Arizona viewed as a hotbed of patriots (Patriots movement gains momentum, desperation)

The Arizona Republic/April 14, 1996
By Paul Brinkley-Rogers and Dennis Wagner

If the Oklahoma City bombing accomplished nothing else, it focused klieg lights on a sliver of America's disenchanted: the so-called patriot mevement.

After the crime, patriot leaders appeared on nightly news and talk shows, spewing righteousness and anger. They denied any role in the bombing, despite the fact that a model for the crime was laid out, step by step, in one of their bibles, The Turner Diaries.

In a nation of more than 260 million citizens, the patriots comprise a minuscule minority. But, like the mouse that roared, they drew attention as they blamed the bombing on a conspiracy orchestrated by government agents to create an anti-militia hysteria. Ditto with the sabotage of an Amtrak train near Phoenix six months later.

Today, despite a clinging crackpot image and more scrutiny than ever by authorities, the movement seems to have gained momentum and desperation.

Not just in Montana, where a handful of armed Freemen have held the FBI at bay for weeks. But here in Arizona, where Timothy McVeigh reputedly began plotting to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Consider these developments since April 19, 1995:

  • The FBI, Phoenix police and the Department of Public Safety, formed a domestic-terrorism task force in Arizona last month. The subject is so sensitive, especially with the Freemen standoff in Montana, that authorities won't provide task-force details or comment on the patriot movement here.
  • About a dozen Arizona militias from Page to Phoenix - using names such as Cobra 1 and 2, the Eagles, and the Militia of the Arizona Republic - have spent the past year recruiting and organizing. They have stockpiled food, water, and weapons.

"We are the good guys… We are here to protect you," said tall, burly Dave D'Addabbo, a Chino Valley contractor and leader of the Arizona Patriots, a militia groups in Yavapai and Graham counties.

D'Addabbo says his organization's ranks have increased 500 percent since the Oklahoma City bombing. He and another leaders, Walt Burien, a Prescott copy-machine vendor, say they are linked by fax, telephone and CB radio to 200 other militiamen, who can mobilize 15,000 to 20,000 activists statewide.

D'Addabbo and two other constitutionalists are running for the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors hoping to make Yavapai the state's first "free county."

  • Jack McLamb, a former Phoenix cop and a national figurehead among patriots, beams his dire theories over shortwave radio, warning that civil war is imminent. McLamb and James "Bo" Gritz, and ex-Green Beret who ran for president in 1992, recently founded a "Constitutional Covenant" township of 120 families near Kamiah, Idaho.

McLamb, who plans to join his Idaho comrades this summer, said he hopes a peaceful, political revolution will succeed. However, he added, "We will not give up. We'd rather die on our feet that live on our knees."

  • Emmett Warren, a Phoenix dentist arrested by the FBO last month, faces criminal charges in connection with false bank notes issued by the Montana Freemen. A federal affidavit links Warren with schemes to purchase 500,000 rounds of ammunition.

Although patriots capture headlines and boast of a massive underground movement, they are so amorphous that counting them is grasswork.

Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, recently told a U.S. Senate committee that there are a dozen militia outfits in Arizona. Mike Johnson, a Valley computer engineer who represents several militias, puts the total membership at 2,000.

Although the FBI and the DPS won't comment, experts say the Grand Canyon State is a leading refuge for right-wing firebrands.

"I hate to say this, but we've always viewed Arizona as a real hotbed," said Ken Toole, director of programs for the Montana Human Rights Network.

On March 28, a Cornville-based group, called the Constitution Militia of 1791, sent a letter to Arizona law agencies warning the FBI agents and the news media are setting up Montana Freemen for a "Davidian style execution."

Gary Fairall, who gives his residence as Liberty Township, Mesa, issued a $1 million "judgment" against Romley - to be paid in gold or silver - for ignoring Freemen demands. Fairall apparently had established a common-law court, appointed himself judge, then delivered his judgment to Romley, who ignored it.

Fariall warned Superior Court officials to steer clear: "Under American Christian common law, my court is superior to yours."

In June, a Freemen named Mark Mead was accused of trying to run down a Mesa police officer. Investigators said Mead, who described himself as "absolute Native white male state and American Citizen of the People," led cops on a goose chase through the city after they noticed that his van had no license plate.

"I was unable to interview Mead in the jail," noted arresting officer, "because he was too argumentative and continued to tell me how I was violating the Constitution."

According to Toole, many patriots sickened by the slaughter of 168 innocent men, women and children in Oklahoma City, withdrew from the movement. But extremists rushed to replace them.

"Frankly, that's what concerns us," Toole said, "What we see going on is a consolidation and hardening."

Joel Breshin, Arizona regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said a siege mentally has set in among many patriots.

"They look at the world through the glasses of someone who believes in conspiracy theories and distrusts just about everything," he said. "I think they have probably more militant members now in Arizona than ever before."

In an article on right-wing populism, Chip Berlet, a political researcher from Camden, Mass., notes that although some analysts dismiss these movements as radical or lunatic, they "reflect real, deep divisions and grievances in the society that remain unresolved."

He estimates that 5 million Americans subscribe to patriot philosophies and that 10,000 to 40,000 are involved with militias.

Although patriots share conspiracy theories and contempt for the federal government, they aren't united. They include tax rebels, survivalists, militia types, Freemen, white seperatists and ordinary folks with conspiracy fears.

