What Alaska Militias Said About Charlottesville
What Alaska Militias Said About Charlottesville
By Cody Liska
The purpose of these interviews is not to advocate, justify or reinforce any specific agenda, least of all hateful ideals like those recently represented at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, but rather give a better understanding of the current mindset of certain groups in the Alaska community, if for no other reason than to have it be part of public record.
According to Southern Poverty Law Center, Alaska has zero hate groups and 10 antigovernment and/or militia groups, including Alaska Citizens Militia (Nikiski), The Anchorage Municipal Defense Force (Anchorage), Central Alaska Militia (Delta Junction, Fairbanks), Constitution Party of Alaska (Haines), Eagle Forum (Cordova), Get Out Of Our House (Statewide), Kenai Peninsula Militia (Kenai), Oath Keepers (Anchorage), South Central Patriots (Wasilla) and The Three Percenters—III%ers (Statewide).
Among the white supremacist and Nazi groups at the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally on August 12, 2017, there were militia groups. Considering this, I decided to contact John Root, III, of South Central Patriots, the largest militia group in Alaska, and David Luntz, the direct point of contact for Oath Keepers Alaska Chapter and a national chapter of The Three Percenters, in order to ask them about their position on the rally, its disturbing and tragic results, and its potential to affect the perception and/or actions of the Alaska militia movement.
I spoke to Root and Luntz separately. I asked them the same questions, with room for independent follow-up questions, depending on their responses. Here's what they said.
What do you think about what just happened in Charlottesville?
John Root, III: I have not spent much time paying attention to the happenings down there, I’ve only seen bits and pieces so I really shouldn’t comment. [South Central Patriots] are busy trying to get food out of the gardens [and] preserved for winter, and berries while they are ready [and] hunting season's right around the corner.
I keep seeing things about paid protesters [at the Charlottesville rally]. I see those that pay to have their views exaggerated [and how those] are the ones spreading the hate. The ones that accept the money are not doing it out of their hearts, they are doing it to disrupt our country.
David Luntz: That’s a pretty wide open question. I’ll try and keep [my answer] short. Where are the American flags? When I look on both sides, protesters and counter protesters, I see no American flags. So, I have to ask myself, "why?" The answer that comes to mind is that neither side represents American values and both use the blanket of the Constitution in a disparaging way. Neither gain a pass of approval from me. They are both enemies of liberty and our Republic.
There were actually many people holding American flags. (I sent Luntz this screenshot from a Washington Post video.)
Luntz: That is the first picture I have seen. The media does not show that. Do you have a picture of the counter protesters holding one? And one [photo] is not many.
What side do you think is responsible for the rally turning out the way it did?
Luntz: I was not present, so I cannot say which side is responsible. I have read that the protesters had a permit. I have not heard that the counter protesters had one.
What happened with the death of the lady being run over was tragic.
Root: I think the original protesters should have been allowed to do so, even though I don’t agree with their ideals. I think attacking them was wrong.
So, you think the counter protesters were responsible for the violence?
Root: Yes, after discussing it with [South Central Patriots] members last night, yes I do. If they could have done it without violence [it] would be one thing, but start throwing shit at anyone [and] it’s going to turn bad. From what was discussed, the counter protesters started throwing balloons filled with god-knows-what. They were at fault.
What kind of emotion would it evoke if you were in your house, eating dinner with your family, and you look outside to see hundreds of people waving Nazi flags and holding torches?
Luntz: Concern. Besides the main focus of anti-semitism, the Nazi agenda calls for the extermination of many people in order to further what they believe is a clean race. They do not respect people of mixed race or the colored or those of Jewish background. Our country has fought a Civil War and a World War to fight against this mentality. If it were not for Antifa's antigovernment, anarchist views grounded in Marxism, I would have no problem standing alongside them. I will have no problem guarding the Anchorage synagogue or churches if this comes to Alaska. Alone if I have to, but I doubt that I would be alone.
Root: As long as it wasn't a threat, [there's] not much I could do. It's their right as citizens. I've organized gatherings with hundreds of people out here in Wasilla, as it was our right, only difference being we flew American and Gadsden flags.
David Luntz, the direct point of contact for Oath Keepers Alaska Chapter and a national chapter of The Three Percenters.
One of the main justifications being used to defend the "Unite the Right" rally is that they had a permit. Do you think the counter protesters saw these white supremacists and Nazis and thought, "that's okay, they have a permit"?
Luntz: I think it's been demonstrated that the counter protesters have little regard for respecting the First Amendment or city, state or federal property.
Root: They should have gotten a permit themselves if that's what it took. Regardless, throwing things at them was completely uncalled for, I do not promote violence of any form unless brought upon me
In your opinion, at what point should free speech not be protected then?
Root: People shouldn't let mere words hurt them. Freedom of speech is everyone's natural born right. Don't threaten to do harm upon me, some may call that their freedom, [but] I see it as a threat on my life.
Luntz: That question is contradictory. Of course there are examples. Like, you can't scream fire in a crowded theater because people are going to panic and end up hurting each other as they escape. Speech and thought should be protected to the greatest extent possible. Speech isn't really the problem, it's when the speech stops and groups take action [that] the problem occurs.
We see groups participating in demonstrations everyday in a peaceful manner, then we see other groups that take it further and they start looting, burning cars or businesses and physically hurting people. It's hard to prove that speech incites violence, but we have seen examples where there's a possibility of that occurrence, such as in Dallas at the Black Lives Matter protest where twelve police officers were shot and five killed.
