A Brevard County man faced a federal judge Thursday after he was arrested on charges ranging from conspiracy to destruction of government property.
The Oath Keepers describe themselves as “a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”
The group actively recruits current and former members of law enforcement and the military, but the group is not exclusively made up of those individuals.
“Oath Keepers also includes a membership program designated as ‘Associate Members’, which consists of patriotic citizens who have not served in uniform but who serve now by supporting this mission with their Associate Membership and volunteer activities,” according to the group’s website.
Federal investigators have called the Oath Keepers a loosely organized group that believes “that the federal government has been co-opted by a cabal of elites actively trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Oath Keepers were founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes. Rhodes is an attorney and an Army veteran from Montana, according to the ADL.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Rhodes served as a paratrooper in the Army, then attended the University of Nevada and Yale Law School, where he graduated in 2004. The SPLC also said Rhodes worked on Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign prior to starting the Oath Keepers.
The Oath Keepers claim tens of thousands of members on its rolls but, according to the ADL, that is unlikely, but they may have a couple of thousand members.
The Oath Keepers often traffic in conspiracies which include a belief that the government may try to impose martial law or that the United Nations is a tool of a “New World Order,” according to the ADL.
Rhodes himself has not yet been charged in connection with the Capitol riots, though investigators have said he was in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, communicating with some of the accused rioters.
“All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” he said in a Signal message to a group around 1:40 p.m., authorities say. A little later, Rhodes, who has not been charged in the attack, instructed the group to “come to South Side of Capitol on steps.”
Around 2:40 p.m., members of a military-style “stack” who moved up Capitol stairs in a line entered the building through a door on the east side, authorities say. Lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated from the House and Senate chambers just about 20 minutes earlier.
Investigators believe they’d been laying attack plans in advance of Jan. 6 and their internal communications and other evidence emerging in court papers and in hearings show how authorities are trying to build a case that small cells hidden within the mass of rioters mounted an organized, military-style assault on the capitol.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.