The Threat from the Patriot Movement

AMERICA'S PATRIOTS HAVE A TOUGH LIST OF DEMANDS: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY LAND, MY WALLET -- AND MY GUNS

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Koernke unequivocally denies any involvement in the Oklahoma blast, but he has capitalized on the atrocity to rally his followers around the idea of government complicity in the explosion. On his shortwave radio broadcast the day of the bombing, he exhorted true believers in Oklahoma to grab their video cameras and shoot footage of the site. "Document what agencies were coming in and out. As a matter of fact, [my wife] Nancy and the kids, watching the initial footage of this, saw what appeared to be United Nations observers' badges." The next day, patriot computer bulletin-board systems were rife with messages like this one on the Citizenship BBS in California's San Fernando Valley: "This was orchestrated by the shadow government (i.e., Trilateralists, atf, fema, etc.) to whip the public into such a frenzy that Americans will BEG to surrender their privacy for some government-provided protection from terrorism." At week's end, the shortwave station carrying Koernke's broadcast dropped his show.

Other patriots are worried that their own agendas will be confused with the as-yet-unexplained agenda of the Oklahoma bomber. "If you get one crazy out there who doesn't have a brain, then everybody gets lumped in," complains Dean Compton, 33, who heads an armed militia in California's Sierra Nevada foothills. In dread of just such an event, he announced the formation of a group in March called the National Alliance of Christian Militia. Compton, who claims 85% of the militia movement is Christian, says the new alliance is an attempt to distinguish their efforts from "the hate groups and the Klan."

Such distinctions, however, are not always apparent. Two days after the bombing, 550 patriot Christians gathered in Branson, Missouri, for the International Coalition of Covenant Congregations Conference. "I mingled with a lot of people there, and there was not a shred of sympathy for what happened in Oklahoma," an attendee told Time. According to this source, some participants felt the carnage was understandable retaliation for the 1993 deaths of children during the government raid in Waco, Texas.

California's Compton asserts that "mainstream" militias are working round the clock to assist in the investigation of the bombing. "We want worse than anybody to make sure these guys come to justice." But, he warns, "if the government gets heavy-handed" in its search, "we'll have some problems.'' Easygoing and articulate, Compton, the father of three, discusses his apocalyptic convictions with patience and occasional humor. Yet he is girding for guerrilla-style warfare against his own government. He's got a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol strapped to his hip, a wad of emergency cash and enough ammunition to fight a small battle. In the back of his battered Chevy Silverado, he packs a green .223-cal. Sporter assault rifle, a $200 Kevlar helmet, a CB radio, walkie-talkies, camouflage uniforms and 15 days of provisions.

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