Anti-government symbol gives cause for concern during Kalispell visit


A former Arizona sheriff and hero of the anti-government militia movement has returned to Flathead Valley to speak at Conservative gatherings, sell his self-published books, and share his curious view of the United States’ system of government.

Richard Mack, 68, is an amendment two absolutist who argues that law enforcement officers – and county sheriffs in particular – can disregard any laws that they personally deem corrupt or unconstitutional. He spoke on Thursday evening at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell and was supposed to host a larger event there on Saturday.

“There is one person who I believe can stop this new world order. His name is your county sheriff,” Mack told InfoWars provocateur Alex Jones in 2009, summarizing his ideology. “There is no question that your sheriff has a responsibility to protect you from tyranny and international bankers.”

Mack, who served one tenure as sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, gained some degree of national attention in the 1990s when he and then-Ravalli County sheriff, Jay Printz, were recruited by the National Rifle Association to help out Federal government over the recently passed Brady. to sue Act on Protection from Gun Violence. They won in a 5-4 decision that said the Clinton administration couldn’t force state officials to do background checks on arms purchases.

Mack has since made a career in far-right circles, and admits it cost him to be re-elected sheriff in 1996. He formed an amorphous group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, writes books and sells highlighted copies of the opinion of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the Brady Act case. He has visited western Montana several times, including stints in Hamilton and Polson in 2009 and Evergreen in 2011.

“We at CSPOA do not advocate violence of any kind, nor do we support it by any political faction – left, right or center,” Mack said in an interview with the Daily Inter Lake on Thursday.

But extremism experts often raise the alarm about Mack, pointing to his connections to groups like the Oath Keepers, who participated in the deadly January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and supporters of the Bundy family who armed themselves with federal agents in Nevada and Oregon in 2014 2016.

That didn’t stop Mack from getting Montana state approval to host a law enforcement training course in Kalispell on Friday, which was only canceled due to staff restrictions at the Flathead County Sheriff’s office.

During the meeting on Thursday at the Red Lion Hotel, Mack took a moment to recognize and greet an attendee, Randy Weaver – the central figure in the 1992 deadly standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Years ago, Mack helped Weaver write a book about the event that killed a US marshal and most of Weaver’s family, and which continues to be a rallying cry from anti-government extremists across the country.

TRAVIS MCADAM, a head of the Montana Human Rights Network researching white nationalists and militias, said Mack’s message was not rooted in traditional conservatism or law enforcement ethics, but rather a misguided notion that county sheriffs are best positioned to help the federal government getting in the way of overreach – “that sheriffs are basically above the law, that they can decide which laws to enforce or not.”

McAdam and other experts attribute Mack’s ideology to the Posse Comitatus movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which combined anti-tax sentiment and right-wing populism with elements of Christian identity, a movement that saw Jews as descendants of Satan and blacks as subhumans. Latin for “county power,” Posse Comitatus supporters believed that the county sheriffs were the highest legitimate law enforcement officers in the United States and should use that power to arrest tax collectors and other officials perceived as corrupt.

Mack is an advocate for equality – he adored Rosa Parks and quoted Martin Luther King Jr. during his call to Inter Lake – but has shared stages with various racist and anti-Semitic figures over the years.

“I always think it’s really important to remember that when we talk about the militia movement we’re not just talking about an innocent brotherhood of gun enthusiasts,” McAdam said. “We’re talking about a movement that started Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. This is a movement that Dave Burgert and Project 7 are ramping up at the Flathead [which stockpiled guns, bombs and ammunition, and drafted a hit list of local officials] were part of … This is a movement that helped fuel the January 6th uprising at the Capitol. “

MACK’S VISIT to Kalispell was organized by a small local group called the Flathead Liberty Coalition that runs a website promoting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic and 5G wireless networks.

The group invited many local elected officials to hear Mack speak – including Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino, who sponsored an application to get Mack’s four-hour presentation accredited by the state of Montana as a training session for his alternates.

