by William N. Grigg
|Ultima ratio Regum: Where the State exists, the law does not.|
Like most epithets of its kind, the expression “sovereign citizen” is more frequently used than defined. One of the many luxuries the Regime provides for itself is the option of defining criminal categories so vaguely that no organizational alignments are necessary. In this way, one can be accused of participating in a “terrorist movement” or seditious conspiracy on the basis of imputed affinity, rather than proven conduct.
Eric Matthew Frein, the Pennsylvania “survivalist” charged with murdering one State Trooper and wounding another in an ambush, has been described as a “sovereign citizen.” Yet the definition of that term is expansive enough to include Antonio Buehler, a West Point graduate and peace activist whose “offense” was to be assaulted and arrested without cause while video-recording the violent and abusive arrest of a woman in Austin, Texas on New Year’s Day in 2011.
Police investigators in Pennsylvania insist that Frein had expressed anti-government and anti-police attitudes, and that his eruption was the product of a long-simmering hostility toward law enforcement. Frein hasn’t disclosed his motives. No evidence has been produced that he was an adherent of a “sovereign citizen” group, or that he has embraced any of the tenets expressed by people found in that variegated and decentralized movement.
Buehler and his colleagues in the police accountability movement, by way of contrast with Frein, explicitly repudiate violence and insist on strict adherence to legal ordinances by both the police and the citizen activists who monitor police conduct. Yet they were subsumed into the “sovereign citizen movement” through a police intelligence report describing their peaceful activism as a threat to “officer safety” and an “Immanent [sic] threat to officers and their families.”
|We’re supposed to sympathize with the guy on the left.|
Invoking a distinction presented in the most recent report on the subject from the Department of Homeland Security, some officials would insist that Buehler and his colleagues are part of the “non-violent sovereign citizen” movement, which “reject[s] the authority of government, law enforcement, and the courts….”
However, Buehler has won four consecutive court victories – one acquittal and three dismissals – over spurious charges filed against him by officers with the Austin Police Department. For their part, Buehler’s antagonists at the APD have claimed exemption to it through the magical incantation of “qualified immunity” – a claim the courts accepted by a federal judge who dismissed Buehler’s civil rights lawsuit against the department.
Buehler and his colleagues never sought to defraud anyone. They didn’t engage in what the Regime calls “paper terrorism” – filing bogus liens or legal papers against public officials. They didn’t take refuge in pseudo-legal Gnosticism, as have some people identified as “sovereign citizens.” The only connection of any kind between Frein and Buehler is a shared antipathy toward the police – which in Buehler’s case was result of first-hand experience with the corrupt, abusive, and criminal behavior of the state’s costumed enforcement caste. In its most common application, then, the expression “sovereign citizen” apparently refers to anybody who believes that police should be servants, rather than overseers.
One documented trait of violent people associated with the “sovereign citizen” movement is a tendency to mimic the depraved, insouciant lawlessness of the people who presume to rule us. This often happens in a paroxysm of despairing violence on the part of someone who had sincerely tried to work within a “justice” system that is designed to prevent just outcomes.
Such was the case with Dennis Marx, who died in what was called an episode of “suicide-by-cop” by a “sovereign citizen extremist” at Georgia’s Forsyth County Courthouse last June 6.
After arriving at the courthouse, Marx – armed with several firearms and a variety of non-lethal grenades – opened fire. A large police contingent, including a SWAT team, quickly responded, and Marx – who shot and wounded a deputy – was dead within a few minutes. This happened on the same morning Marx was scheduled to accept a plea bargain on marijuana-related charges.
|Clueless, or pretending to be: Sheriff Piper.|
“Marx has been referred to as a `sovereign citizen’ who was anti-law enforcement and anti-government,” claimed the local newspaper, without elaborating on the basis for that characterization. According to Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper, Marx was well-known to his department, but he insisted that the motive for his attack at the courthouse “has yet to be determined.”
Sheriff Piper’s statement occupies a piece of rhetorical real estate located at the corner of “obtuse” and “disingenuous.” He must certainly have known that Marx’s desperate rampage was the act of a man standing at the threshold of a ruined life.
