COEUR d’ALENE —“Prepare, plan and stay informed,” said Washington State Rep. Matt Shea, quoting from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website.
“Why is it that when we say that it is mischaracterized as we want a revolution?” he asked a group of about 50 Oath Keepers who held a meeting at the Coeur d’Alene Library Thursday evening to discuss how the media portrayed the Northwest Patriot and Preparedness Rally they held at Farragut State Park last month.
“Anyone who has ever been in combat would never want to see that happen,” Shea said, adding he has done two tours of combat.
The Oath Keepers is an organization of military veterans, police, firefighters and other first responders, who have sworn a oath to uphold the Constitution.
“We want to make sure they don’t inadvertently follow unconstitutional orders,” said John Mackey, coordinator for the District 4 Chapter of the Oath Keepers.
Mackey, who opened the meeting while panelists were setting up on stage, gave the audience many examples of that happening recently after Hurricane Katrina and the Boston bombings in April.
He said after Katrina hit New Orleans there was news of snipers, so the government ordered troops and police officers to begin disarming people who were trapped in the area.
“They said it was for your health and safety. It really happened,” he said. “You can look it up on YouTube by searching New Orleans gun confiscation.”
On the other hand, he said there was a National Guard unit out of Utah that refused to disarm residents. The Oath Keepers have an interview of Sgt. Joshua May, from that unit, explaining how that decision was made on YouTube as well.
Mackey and Don Bradway, another Oath Keeper, also explained how it happened again this past April after the Boston Marathon bombings — where they say there was a “wholesale warrantless search of Watertown” near Boston when they were searching for the bombers.
“You can’t issue a warrant for a town,” said Bradway. “It’s an individual thing.”
The Oath Keepers print a brochure that has a list of 10 orders they will never follow. It’s also on their website.
They see themselves as the protectors of the Constitution, and they advocate much of the same things Shea quoted from the FEMA website.
Shea had two questions: “Is the economy going to collapse? And should America be self-reliant?”
He went on to explain that the Federal Reserve is printing $85 billion a month to buy back our national debt. The country has $61 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Couple that with inflated gas prices and commodities, and he says the evidence is pretty clear our economy is in trouble.
“My job as a representative is to tell people how to get out of this,” he said.
Brandon Smith, who manages a website called alternativemarkets.com, backed Shea up. He said that the three economic indicators that people are using to say the economy is recovering are skewed.
Real unemployment, he said, is more like 20 to 25 percent when you factor in part-time workers and people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.
Smith said the stock market is being propped up by the Federal Reserve, and the resurgence of the housing market is largely due to banks buying up houses for pennies on the dollar.
He said the national debt has grown from $10 trillion to $17 trillion over the past five years.
“Look at how long it took for us to get to $10 trillion,” he said, adding that evidence of economic collapse is all around us.
He points to what happened in Argentina in 1999, when that country’s national debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio exceeded 100 percent. He said our national debt to GDP ratio is at 101 percent, not including the unfunded liabilities this country has.
“This is history,” he said. “We just want people to be prepared. This could happen here.”
Smith advocates for resurgence of barter markets to help communities decentralize from the supermarket mentality they have now.
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, was also on the panel. He said communities have moved away from local economies.
He said his grandfather fished and grandmother gardened to get through the Great Depression.
“Now society has been disconnected from the earth,” he said. “We need to localize our economies. We’ve gotten away from self-reliance and resiliency.”
He said the Oath Keepers are community self-reliance, not individual preppers. They are not advocating for local militaries, but rather community defense preparedness.
“We are not talking about butt-crack militias with Billy Bob,” he said. “We are talking about organizing the communities to defend themselves — not to fight the federal government.
“Militia has become the M-word.”
He said people should look into joining the police auxiliary and civic groups to strengthen their community’s ability to survive disaster however it may come about.
Rhodes said during the cold war with Russia the United States maintained a three-year grain reserve in case of nuclear war.
“It wasn’t kooky to be prepared for nuclear attack,” he said, adding that they are being painted by the media as kooks for preparing now.
“China has an economic bomb over us now, and we don’t have a grain reserve anymore,” he said. “What (Homeland Security) is doing now is buying ammo and armored vehicles.
“If there is an economic collapse, they will close off communities.”
Rhodes said the economic issues, the fact that China is decoupling from the American currency and other factors are viewed by his group as imminent threats.
“The mainstream media doesn’t want to take that seriously,” he said, adding the movement isn’t partisan as they are trying to portray it. “Both Bush and Obama were oath breakers.”
Smith said he believes the media is critical of the Oath Keepers because they criticize the government.
“I call it state worship,” he said. “They have this attitude of don’t rock the boat especially if you’re in it.
“FEMA doesn’t get attacked because they don’t criticize the government.”