. "They're taking our freedom of speech, our right to bear arms, overtaxation, everything ... you name it," he said.

"You people are a bunch of nuts," an attendee with an opposing viewpoint countered. "You really think the federal government is out to get you? They can't even get their act together to get rid of illegal {immigrants}."

Inside and upstairs, beneath American flags duct-taped to the walls, tables of books were being sold with titles such as: "America Betrayed," "The Rewriting of America's History," "Constitution: Fact or Fiction." There were also videotapes: "Ruby Creek Massacre," "Invasion and Betrayal/Militia of Montana." And "Don't Tread on Me" T-shirts.

As many as 100,000 Americans are members of so-called patriot militias in at least 27 states, and 12 million more may sympathize with at least some of their concerns, says the Center for Democratic Renewal, an Atlanta-based organization that monitors hate groups.

Because they espouse such a broad array of doomsday concerns from an invasion by the United Nations of the US to terrorism foreign and domestic, members are looked at with more-than-usual wariness by the American public. …

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