The Sovereign Citizen Movement is building traction. Steeped in rumor, overwrought with conjecture, this loose group of libertarian-types has been deemed a “domestic terror group,” by the FBI. The Southern Poverty Law Center has gone so far as to brand them racists. Yet the movement itself seems to embody the survivalist spirit, claiming a diverse assortment of creeds into its disjointed ranks. Sovereign hi-jinks read straight out a Hollywood script – complete with machine-gun shootouts and intriguing, albeit dubious conspiracy theories.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Sovereign Citizens Movement “began in the early 1970s with a single group, the Posse Comitatus.” Despite dissolution in the 1980s, the Posse sowed seeds of anti-government ideology that permeated many militia/separatists groups across the country. Remember the Montana Freeman? Terry Nichols? How about Timothy McVeigh? Even David Koresh and the Branch Davidians skirted the Sovereign Movement in the early 90s. And we all know how that turned out. Nevertheless, despite a Federal crackdown on these nonconformists, their dogma continues to this day. The FBI reports, “The sovereign-citizen threat…will grow as a nationwide movement…fueled by the Internet, the economic downturns and seminars held across the country.”
According to Sovereign Citizen websites, the federal government has seriously infringed on the rights of “free men.” From gun control to federal taxes to even tickets issues by local municipalities, the United States of America has become an enemy of the people. As such, Sovereigns have chosen to fight back, to reclaim what’s theirs. They do so on several levels. Via the Internet they spread some very suspect theories. Cases in point: all US legal tender is worthless because the Feds dropped the gold standard in 1914; traffic tickets, fines and taxes can be bypassed via classified paperwork; car insurance, drivers licenses and registration fees can be side-stepped by deeming your vehicle a place of residence…or something like that. My favorite (and I’m secretly crossing my fingers here) involves a secret US Treasury reserve. Apparently, once Uncle Sam ditched precious metals, we – you, me, your brother, your mom, the FedEx guy, etc., became an organic currency of sorts. In theory, Washington has a clandestine cache of greenbacks for every American citizen. Said loot can be reclaimed by way of archaic legal fillings.
Confused? Me too. Luckily several websites provide a fast track to your hidden booty. For a price, of course.
But you’d be remiss to dismiss Sovereigns Citizens as simply ideological crackpots attempting to skirt the law and thumb their noses at the IRS. Although the majority of these folks are non-violent, small percentages are wiling to kill for their beliefs.
Most recently, a father/son tag team mowed down two police officers in Arkansas for “infringing on their rights.” Although it’s quite easy to mock these guys, it’d be a huge mistake to underestimate them. Chances are, their movement will take hold if/when some form of societal collapse befalls the nation.
Article by Chris Mandia
Chris Mandia is a Southern California writer who writes on military issues. Serving two tours in Iraq as a Marine Corps infantryman, you can find out more about him at www.chrismandia.com.