If the Oklahoma City bombing accomplished nothing else, it focused
klieg lights on a sliver of America's disenchanted: the so-called
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
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
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
Consider these developments since April 19, 1995:
"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
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."
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."
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
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,
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
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
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 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
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."