The Oath Keepers will supply guards for a presidential campaign rally supporting the Republican leader in the state of Minnesota on Thursday.
The armed rightwing militia group The Oath Keepers will provide security and escorts for attendees of a large rally for US President Donald Trump in Minnesota on Thursday, a move that ostensibly highlights the growing coziness between the government and hardline militias.
Scheduled to take place in downtown Minneapolis, the campaign rally is expected to bring out tens of thousands of Trump supporters.
The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009, have been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) watchdog as one of the largest “anti-government” groups in the country, and they have been involved in a number of controversial events in the past.
The militia revelation comes on the heels of a public spat between Trump and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who reportedly sent the president a bill for the expected costs – some $500,000 – of securing Thursday’s rally.
“The lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters,” Trump wrote of Frey on Twitter earlier this week, adding: “72,000 ticket requests already. Dump Frey and Omar! Make America Great Again!”
The tweet also referenced Ilhan Omar, a US representative from Minnesota and one of the first pair of Muslim American female lawmakers in the country’s history.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, also chimed in, described Mayor Frey as a “radical” and a “left-winger resister” supposedly attempting to “stifle the free speech” of Trump.
In a post on its website, the Oath Keepers – who describe themselves as “Guardians of the Republic” – urged fellow militiamen to descend on Minneapolis and provide “protection” for Trump supporters attending Thursday’s rally.
The post was in response to a call for an anti-capitalist bloc rally at the counterprotest against the Trump campaign event, first posted on the anarchist news site It’s Going Down.
“Bring yourself, bring your friends, bring your crew and come prepared to disrupt the nightmare that is Trump,” the call to action reads.
In response, the Oath Keepers called for backup in confronting “the violent communists of Antifa” and “other radical, America hating leftists”.
“This is a matter of duty and honor,” the Oath Keepers’ statement read.
“We will be providing volunteer security escorts for rally attendees as they walk to and from the rally. We need to protect them and we need you to step up and help us. If we don’t protect them, who will? And if you don’t help us, who will?”
The group added that it will “work closely” with biker gangs and “patriot” groups to ensure the safety of Trump supporters.
The Minneapolis Police Department and the White House did not reply to TRT World’s request for a comment.
Militias cozying up to Trump
According to the SPLC, the Oath Keepers is “is based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans”.
The group, non-coincidentally founded around the time that Barack Obama became the country’s first black president, has a long history of attending far-right rallies, pushing conspiracy theories and targeting minorities including Muslims.
In recent weeks, both Trump and the Oath Keepers have claimed that the US is on the verge of a civil war over the ongoing drive to impeach the president.
In August 2017, members of the Oath Keepers attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – a demonstration that turned deadly before it was over.
Although the Oath Keepers claim to oppose white nationalism and racism, the group has consistently provided armed security for far-right groups during protests and events.
The SPLC documented more than 600 anti-government groups – among them militias and other armed vigilante outfits – among the 1,020 hate groups around the country.
Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, told TRT World that, although traditionally anti-government, militia groups have become cozier with the Trump administration.
“The militia movement is generally very supportive of the Trump administration, and the federal agencies that seem to be enforcing his MAGA platform, like ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and CBP [Customs and Border Patrol],” she said by email.
“The movement picks and chooses which aspects of the government it will support, and which it wants to continue organising against in a paramilitary fashion.”