FARRAGUT STATE PARK - Hundreds of self-described patriots turned out for a three-day patriot rally here this weekend to learn how to organize and prepare for what they consider to be the imminent collapse of our economy.
Hot button speakers, including many from the patriot movement, rallied attendees Friday and Saturday night to form militias, and stock up on ammunition and supplies. The message was, be prepared for when the government can no longer provide services after the collapse.
"We need to prepare for the inevitable collapse that is going to happen," said Washington state representative Matt Shea. "You know it's going to happen. That's right, I am a politician and I am standing up here and saying that."
Shea was introduced as one of the 10 most hateful politicians featured on the Southern Poverty Law Center's website. He called that a badge of honor.
SPLC actually lists Shea as one of the "Dirty Dozen" outspoken state legislators that belong to a group called State Legislators for Legal Immigration.
In a profile of Shea, the SPLC said that he has not recently been involved in the immigration issue, but he is actively perpetuating a conspiracy that the government has plans to disarm Americans and round them up into concentration camps run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
His talk at the rally didn't mention the concentration camps, but he did urge attendees to get organized and to prepare for when the government steps in after the "inevitable collapse."
"When it happens, we need to look at this as a opportunity, not a crisis," he said. "Who's job is liberty? That's our job."
Shea urged the crowd to stock up on thousands of rounds of ammunition and to stay in shape, practice shooting, learn self defense and special tactics.
When he was in the military, Shea said one of his superiors told him something he will never forget.
"Be prepared at any given moment to give up your job to do what is right," he said. "You have to stand up for what is right - even if it means you have to stand up to your government."
Most of the Friday night speakers agreed that our country is no longer being run constitutionally, and that in the event of a collapse someone is going to have to step up to restore and protect the constitution.
Dale Pearce, a former Idaho legislator, spoke on behalf of the John Birch Society.
"Liberty once lost is lost forever," he said, explaining how America has already lost its constitution system and how there have been repeated attempts to alter it over the years.
Pearce said he got involved in the legislature 25 years ago, when activists nationwide were attempting to call for a constitutional convention.
At the time, he said 32 states had called for a convention to rewrite the constitution to add in things like requiring a balanced budget, giving the president line item veto authority and clarifying equal rights protection.
If 34 states had called for it, Congress would have been compelled to convene a convention.
"These were all things that legislators thought sounded really good at the time," Pearce said. "But once you get the convention Congress takes over."
If that were happen today, he said the chair of the convention would be President Obama, and other cast members would include Hillary Clinton and maybe even Michelle Obama.
Pearce said he successfully talked the Idaho legislature out of making a call for the convention, and the effort died. But, he added, Idaho State Senator Curt McKenzie, R-Boise, drops a bill every year calling for a convention.
"They are doing this nationwide," he told the crowd. "We need to continue to hold these legislators to their oath in office."
Pearce quoted Ayn Rand at the beginning of his talk:
"When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion; when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you; when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice; you may know that your society is doomed," he read.
In an earlier speech, Idaho State Representative Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, explained how much of what Pearce quoted was already happening.
His talk was about the constitution and what it was.
"It was a restriction on the power and authority of the federal government," he said, adding it was also written to protect the states and the citizens of the United States.
Now, he said, the federal government is systematically eliminating the restriction the constitution placed on it "for the collective good - not the individual."
"They are empowering tyranny," he said. "Rules and regulations are eliminating our freedoms. It's social engineering."
He pointed to the second amendment, saying it is no longer protecting the individual's right to bear arms.
"I am convinced the only thing protecting your right to bear arms is the fact that you own one and it's loaded," he said. "The constitution isn't protecting your rights anymore, you are."
Barbieri urged the attendees to be prepared for change, "big changes."
"We all know change is coming," he said. "Let's keep the constitution and throw out the bureaucrats."
The rally wasn't all politics. The rallies happened mostly in the evenings. During the morning hours, there were several survival experts giving demonstrations on a variety of things ranging from field midwife training to hand-to-hand combat.
Vendors were selling everything from freeze-dried food and ammunition to ham radios and first aid gear.
Other experts gave seminars on how to start a barter system, and there was even a history seminar on the real start of the Revolutionary War entitled April 19, 1775.
One of the organizers, Christina Whitehurst, said the event drew about 540 people on Friday, another 175 showed up Thursday night and they were expecting several hundred more after the Veterans' Stand Down event in Post Falls on Saturday.
Don Bradway, of the Oath Keepers which hosted the event, said the inaugural event had a few minor glitches, but overall he felt it was successful.
"Our intention is to do this again," he said. "Hopefully for multiple years to come."