DIY Democracy

As might be expected, the attention of legacy media as involves the current Ferguson riots has been focused not on the rioters, but on efforts by the Oath Keepers, described as a “controversial right-wing 'patriot' group,” to protect local businesses and individuals. 

The Oath Keepers – whom AT readers will recognize as an organization of law enforcement and armed forces personnel devoted to opposing any attempt to subvert police or the military – have in fact stepped in to prevent the same type of political and legal collapse that occurred in Ferguson last year and Baltimore just a few months ago.

There is a lengthy history of such actions in this country stretching back nearly 250 years.  Whenever authority collapsed and the local peace was threatened, citizens were quick to form committees to take over law enforcement.  This was almost always due to corruption, incompetence, or cowardice in the local political establishment.  In San Francisco in the 1850s, citizens established their own law enforcement committees on two occasions, first to overwhelm runamok gangs and later to overturn a corrupt local government centered on a Democratic Tammany offshoot.  In Bannock, Montana in 1864, the citizenry moved against local kingpin Henry Plummer, who not only was the county sheriff, but also led the largest criminal gang in the territory.

This continued into the 20th century.  It was not Elliot Ness, but a citizen’s group chaired by a Protestant minister that ran Al Capone out of Cicero.  In 1946, returning veterans discovered that their hometown of Athens, Tennessee had come under the control of a criminal mob, which they ousted at gunpoint.

The Oath Keepers are following a long tradition.  So are the media, who have typically wailed to the heavens at each of these incidents.  (One exception is James King, a crusading San Francisco newspaper editor murdered by gangsters for refusing to knuckle under.  His assassination led to the establishment of the 1851 Committee of Vigilance.)

The vigilance committees of the 19th century have long been dismissed as lynch mobs.  But the record shows otherwise.  The left is always in favor of people’s power right up to the moment that people actually exercise it.

Amid a deteriorating racial climate, politically correct policies, and the return of so-called legal reforms that amount to “cut 'em loose,” we may yet have recourse to the example set by the Oath Keepers.  It would not be a waste of time to carefully examine the history of the 19th-century committees to see how it was done. 

As might be expected, the attention of legacy media as involves the current Ferguson riots has been focused not on the rioters, but on efforts by the Oath Keepers, described as a “controversial right-wing 'patriot' group,” to protect local businesses and individuals. 

The Oath Keepers – whom AT readers will recognize as an organization of law enforcement and armed forces personnel devoted to opposing any attempt to subvert police or the military – have in fact stepped in to prevent the same type of political and legal collapse that occurred in Ferguson last year and Baltimore just a few months ago.

There is a lengthy history of such actions in this country stretching back nearly 250 years.  Whenever authority collapsed and the local peace was threatened, citizens were quick to form committees to take over law enforcement.  This was almost always due to corruption, incompetence, or cowardice in the local political establishment.  In San Francisco in the 1850s, citizens established their own law enforcement committees on two occasions, first to overwhelm runamok gangs and later to overturn a corrupt local government centered on a Democratic Tammany offshoot.  In Bannock, Montana in 1864, the citizenry moved against local kingpin Henry Plummer, who not only was the county sheriff, but also led the largest criminal gang in the territory.

This continued into the 20th century.  It was not Elliot Ness, but a citizen’s group chaired by a Protestant minister that ran Al Capone out of Cicero.  In 1946, returning veterans discovered that their hometown of Athens, Tennessee had come under the control of a criminal mob, which they ousted at gunpoint.

The Oath Keepers are following a long tradition.  So are the media, who have typically wailed to the heavens at each of these incidents.  (One exception is James King, a crusading San Francisco newspaper editor murdered by gangsters for refusing to knuckle under.  His assassination led to the establishment of the 1851 Committee of Vigilance.)

The vigilance committees of the 19th century have long been dismissed as lynch mobs.  But the record shows otherwise.  The left is always in favor of people’s power right up to the moment that people actually exercise it.

Amid a deteriorating racial climate, politically correct policies, and the return of so-called legal reforms that amount to “cut 'em loose,” we may yet have recourse to the example set by the Oath Keepers.  It would not be a waste of time to carefully examine the history of the 19th-century committees to see how it was done.