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May 21, 2015

Texas County Considers Adopting Militia Group

Update — 6/2/15: Orange County Judge Brint Carlton later told the Anti-Defamation League that he has no intention of creating a county militia.

A southeast Texas county has drawn attention recently after it became known that county officials were considering adopting a local anti-government militia group as an official “county militia.” Orange County Judge Brint Carlton endorsed the idea, calling it a “good thing.”

David W. Smith

David W. Smith

County commissioners decided at the last minute to postpone the vote after a commissioner voiced reservations, saying he needed more information.

The militia movement is an anti-government cause whose adherents believe that the U.S. government is collaborating with a shadowy “New World Order” conspiracy to strip Americans of their freedoms, starting with their right to bear arms, in order to eventually enslave Americans to the New World Order. The militia movement has a long history of violence and criminal acts; the Anti-Defamation League has tracked at least eight violent acts, conspiracies or major crimes linked to the militia movement just since 2011.

However, David W. Smith, the “commander” of the Golden Triangle Militia, a small southeastern Texas militia group formed in 2014, has lobbied county officials to adopt his militia group, eventually getting some support.

Though Smith has claimed to reporters that his Golden Triangle Militia is not anti-government but rather a “civil defense force which works with law enforcement,” to his own group he has showed a more conspiratorial side, arguing that “we must never let ourselves…be complacent to the schemes of the world elitists” and demanding that Americans “rid ourselves of tyrannical government.”

Smith, a former phlebotomist who now sells “monolithic domes,” has expressed support for views that are far from the mainstream. Through his Facebook profile, he is linked to a wide variety of extremist groups and figures, from anti-government conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (who popularized the recent notion that the federal government was planning to invade Texas) to various Three Percenter groups (anti-government extremists who view themselves fighting against the federal government as American colonists fought against the British). Smith ran for U.S. senate in 2014 on a platform of opposing “this unconstitutional de facto government.”

Ironically, Texas law has no provision to allow its counties to create county militias. Smith has argued that Texas law allows Orange County to “recognize” his unit as the “Orange County Ready Reserve Militia.” However, the Texas Reserve Militia is only a statutory manpower pool that exists to conform to an obsolete federal militia law dating back originally to 1792. Theoretically, the governor of Texas can call portions of the reserve militia into service in times of emergency by having county emergency boards institute a draft. Such boards have no power to call up the reserve militia on their own, however, much less “adopt” paramilitary groups. The self-styled “militias” of today have no legal relationship to the historical and statutory militia.

Despite this, Smith has claimed that counties have the authority to organize the Texas Reserve Militia. He has also asserted that the militia could come into service “by general consensus of the population should the state fail in the execution of its constitutional duties.” Smith has even claimed that county commissioners could be jailed if they refused to authorize a militia—a serious misreading of Texas law.

Smith will have to wait to see if Orange County officials schedule another vote or abandon his plan altogether.

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May 4, 2015

Garland Shooting Overshadows Anti-Muslim Event Featuring Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Police shot and killed two suspects who opened fire at a Garland, Texas, center hosting a “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest.” The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an anti-Muslim organization headed by Pamela Geller, organized the event, which featured anti-Muslim Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders as the main speaker.  Geller also heads Stop Islamization of America, which operates under the auspices of AFDI and seeks to rouse public fears about a vast Islamic conspiracy to destroy American values.

The shooting overshadowed the Muhammad cartoon contest which AFDI billed as an event “in defense of free speech.”  AFDI asked people to submit cartoons of Muhammad and promised $10,000 to the winner of the contest.  The contest was also AFDI’s response to the terror attack in Paris in which 12 people who worked for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed by Muslim terrorists angry over the depiction of Muhammad in the publication.  It is also evident that the contest would incite the Muslim community and others opposed to anti-Muslim bigotry. AFDI chose to hold it at the same venue where the Muslim community recently held a “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror & Hate” event.

In his speech at the cartoon contest, Wilders asserted that “We will never allow Islam to rob us of our freedom of speech.” He said that the contest was held “in defiance of Islam” and that “depicting Muhammad is an act of liberation.”  Wilders declared, “Let us de-Islamize our societies! No more Islam, no more mosques, no more Islamic schools. It is time for our own culture and heritage.”