Heino said the group had asked the sheriff’s office to hold the training session, so he submitted the application to Montana’s Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Bureau, known as POST, which approved it. The training was scheduled for Friday but was canceled due to staff restrictions in the sheriff’s office, Heino said, adding that it is never compulsory for his deputies to attend.

“I am an elected civil servant. I answer 120,000 people,” said Heino. “And so if you have a large group of diverse perspectives of all kinds in my county and you ask us to discuss these options or these issues, you need to be available to discuss these issues. … I’m not saying that I agree with everything Sheriff Mack says. “

The POST Certified Training Application Form requires a written instructor biography and requires applicants to retain course materials such as lesson plans and student handouts, although curriculum details do not need to be submitted with the application.

BUT POST P is tasked with ensuring law enforcement training is up to state standards, Executive Director Perry Johnson said the office typically pretends to local law enforcement filing requests.

“If they are reviewing an education curriculum that they believe has merit or worth to their officers or other officers, we would rarely censor it,” Johnson told Inter Lake. “If you think it has some value, even if it has some kind of message – well, I just don’t go into it at all. If they approve, they’ll be credited to POST for it. “

As an outsider, Mack, who has not been a law enforcement officer in more than two decades, does not need to be certified as a law enforcement instructor in Montana to teach in the state. He told Inter Lake that he has hosted state-approved law enforcement training courses in 10 states.

The canceled “constitutional training” on Friday appeared as a calendar entry on the Montana Justice Department website. The entry said: “Former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack is the founder of CSPOA and founded the County Sheriff Project movement, both of which reaffirm the sheriff’s constitutional authority to refuse to enforce unconstitutional federal laws.”

McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network said he was concerned that the event would be officially recognized and “normalized”.

“There is clearly this attempt by the organizers to get sheriffs and sheriff’s deputies into the room where they hope they will immerse themselves in this extremist ideology and take some of that worldview and take this home with them and have this guide as they have theirs Doing work, “said McAdam.” And I think that’s really disturbing and scary. “

WHILE HE Mack, who has no law degree, argues that court judgments are only binding if they are in accordance with a sheriff’s interpretation of the constitution.

“I swear an oath and I don’t have to keep it unless the Supreme Court tells me? It’s not the oath of office,” he told Inter Lake. “I have to keep my oath, which assumes that I know and understand the constitution.”

He considers the judiciary created by the constitution to be ineffective; Lawsuits are too expensive and too time-consuming to achieve your version of justice.

“There is no time or money to do that with every abuse. The abuse is so ubiquitous now,” he said. Of his case before the Supreme Court, he said, “I learned something from it. I should just have said no. And the other sheriffs in Arizona should have said, ‘No, we’re not doing this. I don’t work for you.” . ‘ We should have said no. “

He added, “Rosa Parks was a hero because she defied stupid laws.”

THE REGULATION the specific question in Mack’s case was whether the federal government could compel state law enforcement officials to perform federal duties – the gun background tests required by the Brady Act. The ruling does not rely on the constitutional precedence clause, which states that federal laws trump state and local laws. Other rulings restricting the right to bear arms, such as the 1939 Supreme Court ruling banning sawed-off shotguns in international trade, have also not been reversed.

But McAdam said Mack exaggerated the importance of the decision.

“There is a time when I wonder if Richard Mack just drank his own kool-aid,” McAdam said. “The Supreme Court decision was made on a fairly specific matter. But the way the militia movement is talking about it makes it sound like the Supreme Court said you could not impose any form of gun control.”

Mack argues that all gun laws and regulations, whether enacted by a state or federal government, are unconstitutional. And last year, he adjusted his message to fuel anger over the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mask requirement.

Speaking of his Supreme Court victory, he told Inter Lake: “It is the strongest decision of the 10th Amendment in our country’s history. It states that the states are not subject to federal instructions. It is said that the Constitution protects us from the crisis the day the Constitution protects us from our best intentions.

“I believe this clearly states that no government has the power to close churches, arrest clergy because they just have church, arrest people for not wearing diapers, and the individual freedom to undermine the constitution.” to destroy.”

Assistant Editor Chad Sokol can be reached at 406-758-4439 or [email protected]

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