Marx, a construction contractor and part-time firearms dealer, had briefly been employed by the Transportation Security Administration, but other than that he had no criminal background. Yet he faced eleven felony charges, the loss of his home and property, and up to ten years in prison as a result of a SWAT raid that had uncovered a single ounce of marijuana.
At least $50,000 in cash, ammunition, and other property had been stolen during the raid and kept in the name of “asset forfeiture.” Like so many others in similar situations, Marx didn’t have the financial resources to defend himself in court – especially when the self-styled sovereigns who operate the “official” courts insist that the laws don’t apply when the State’s agents confiscate your property.
In August 2013, without the benefit of legal counsel, Marx filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, following it up two months later with a second amended complaint that described in detail the abuse he and a visiting friend experienced during the SWAT raid. The lawsuit, filed in good faith by someone clinging pitiably to misplaced faith in the “justice” system, was summarily dismissed by officials who displayed their familiar contempt for the idea that those who enforce the “law” should be subject to it.
|Nothing left to lose: Dennis Marx.|
Marx didn’t attack the courthouse out of an ideological hostility to law enforcement. His grievances were palpable, practical, and intensely personal.
When Marx arrived at the courthouse he carried zip cuffs. Sheriff Piper says that this demonstrates that Marx was prepared to take hostages. Another possibility is that Marx, all avenues of redress foreclosed to him, was carrying out what he considered to be a one-man equivalent of the SWAT raid that took place in his home three years earlier.
During the August 2011 raid, Marx recounted in his lawsuit, the SWAT operators kicked in the door to his home and “set off `Flash Bang Grenades’ upon gaining entry.” At the time of the attack, Marx was armed but put up no resistance made no “attempt even to touch his handgun.” Despite being entirely submissive, Marx endured “repeated strikes and blows, arm twisting, and knees and boots into his back and legs” and “was subjected to a `beat down’ and forcibly restrained … for an extended period of time.”
None of the invaders displayed a warrant, and when the warrant was tardily provided to Marx “there was no request or authorization for a `No Knock’ provision” in the document.” At one point during the home invasion, Deputy Noah Sprague “`dropped’ his taser on the hardwood floor and he and other Defendants … shouted `Gun! Gun! Gun! — and drew their weapons.” This left Marx “hugging the floor in fear for his life.”
Since none of the assailants had remembered to bring handcuffs, Marx was pinned to the floor at gunpoint, for hours, by a succession of deputies. Thus his decision to bring zip cuffs during his retaliatory strike on the courthouse could be seen as a courtesy of sorts.
His home was vandalized, his valuables were plundered, his assets were seized, and his reputation was indelibly tainted as the result of the arrest. The people responsible for visiting this ruin upon him were preparing to throw him in a cage because he possessed a single ounce of marijuana. Bereft of options and devoid of hope, Marx exercised what could be called the “Bobby McGee” variety of freedom – the violent recklessness of someone who had nothing left to lose. If his life was to be stolen from him, he sought to impose a price of some kind on the thieves who were responsible.
Assuming that Dennis Marx falls within the “sovereign citizen” taxonomy, another suitable definition of that term would be: Any individual who, deprived without cause of everything he owns and any prospect of a decent future, emulates the lawlessness and sense of impunity exhibited by the police and government officials who had targeted him.
Every State is operated by people who demand submission from their subjects, and who treat resistance as a capital offense. They also exempt themselves from the “laws” they impose on others while granting similar privileges to their allies and cronies. There are always people like Dennis Marx who reach the limits of submission – often after they discover that being submissive will earn them nothing when their self-appointed rulers target them for destruction. The Regime’s behavior guarantees that this sub-population will grow.
“Sovereignty” is a claim of ownership. If individuals cannot be “sovereign,” their only choice is servility. There was once a thoroughly imperfect but in many ways commendable country on the North American landmass that was created by people who understood that principle, and shed blood in righteous defense of individual liberty. That country has been supplanted by a soyuz in which even speaking of such things is often treated as a crime.