March 12, 1995 in Nation/World

Militia Gains Strength; Officials Fear For Safety ‘There Cannot Be A Cleansing Without The Shedding Of Blood,’ Says Militia Leader Cal Greenup

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:feature

FOR THE RECORD: (March 14, 1995): The weapons pictured with a Sunday story on the Militia of Montana are legal. The cutline under the photograph may have suggested to some readers that the weapons were illegal.

Anti-government activists - many packing guns and talking revolution - have Montana in an uproar.

Banding together as militia, freemen and constitutionalists, they claim government is corrupt and running afoul of the U.S. Constitution.

They see a pending takeover of the United States by the New World Order and its one-world government.

Behind this government conspiracy, many believe, are United Nations troops, Soviet-made weaponry and mysterious black helicopters.

Calling themselves patriots, the angry activists say they are the last defenders of freedom.

Some are setting up their own common law judicial systems, pledging to dish out justice at the end of a rope if public officials don’t start living up to their oaths of office.

The movement is flourishing nationwide through shortwave radio, talk-radio shows, secret meetings, newsletters and computer bulletin boards.

But in a surprising number of Montana towns, the right-wing talk is turning to action.

Judges and other public officials say they are receiving death threats. Some candidly admit they are scared.

The anti-government activists and the targets of their wrath agree on one thing: The chance of a violent confrontation is growing.

“There cannot be a cleansing without the shedding of blood,” says militia leader Cal Greenup, who lives near the Ravalli County town of Darby, near Missoula.

Ravalli County District Judge Jeff Langston, one target of the militia anger, says he and other public officials “are petrified by all these events.”

Langston said some militia leaders, including Greenup, are itching to be the next Randy Weaver.

“I think there is a very real risk of bloodshed before this is over,” the 41-year-old judge said last week behind the locked and guarded doors of his court chambers.

While militia groups also are popping up in Washington and Idaho, the activity appears most volatile in Montana.

“They are starting to put their beliefs into action,” said Bill Wassmuth, of Seattle, who monitors civil rights issues in the Northwest.

Authorities point to these incidents in the last two months:

In the tiny town of Cascade, mayor and self-described freeman Tom Klock was charged Friday with criminal syndicalism. The felony accuses him of advocating crime, malicious damage or injury to property, violence or other unlawful methods of terrorism.

In Roundup, seven men with militia ties were arrested March 3 on felony charges of intimidation and criminal syndicalism. Authorities fear they were plotting to kidnap a judge or other public officials.

Supporters of the men say they were only exercising their constitutional rights and weren’t involved in any plot.

One of those arrested is John Trochmann, co-founder of the Militia of Montana based in Noxon. The Montana Attorney General has stepped in to handle the prosecution.

In Hamilton, angry, gun-toting militia members confronted Ravalli County authorities on March 1 over two recent arrests. Officials say they were threatened and are now buying a $5,500 metal detector for the courthouse.

The county officials also are pushing for a tougher state law aimed at militia members. The law, likely to pass this week, will make it a felony to threaten or impersonate a public official.

At least a half-dozen fugitives with ties to the movement are hiding out in the state. Police say they are reluctant to serve the state or federal warrants for fear of sparking violence.

Officials jokingly call the reluctance to make arrests “Weaver fever,” a reference to criticism over law enforcement’s handling of the 1992 shootout with fugitive separatist Randy Weaver in North Idaho.

The president of the Montana Human Rights Network calls the incidents worrisome and dangerous.

Ken Toole is asking the Montana attorney general and the U.S. Attorney for Montana to form a special law enforcement task force to investigate the movement.

“All these incidents are interrelated,” said Toole. “We believe this to be a criminal syndicate, a group of people who sit down and plan how to break the law.”

Militia leaders scoff at that. They say it’s public officials who aren’t following the law.

“When they violate their oath of office, they violate the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land,” Greenup said.

He is embroiled in a dispute with the state over his herd of 10 domesticated elk. He says they’re livestock, just like cows. Wildlife officials say they are wild animals that require a special license.

Greenup, 52, also is engaged in other fights over his taxes and a landfill on his ranch.

He bristles at the suggestion that he and others in the militia movement are dangerous.

“We’re not gun-toting radicals who are out to damage or hurt anyone,” he said.

“This is my best insurance,” he said, pulling out his loaded .357 revolver. “I only carry a gun to protect and defend myself, and I always have it nearby.

“I know of nobody in the militia anywhere in this country that has threatened a public official, as they claim. All we’re asking them to do is to obey the law.”

Ravalli County Assistant Attorney Mike Reardon disputes that.

In the last month, the former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel said he has received death threats.

“Last week I was threatened with burning, hanging, being shot in the back and being backed over with a pickup truck,” Reardon said.

“As men, I do not fear them, and as enemies I do not respect them,” Reardon said. “But I fear greatly for the kind of violent persons they attract.

“If we get some homicidal or suicidal nitwits … anything can happen and lives will be at risk.

“We can’t tolerate any more of this.”

Hamilton City Judge Marty Bethel said she also believes her “well-being is threatened.”

“These people should be taken seriously,” said Bethel, who testified before the Montana Legislature and favors the tougher law protecting public officials.

The militia movement took root early last year with the founding of the Militia of Montana in Sanders County in the northwest corner of the state.

It was one of the first citizen militias in the country.

Founders John, David and Randy Trochmann tapped into anti-government sentiment and the conservative political swing.

The militia almost immediately attracted Second Amendment supporters who worry their constitutional right to keep and bear arms is being eroded by federal firearms laws.

