WASHINGTON – Governors across the country have received letters ordering them to step down from office in three days, the first step in a quasi-religious, “freedom movement” group’s elaborate plan to disband parts of the U.S. government, according to the group’s Web site.
The group, calling itself the Guardians of the free Republics, describes the plan as a nonviolent and legal attempt to “restore the true Republic.” Department of Homeland Security and FBI officials said there did not appear to be an immediate threat of violence.
Still, at least one governor’s office beefed up security measures as federal officials investigated whether the group’s message could be considered dangerous.
“We just decided that it was appropriate to err on the side of caution,” said Lynn Hettrick, the deputy chief of staff to Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Officials in that state closed all but one entrance to the Capitol and added metal detectors after Gibbons received the letter this week, Hettrick said.
The FBI expects all 50 governors will eventually receive such letters.
The Guardians of the free Republics appear to inhabit the murky world of the anti-government and anti-tax movement. Their philosophy – rife with reinterpretation of arcane federal law – mingles with the anti-Federal Reserve mantra espoused by followers of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, as well as with anti-tax crusaders who promise freedom from debt and foreclosure.
“Everything is going to be orderly and no one is going to be harmed in this movement,” said Billy Ray Hall, a man who identified himself as a follower of the Guardians of the free Republics. “It’s going to be really good. There’s going to be funds enough for everybody.”
Hall said packets containing the letters had been sent to all 50 governors.
The letters arrived as law enforcement officials appear to be closely monitoring anti-government extremists.
Authorities arrested several members of a Christian militia group in Michigan over the weekend. Prosecutors have described the Hutaree militia as a violent anti-government organization planning to kill police officers.
Guardians of the free Republics appears to emphasize the peaceful nature of their proposed revolution, although their language is at times opaque and foreboding.
The group believes that an act of Congress passed in the late 1800s effectively transformed the United States into a corporation, Hall said. Since then, the American people have been serving corporate masters.
The plan to restore America begins with the assembly of “de jure grand juries” in all 50 states, according to the group’s Web site. Followers were asked to sign a “covenant of office” and are described as “elders.” The group must act quickly to avert some impending enforcement of martial law, said Sam Kennedy, a leader of the group, on his Internet radio program.
Kennedy, who claimed the group was attracting followers in droves from the so-called “freedom movement,” described this plan as a “revelation” and compared the coming events to “a time to parallel the storming of Jericho … and all the great Biblical events of history.”