Guardians of the free Republics looked to Gandhi, King, and Mandela
The Guardians of the free Republic's stated desire was to peacefully and nonviolently 'restore' America to a pre-1933 form of government. But why would 50 governors step down at their request? In the wings, the group insinuated, waited the military.
In a recent plea, Sam Kennedy, a "guardian elder" of the Guardians of the free Republics, warned the modern-day "original government" revolutionaries to approach their March 31 "Restore America Plan" with Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mohandas Gandhi in mind.
"We would simply like to urge patriots everywhere to champion their faith instead of force, and allow The Restore America Plan an uneventful 30 to 60 days for visible implementation which will ultimately end the bogus prosecutions and terrorist activities once and for all," wrote Kennedy recently.
The FBI failed to understand the Guardians' peaceful intentions.
A letter by Mr. Kennedy to all 50 governors demanding they step down within three days or be removed contained an implicit threat – and could be a cause, the FBI worried, for incitement for others to take action against the government.
Actively recruiting across the country in the last few months and promoted on a Texas radio station, the Guardians of the free Republics believe the US government is a corporate imposter put in place by corrupt bankers as part of the New Deal in 1933.
Going back to 'original' form of government
In essence, their "plan" seeks a return to de jure, or original, governance, stripping Washington of its ability to tax citizens' income and dismantling agencies such as the FBI. The Anti-Defamation League says "sovereign citizen" groups wage war against authority using "paper terrorism," but rarely resort to violence.
And although the Guardians lay out an interesting legal theory – arcane federal law and how it's interpreted is core to the sovereign citizen movement – the idea that they could quietly, and, as they suggest, without ridicule, work behind the scenes to slide America back nearly a century seems, in retrospect, folly.
So far, a number of Guardians have emerged. Kennedy, a Texas radio-show host, was interviewed for two hours on Friday by the FBI, but not arrested. Another "elder" listed is Tom Schaults, who runs clinics on "attorney repellant technology." And a third is the owner of the Guardians website, Clive Boustred, whom Mother Jones describes as "a British-educated former South African soldier with an apparent knack for 'anti-terrorist warfare.'"
The appearance of Mr. Boustred in the mix may give some clue to the assertion by the Guardians that they had an agreement with "the military" to support their quiet coup.
But while a return to constitutional ideals is what much of the conservative tea party movement is about, experts say the Guardians are a different animal altogether. They can be primarily traced to the anti-IRS Posse Comitatus movement of the 1980s, and their modern iteration is, if not non-partisan, anti-partisan.
A mix of left and right
"Traditionally, critique of the IRS has come from the right, such as the Christian patriot movement, but [sovereign citizen] movements also invoke a lot of left-wing ideas like anti-capitalism that are consistent with the times and the downturn in the economy, where people may have property liens against them," says George Michael, an expert on political extremism at the University of Virginia's College at Wise.
The alleged threats against US governors come at a tense time.
In February, disgruntled tax protester Joseph Stack flew his single-engine plane into an IRS office in Austin. And last week, nine members of an anti-government militia, the Hutaree, were arrested in the Midwest.
But instead of misery, the Guardians promised a new kind of largesse could have been in store if the group had succeeded in its quiet coup this week.
"Everything is going to be orderly and no one is going to be harmed in this movement," Guardians member Billy Ray Hall told the Los Angeles Times. "It's going to be really good. There's going to be funds enough for everybody."