Another shot of support came from the defunct United Citizens for Justice. That anti-government group formed after Weaver’s arrest and the fatal shootings of his wife and son.

With the acronym MOM, the Noxon-based group has blossomed into a business venture that sells books and videos to people around the world. It also sells high-voltage and potentially lethal stun guns.

MOM organizers have spent the past week pleading for money for the legal defense of its co-founder, John Trochmann, who remained in jail in Billings Saturday under a $10,000 bond.

Militia spokesman Bob Fletcher said Friday the recent events throughout Montana are part of a wider movement nationwide.

“It’s the final awakening of American citizens, concerned for the future of the Constitution and individual and state rights,” Fletcher said.

He said the Montana militia does not condone violent or illegal activities. “Our sole purpose is to inform people about the corrupt government in Washington, D.C.”

Members of his group arrested in Roundup are wrongly accused and authorities “already are starting to back away” from their allegations, he said.

The arrests came after members of the group met at the rural Musselshell County home of Rodney Skurdal, 43, a former Marine Corps limousine driver for President Nixon.

Skurdal and fellow activist LeRoy Schweitzer, 56, are both named in arrest warrants that authorities don’t want to serve.

Skurdal wouldn’t comment when contacted at his home. But Schweitzer offered a vitriolic attack on the media.

“You people have a history of lying,” he said. “You’ve got to come out from under the satanic hold you’re under.”

Civil rights watchdogs, including Toole in Helena, say Skurdal is a common denominator in militia activities.

Skurdal’s name appears on bogus money orders that some of the freemen, including Greenup in Ravalli County, have attempted to use to pay taxes, Toole said.

“What we see happening is the same names cropping up, the same practices, in several of these towns throughout the state,” said Toole.

“They have become a lot more bold in expressing their desire for a confrontation with the government,” the human rights leader said.

Greenup says being bold is the only way to get the attention of “the crooked politicians.”

“It’s on the pivotal point right now - the whole state,” said the militia leader, who is affiliated with the North American Volunteer Militia based in Indiana.

“Do the political officials want this state to blow or do they want to get it back and hear our pleas?” he asked.

“In my opinion, looking at it militarily, it is obvious that this state is a test state to bring people under slavery under United Nations control - New World Order.

“We are fighting back, and we’re not going to quit. We want our freedom and our country back.”

MEMO: This sidebar ran with story, accompanied by a map of Montana: TURMOIL IN MONTANA Arrests of seven men this month are heightening an already tense situation in Montana between public officials and self-styled militia members who call themselves freemen, constitutionalists or tax protesters. Here’s a look at this right-wing political movement throughout the state. ROUNDUP - Six “freemen” and a co-founder of the Militia of Montana were arrested this month for felony intimidation, being a criminal syndicate and carrying concealed weapons. CASCADE - Cascade Mayor Tom Klock, who calls himself a “freeman,” was charged with felony criminal syndicalism and official misconduct in office. Before his arrest last week, the mayor wanted to make Cascade a freeman enclave. HAMILTON - Constitutionalists threatened to take over the Ravalli County courthouse earlier this month. Scared public officials, including judges, want a new state law to make it a felony to threatened or impersonate a public official. NOXON - The Militia of Montana, based here, is becoming a national leader in the militia movement. It’s also a business enterprise - selling videos and pamphlets attacking the “New World Order.” KALISPEL - The year-old Militia of Montana held one of its first organizational meetings here, tapping from the remanents of United Citizens for Justice, formed after the 1992 Randy Weaver siege near Naples, Idaho. HELENA - The Montana Human Rights Network, based here, is calling for a local, state and federal task force to combat armed radicals and death threats. Network president Ken Toole says he sees a coordinated criminal enterprise. Also, the counties of Beaverhead, Fergus, Granite and Teton have passed local ordinances taking local control of all federal lands in those counties. Staff research: Bill Morlin Staff graphic: Warren Huskey

This sidebar ran with story, accompanied by a map of Montana: TURMOIL IN MONTANA Arrests of seven men this month are heightening an already tense situation in Montana between public officials and self-styled militia members who call themselves freemen, constitutionalists or tax protesters. Here’s a look at this right-wing political movement throughout the state. ROUNDUP - Six “freemen” and a co-founder of the Militia of Montana were arrested this month for felony intimidation, being a criminal syndicate and carrying concealed weapons. CASCADE - Cascade Mayor Tom Klock, who calls himself a “freeman,” was charged with felony criminal syndicalism and official misconduct in office. Before his arrest last week, the mayor wanted to make Cascade a freeman enclave. HAMILTON - Constitutionalists threatened to take over the Ravalli County courthouse earlier this month. Scared public officials, including judges, want a new state law to make it a felony to threatened or impersonate a public official. NOXON - The Militia of Montana, based here, is becoming a national leader in the militia movement. It’s also a business enterprise - selling videos and pamphlets attacking the “New World Order.” KALISPEL - The year-old Militia of Montana held one of its first organizational meetings here, tapping from the remanents of United Citizens for Justice, formed after the 1992 Randy Weaver siege near Naples, Idaho. HELENA - The Montana Human Rights Network, based here, is calling for a local, state and federal task force to combat armed radicals and death threats. Network president Ken Toole says he sees a coordinated criminal enterprise. Also, the counties of Beaverhead, Fergus, Granite and Teton have passed local ordinances taking local control of all federal lands in those counties. Staff research: Bill Morlin Staff graphic: Warren Huskey


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