Many were drawn to the movement by the 1993 tragedy at a Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and the 1992 shootout between federal agents and white seperatist Randy Weaver near Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

The ideas are so esoteric and tangled that patriots often disagree. Ask one militia member whether he is a Freeman and he will bristle with indignation. Ask another and he will roll his eyes and paternally inform you that every white male born in the United States is a Freeman. Patriot leaders often accuse each other of being agents of the New World Order.

Militias have their own distinctive bent: They are organized by a strict hierarchy and the members abide by the military code of justice. They rally round the right to bear arms.

Freemen, in contrast, generally are reclusive bookworms who shun organizations and wage paper warfare against public officials.

They are so isolated that they speak in a sort of code, referring to states as countries and themselves as states. They refuse to be identified as "persons." They use zany punctuation and lots of Latin, and some buy antique dictionaries, looking for 18th and 19th Century definitions of constitutional terms.

Jim Blake, a hate-crimes prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said he gets a constant stream of declarations from patriots.

"They send this stuff all the time. They'd fill filing cabinets if we kept it all," Blake said.

Law enforcement officials in most Arizona counties say patriots are a minor vexation, in part because there are so few of them. But Blake believes many cops refuse to mess with Freemen because of the headache.

"You never know what they're going to do…Any violation of what they deem as their rights is treason," Blake said. "And what's the penalty for treason? It's death."

Danny Zink, a Gilbert computer consultant who has researched the common law for 15 years, said the government, not the patriot movement, has turned outlaw.

Zink, who studies law and history up to 14 hours a day, belongs to no organization and rejects even the label "Freeman." He wears a cap emblazoned with an Arizona flag and the words, "Official Citizen of We the People." He recites statutes and case law from memory, urgently explaining legal history back to the Magna Carta.

"It's given me more of a purpose in life, a sense of direction," Zink said.

Zink denies he is a "statutory person" and believes that ZIP codes are part of a conspiracy to make every American a citizen of the District of Columbia. He says most other Freemen don't really understand the law.

If the patriot movement is fragmented and secretive, its theme coalesce over the air waves. Rush Limbaugh seems to be a mainstream hero. Televangelist Pat Robertson warns 700 Club viewers about the New World Order.

William Cooper still broadcasts patriot fear over shortwave and publishes a newpaper from eastern Arizona. Like many other leaders, his creed also is a career involving the sale of books, tapes and survival supplies.

Linda Thompson, an Indianapolis lawyer and adjutant general with the Unorganized Militia of the United States, said patriots are everyday people who care about their country.

She said the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith is part of a propaganda machine trying to discredit patriots by portraying them as fat, racist Bubbas who dress up like G.I. Joe and fantasize about saving America.

Although patriots are bonded in dogma, the movement is about people. Many are sincere, some are unexpected.

Johnson, a Valley militia spokesman, is one of the few African-Americans involved in the patriot movement. Militia leaders say they are trying to recruit more women and minorities, especially African-American who participated in the Million Man March in Washington, D.C.

D'Addabbo, the Arizona Patriots leader, is a consummate Westerner, with cowboy hat and big belt buckle, who also sees the signs of apocalypse everywhere.

He has an AR-15 assault rifle, a Glock 9mm pistol and a militia unit. And he envisions a real-life reprise of Red Dawn, a survivalist's fantasy film.

"We want to make Yavapai County a safety zone," said D'Addabbo, 41, the Utah-born son of devoutly Mormon parents. "With the forest cover, we can easily make is secure and control the roads.

"If they manufacture an incident and use the military against us, there would be some bloodshed first; our blood. We accept that. But the military will wake up and come over to our side.

"Then we'd be facing the brain dead: the Navy SEAL's, the SWAT teams. WE call them 'the robots.' That's why we are training our own elite units."

D'Addabbo considers the U.S. Constitution a sacred document. But his distrust of government dates to a time when he worked on federal housing for Indians and became disgusted with home designs that didn't fit Indian lifestyles.

Then came the Brady Bill and, as D'Addabbo sees it, federal campaign to take away the right to bear arms.

"My wife was working for an insurance company owned by Jehovah's Witness, and they are pacifists," D'Addabbo said. "People of principle like that are like lambs being led to slaughter."

"I got to wondering who is going to defend these people. Well I am."

D'Addabbo said militia leaders hope to reclaim Arizona at the polling booth and turn state government upside down. He dreams of a utopian system: no property taxes or welfare systems. Daily religion classes in public schools. Lower crime rates, fewer police and courts and lawyers. Decent people helping the poor.

Barien, 40, the other Arizona Patriots leader, shares that dream.

With curly, shoulder-length hair, a gold medallion around his neck and black garb, he resembles a rocker. But before he came West, he was a commodities trader who led a taxpayers' revolt in 1990 called "Hands Across New Jersey."

Bitter at what he calls harassment from politicians, Burien moved to Arizona to start a new, quiet life in 1990. Then came the fiery end of David Koresh's followers at Waco.

"I watched that on TV," Burien recalled. "I was numb. I've always backed up people getting pushed around all my life, and Waco was it for me. Sixty-five percent of my soul was for getting inside that compound and for saying, 'If you want to attack me, too.'

"Well, I didn't go. That I regret. But the week after Waco I went out and bought an SKS rifle for $120 and got 12,000 rounds of ammo for $87 a case of 1,400 rounds.

"Today, if I saw the same situation, I'd muster up as many people as I could and go."

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