2016 Election

Militia groups are planning to ‘patrol’ polling places on election day

In the midst of growing fear over possible violence on election day, the Oath Keepers, a known militia group, is urging its members to “blend in” with voters at polling places and conduct “incognito intelligence gathering and crime spotting.”

According to the Washington Post, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes called on members to “help stop voter fraud.”

“In particular, we are calling on our retired police officers, our military intelligence veterans, and our Special Warfare veterans (who are well trained in covert observation and intelligence gathering) to take the lead,” Rhodes said.

From WaPo:

The Oath Keepers are officially nonpartisan, but their concerns clearly echo Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s warnings about a “rigged” election and his calls for his supporters to monitor polling places for evidence of fraud by supporters of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“We are, indeed, most concerned about expected attempts at voter fraud by leftists, but we will spot, document, and report any apparent attempt at vote fraud or voter intimidation by anyone, of whatever party,” Rhodes said according to the Post.

“Dress to blend with the crowd,” Rhodes continued. “That may mean wearing a Bob Marley, pot leaf, tie-die peace symbol, or “Che” Guevara T — Shirt…or it may mean wearing working-man Carhartt pants and a plaid shirt.”

Rhodes’ rhetoric is making law enforcement and civil rights groups nervous.

“What’s particularly disturbing here is that they are encouraging their members to go out covertly and not disclose their identities,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the DC-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We want elections where there is transparency and openness. This kind of rallying call stands to intimidate voters and could have a chilling effect on Election Day.”

Members of the Oath Keepers have vowed to honor their military or police oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” for life. They interpret that to mean standing up, often armed, against any laws or government actions they believe to be unconstitutional.

Heavily armed Oath Keepers have participated in several high-profile actions in the past couple of years, most notably guarding buildings in Ferguson, Mo., following the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown.

The group also participated in an armed confrontation with federal officials in 2014 in Nevada over rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay fees to graze his cattle on federal land. It also sent armed members to 2015 standoffs against federal authorities in Oregon and Montana in disputes over mining rights on federal land.

“All states have laws on what can and cannot be done in or near a polling place, such as carrying firearms, filming, wearing political T-shirts, campaign buttons, etc, and protesting within a certain distance,” Rhodes wrote. “Be extremely careful and scrupulous in your obedience to any and all rules, regulations, and laws regarding all activity in or near a polling place.”

He also urged members to conduct their poll monitoring operations undercover.

“If you wear Oath Keepers gear, you can expect to be accused by partisan Democrat activists and the media (essentially the same thing) of attempted voter intimidation,” he wrote. “… Do not make it easy for leftist partisans to attempt to twist this around on you and on this org.”

 Featured image via Anti-Defamation League

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