It is no surprise that Gellers invited Wilders to be the keynote speaker at the cartoon contest. Both have promoted an anti-Muslim agenda for years and have worked together previously. Like Geller, Wilders has made it his mission to “warn people of the Islamization of our Western societies.”

The cartoon contest was one of four events at which Wilders spoke over the past week in the United States. On April 29, two members of Congress, Steven King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), invited Wilders to speak at two separate events in DC. At one of the events, a meeting of the Conservative Opportunity Society, founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Wilders compared Islam to Nazism and declared that the West should end all immigration from Islamic countries. The next day, Wilders spoke at a press conference in front of the Capitol in Washington, along with Representatives King and Gohmert. Wilders once again spoke out against Islamic immigration and argued that Islam has tried to subjugate the countries where there is a Muslim majority.

Wilders brought up similar themes in his speech at the cartoon contest, which he delivered before the shooting. No matter how offensive an event or program may be, there is no place in our community or our country for the violence that took place outside the event. 

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September 22, 2014

Ferguson = Gaza: The Continued Invocation Of A False Comparison

gaza-ferguson-college-of-staten-island

Vigil for Gaza at the College of Staten Island

While Gaza and Ferguson no longer dominate the headlines, these unrelated events continue to be connected by a num­ber of groups and indi­vid­u­als in an attempt to bring atten­tion to their activism.

In addition to previously reported examples, more recent anti-Israel events continue to link the conflict in Gaza to the Ferguson, Missouri shooting and its aftermath, couching hostility towards Israel in social justice terms in an attempt to appeal to a broader base of support.

Recent examples of anti-Israel events that draw parallels between Ferguson and Gaza include:

  • Existence is Resistance and the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home are advertising an event scheduled for October 11 at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Center in northern Manhattan to address “the global systems that oppress us, from Ferguson to Gaza.” The event will feature speakers such as Remi Kanazi, an organizing committee member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).
  • A panel discussion titled “From Ferguson to Palestine: Connecting Struggles” is scheduled to take place at the University of Texas-Austin on September 24 according to the event’s Facebook page. The event, sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, will feature at least two UT-Austin professors.
  • The City University of New York (CUNY) Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter is hosting a panel discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center titled “CUNY Stands for Justice: From Ferguson to Palestine” on September 22 featuring “an evening of poetry, speakers, and discussion around repression and resistance from Ferguson, Missouri to Gaza, Palestine,” according to event flyers.

    gaza-ferguson-brooklyn-college

    SJP “die-in” at Brooklyn College

  • The College of Staten Island SJP chapter hosted a vigil for Gaza on September 17 at which the group advertised on Facebook that it would “read the names of the lives lost, give speeches, and stand in solidarity from Ferguson to Palestine…” The group also stated that it shares the anger of those in Ferguson because “Palestinians know what it means to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity.”
  • According to a post on an anti-Israel Facebook page, members of the Direct Action Front for Palestine attended protests in Ferguson and spoke to people there about Gaza. On September 8, it held a meeting in Brooklyn, New York to share what they “learned in Ferguson…to become more effective in our resistance…”
  • Members of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) protested outside ADL’s San Francisco office on September 3 with a banner that read “From Oakland to Ferguson to Palestine, The US and Israel, A Deadly combination” and “Stop police brutality…Stop the ADL.” IJAN is a coalition formed in 2008 that seeks to facilitate global anti-Israel activity on the part of anti-Zionist Jews.
  • On Facebook, Brooklyn College SJP advertised a September 2 “die-in” on the Brooklyn College campus to “raise awareness about israel’s [sic] latest massacre” and to remember “all the victims of white supremacy and institutionalized racism in the U.S., the latest being #MikeBrown and #EricGarner.”

Events linking Ferguson and Gaza have also been organized by some university departments. At UCLA, the Law School’s Critical Race Studies Department sponsored a September 18 event called “From Gaza to Ferguson,” which according to publicity materials, explored “the relationship between race, the rise of militarized policing and the response to dissent in the United States and consider its implications in a global context.” The panel included Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who has compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of Jews.

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