MONTGOMERY, Ala — The Southern Poverty Law Center’s President and CEO Margaret Huang issued the following statement after the historic convictions of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and group member Kelly Meggs on seditious conspiracy in U.S. v. Rhodes. Other group members, including Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson and Jessica Watkins, were found guilty of various other felony charges.
“Yesterday’s historic verdicts of seditious conspiracy brings us one step closer to holding those who helped plan and perpetrate the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, accountable for their actions.
“Through their planning and actions on that day, members of the Oath Keepers organization, led by Stewart Rhodes, acted as a violent vanguard to direct the energy of other protesters into attacking the Capitol and disrupting the transfer of power – by force.
“While the Oath Keepers is one of the most notorious far-right, antigovernment groups to ever exist in the U.S., it is just one example in a long history of these groups that use hate and antigovernment conspiracy theories to threaten our democracy and harm our communities.
“The SPLC has warned again and again about the threat to our communities from antigovernment groups, from the racist and antisemitic roots of the antigovernment movement to their violent history marked by incidents like the Oklahoma City bombing.
“We applaud the Justice Department for their courage in bringing these charges and for their successful prosecution. While yesterday’s verdicts provide some accountability, the SPLC will continue to press for real consequences for the others who planned and perpetrated the insurrection and those who inspired and funded their violent activities and the organized campaign to steal the presidency.”
Background on the group:
The SPLC has been tracking antigovernment groups for decades, including the heavily armed extremist Oath Keepers group and their leader, Stewart Rhodes, since its inception in 2009. Since then, the group has held a place on the SPLC’s list of antigovernment groups.
The SPLC has repeatedly warned that Rhodes and many of his followers were a threat to communities across the country and, given their stated intentions to undermine our democratic institutions and U.S. democracy as a whole.
Oath Keepers previously worked to interfere with elections and, before the charges related to Jan. 6, at least four Oath Keepers have been convicted of crimes ranging from stockpiling bombs to threatening public officials.
The group consistently recruits from law enforcement, first responders and military veterans in an attempt to legitimize their activities, but the events of Jan. 6 and these convictions send a resounding message that the group is neither legitimate nor peaceful, and the violent activities that often characterize the hard-right antigovernment movement will not be tolerated.
Since Jan. 6, various elected officials and other community leaders who had previously been affiliated with the Oath Keepers have distanced themselves from the organization. While the organization is seriously depleted, members have continued to engage in election interference activities in the 2022 midterms.
SPLC organizational summary extremist file: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/oath-keepers
Stewart Rhodes extremist file: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/elmer...
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