THE RIGHT WING ‘Constitutional Sheriffs’: The Latest Extreme Right-Wing Pox on Our Republic
Mark Potok and Ryan Lenz report at AlterNet:
In the minutes before he was killed as he apparently tried to draw a 9mm pistol on law enforcement officials attempting to arrest him at an Oregon roadblock early this year, antigovernment militant Robert “LaVoy” Finicum repeatedly shouted out to officers that he was on his way to meet with “the sheriff.”
And, indeed, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was in John Day, Ore., waiting for a town hall meeting 90 minutes later featuring principals of the then 24-day-old occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, including Finicum and occupation leader Ammon Bundy. Both Palmer and Bundy were expected to speak at the gathering that had been organized by occupation sympathizers.
But Palmer, whose county adjoins Harney County, where the occupation took place, had been told nothing of the Jan. 26 roadblock — for very good reasons.
He had already met twice with leaders of the occupation, and witnesses described how he had them autograph his pocket copy of the Constitution. He had referred to the occupiers as “patriots” and endorsed their demands for the release of two ranchers imprisoned for arson on public lands and the departure of the FBI. He boasted about his refusal to enforce laws that he believed were unconstitutional, and he was known for picking fights with land use officials. Unlike the sheriffs of the four other adjoining counties, he had sent no deputies to help out in Harney County. Glenn Palmer was not trusted in law enforcement circles.
So when organizing began for the arrests of the people who had broken into, occupied, and trashed the Malheur park building, officials moved their plans for a roadblock from Grant to Harney County. Then, apparently fearing Palmer might warn off the militants, the officials decided not to tell him anything about it.
In the aftermath of the shutdown of the Malheur occupation — a total of 25 people were charged in connection with the occupation in the weeks after Finicum’s death — Palmer described the roadblock as an “ambush,” sounding remarkably similar to militants who claimed Finicum’s shooting was an assassination. That drew an immediate rebuke from the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, which told The Oregonian that it was actually a carefully planned operation “to take into custody armed persons who had openly engaged in a variety of criminal activities.”
In the following days, nine complaints — two of them from John Day officials, including the town’s police chief — were lodged against Palmer, who did not return repeated requests for comment from the Intelligence Report, with the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. And the state Department of Justice has now opened a criminal investigation into one of those complaints.
Sheriff Palmer, who is running for his fifth four-year term this November, is a dramatic example of a new kind of radical that is springing up around the country — the so-called “constitutional sheriff.” In fact, in 2012 Palmer became the very first to be named “Sheriff of the Year” by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a far-right group that calls itself “the last line of defense standing between the overreaching government and your Constitutionally guaranteed rights.” The CSPOA has long claimed the support of more than 400 sheriffs.
The group says it is part of “a growing movement of public officials who are drawing a line in the sand” by “interposing themselves between the sometimes overreaching Federal Government and your constitutionally guaranteed rights.” It claims that local county sheriffs can stop outside law enforcement officials from enforcing laws they deem unconstitutional. “The sheriff,’ it says, “is the highest elected official in the county and has the authority to stop this insanity.”
At a time when anger at the federal government over issues like land use and environmental regulation in the rural West is running higher than it has in years, the CSPOA and a closely related group, the Oath Keepers, are working tirelessly to make inroads into the ranks of American law enforcement. . .
This seems to be treason to me: taking up arms against the Federal government. Or possibly sedition. But certainly punishable by being removed from a government position the very essence of which is to uphold the Constitution and protect the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic (hint, hint). Really, it’s getting out of hand, what with Donald Trump “jokingly” asking someone to assassinate Hillary Clinton. Does that not seem ominous to you? Sure does to me.