Virginia law enforcement officers who belong to the Oath Keepers are not serving in Floyd County

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, center, speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, June 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Floyd County has excellent law enforcement officers and are not affiliated with violent groups like the Oath Keepers.

Circuit Court today in the Floyd County Courthouse is one of my weekly stops in news coverage for The Floyd Press. It also reminds us how fortunate we are to have an excellent police force in the Sheriff’s Department and our prosecutors in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.

None of our law enforcement officers, public officials, or first responders are members of the violent insurrectionist militia group known as the Oath Keepers.

A list of more than 370 such officials compiled by the Center for Extremism of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found only six members of law enforcement, one elected official, and three first responders in Virginia listed on a leaked list of Oath Keepers released earlier this year — none of them in Floyd County.

The one elected official on the list from Virginia is Appomattox County Supervisor John Frederick Hinkle, who admits “trying to join” the group but claims his membership payment was never processed by the group. Hinkle also tried to help start a local group Oath Keepers chapter in Appomattox in 2020. Reports The Times-Virginian newspaper:

A Virginia Oath Keepers chapter is in the process of starting up for the Appomattox area. At Supervisor John Hinkle and the Rev. Dr. Paul Michael Raymond’s request, Virginia Oathkeepers’ State President Stuart Cardwell visited with Appomattox citizens on Feb. 8 to discuss the organization’s efforts. 

We have one area elected official, Floyd County’s state legislator Marie March, an outspoken supporter of disgraced former president Donald Trump, who attended Trump’s speech in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, before she was elected to replace the retiring Nick Rush. She said her father wanted to hear Trump’s speech and claimed they left the area before the trouble began in the capitol.

March praised the day as a chance to support gun rights in Virginia and nationwide.

Virginia does have 15 active members of the military who are also members of the Oath Keepers but military leaders say those who are will soon be gone.

Some Floyd County gun fanciers attempted to create a local militia but Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Branscom called it “a gun club at best” and not a legal group as a militia. He says he understands the group has pretty much fallen apart.

Besides the law enforcement officers and one elected official, ADL says 1,091 other Virginians are listed as members of the Oath Keepers, which is tagged as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They describe the Oath Keepers:

The Oath Keepers organization claims to be defending the U.S. Constitution and fighting tyranny, but as former Oath Keepers spokesman Jason Van Tatenhove describes, the group is actually “selling the revolution.” The threats to American liberties that Oath Keepers say the federal government is responsible for are in reality a set of baseless conspiracy theories.

As part of the group’s mission, Oath Keepers have directed their recruiting effort toward members of the military, law enforcement and other public-safety positions. They are often confrontational and have participated in multiple armed standoffs against the government. The most recent is the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when members of the group, including its leader, Stewart Rhodes, were arrested and accused of conspiring to oppose the presidential transfer of power by force.

The group also has a long history of engaging in and promoting their own form of vigilantism by providing voluntary armed security, not affiliated with any law enforcement entity, at various protests and venues. In 2014, members formed their own patrol in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of an unarmed Black man in 2014, and they provided security to an Infowars reporter during the anniversary protest a year later. In 2015, Rhodes said they would protect notorious Kentucky clerk Kim Davis from arrest. Members patrolled the site of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and polling locations in 2016 and 2020, allegedly to discourage and report voter fraud. Members have provided security for events and individuals promoting “Stop the Steal” after the 2020 election, including Roger Stone. They also offered security to business owners who defied COVID-19 public health safety measures.

The Charlottesville rally also resulted in the death of a woman protesting the right-wingers and was run down by a fanatic who drove his car into a crowd and two state troopers in a helicopter crash.

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