There were a lot of different groups involved in the rally, among them were white supremacist, Nazi and militia groups. If there was a "Unite the Right" rally in Alaska, would your group be there?
Root: [We would be there] as a spectator, just as a few [of us] went as spectators to the BLM [Black Lives Matter] rally at Sear’s Mall last summer. If it’s conservative patriots and other political groups, maybe [we would go], but, again, any racist groups I’m totally against.
When we went to the BLM [rally] last summer, we stayed to ourselves and kept our mouths shut. It was not to harrass them, it was to observe and help maintain peace. I had 15 to 18 prior military guys with me. If BLM would have started blocking the roadways or attacking people, then we would have intervened, but it was a peaceful protest and they had [the] complete right to do so.
Luntz: Our network is built of independent groups, so I can’t say members would not. I can say that, as a network, we open membership to all regardless of race, religion or gender. I will say that some groups are a little biased as to [their] political leanings, but overall I ideally push for open memberships regardless of political leanings because that's in-line with our Bill of Rights. Now, if your political leaning isn't in-line with our Constitution and Bill of Rights, then that's another story. You’re probably not going to be accepted for too long.
As I said, the groups within the network are independent of each other and, like our republic, all vary somewhat on the political scale. If your group does not support the Bill of Rights and our Constitution, then you’re not going to be brought [into our network]. We do not support anarchism, or any group that does not align itself with our country’s Constitution.
What is the purpose of your group(s)?
Root: I see [it as] helping the community now. So, in the event of something bad, we have a network of quality people already knowing how to work together.
I get threats quite often by those that don’t like what we are building. I hate to say the threats are from people that don’t see politically eye to eye with what we are trying to do... but I certainly don’t threaten them.
Luntz: I would like to say we make up what I call a civil defense network. We have a number of groups throughout the state that vary from what you would consider militia, prepper, survivalists and a few patriot organizations. We have some members who belong to strictly home-state organizations and others who belong to national groups such as Three Percenters or Oath Keepers.
The purpose is basically to build a network that people can lean on in times of need, whether that is dealing with a personal problem, a statewide [problem] or even a national event.
How are the groups you represent the same or different than the ones involved in the Charlottesville rally?
Luntz: That could fill a small book. Basically, other than one group I heard about, no one on either side would fall into something acceptable I would condone as becoming a part of our network. On one side, you had counter protesters that have no regard for the Bill of Rights or rule of law and some wish the government (our republic) didn't exist. On the other side, you had a bunch of people representing the things that we as a nation have sacrificed many of our daughters and sons to defend, not only our own citizenry from, but many of our allies.
I would add that on both sides there were probably people there for what they believed were honorable and respectful reasons, such as preserving history so we do not repeat [it], or taking a stand against what they see as repressive intent. These people probably were innocent bystanders in a world of left and right hate-driven agendas.
You represent The Three Percenters, right?
Luntz: I am a POC [point of contact] for Three Percenters in the state, yes.
Do you know anything about them being at the "Unite the Right" rally?
Luntz: There may have been people there wearing III% patches, but they, like the guy wearing an 82nd Airborne patch, do not represent the organization.
Who's the guy you're referring to?
Luntz: I just saw some social media refer to someone wearing a hat with the 82nd patch. I do not know who he was. People can buy these military / militia related items openly on the internet and wear them. This sometimes causes some problems because those wearing them may not espouse the tenants that the organization they are representing do. This puts the military and militia in a bad light.
(Note: Luntz sent me this, a statement released by The Three Percenters after the rally.)
In the last nine years, there's been a big resurgence in the militia movement. Why do you think that is?
Luntz: I would say that people feel the need to prepare, to join with likeminded [people] because there is a definite tearing occurring in the fabric of our nation. People feel they must act. Unfortunately, there are some who are misguided and are joining organizations that don't represent the greatest parts our society has to offer.
Root: Not sure about the Lower 48. I do see folks here concerned for their children’s freedoms. Pastor Stan Roach, at last years [Prepper, Survivalist and Militia Rendezvous], said he was told in third grade [that] we are losing our freedoms and after 9/11 it has become more of a reality. It’s a scary thought that we are losing a free country.
John Root, III, founder of South Central Patriots.
Specifically, how do you think we're less free today than we were in the past?
Root: There’s so much fed[eral] overreach or government control that, 50 years ago, didn’t exist.
Even though the Patriot Act has not in itself really done much, it gives them the laws to do things as they see fit. I learn best from listening [to] those that have seen it taken away. What you don’t see, I may not [see] either, but the guys that [are] 15, 30 years ahead of us do.
You have your finger on the pulse of the militia movement in Alaska. Do you think the average citizen has any reason to worry about it?
Root: Nothing at all, come join learn and be apart. We are here to help each other, it's what we have to do.
Luntz: As an organization overall, not at all. Alaskans are inherently self-sufficient and natural preppers. A very large amount of the population also owns firearms and there is a very large veteran population. Because of this strong streak of independence and self-sufficiency, I think a lot of Alaskans find the militia not needed, per se. There is a portion of American society that finds the militia, and guns in general, scary. When you marry the two together, of course you’re going to have some who fear the militia. I would worry more about lone actors executing actions based off extremist views, left or right, both sides have them.
Additional questions contributed by Dustin H James.