Amid the fallout from the January 6th storming of the Capitol by the far-right, there has been renewed scrutiny of the ties between the ultra-right and various police forces in the country.
A leak of records from the far-right group the Oath Keepers, examined by WNYC and the Gothamist, shed further light on this, identified members of NYPD who are members of the group, which played a central role in breaching the Capitol.
Ideologically the Oath Keepers are not terribly different from many other far-right paramilitary groups. As one research organization describes it, they believe “the government is secretly planning, along with foreign countries and the United Nations, to impose martial law, seize all Americans’ guns, force resisters into concentration camps and install a one-world totalitarian government known as the ‘New World Order.’”
In real life they often show up very well-armed to protect businesses in the wake of uprisings, mobilizing armed border presences aimed at immigrants, supporting businesses that oppose COVID-19 guidelines, and rallying to protect far-right ranchers that oppose government land sales, and participating in events aimed to demonize Muslims.
The Oath Keepers fully back the fraudulent theory that the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump, and they were prominently featured as part of some of the various groups who stormed the Capitol.
What has always set apart the Oath Keepers is that they have claimed that their membership, which they say to be around 35,000, is heavily made up of retired and active police, sheriffs and military members. While the actual size of the group is unclear, from time to time information does crop up regarding their ties to law enforcement; that is where this new leak comes in.
As George Joseph, one of the Gothamist reporters involved in the investigation details, said on Twitter: ”One of the names matches that of a veteran officer assigned to the NYPD’s Firearms & Tactics Section. When [WNYC reporter] Micah Loewinger called the number linked to him in the hacked data, he acknowledged he was an NYPD officer, but declined to confirm his relationship with the militia group.”
Joseph continued: “Another name in the data dump matches that of an officer in the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, the department’s specialized unit that has drawn numerous brutality complaints from Black Lives Matter protesters.”
The leaks, Joseph found, also named Ed Keyrouze, chief of staff for the New York Guard, as an Oath Keeper member, referring to his ability to “recruit from NY Army & Air Guard, NY State Guard & USCG [Coast Guard] Auxiliary.” He also works for the NY State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, which “oversees approximately 20,000 national guard, naval militia and other forces.”
“There are over 20 riders that work at Natl Guard HQ’s (DMNA-NY),” one leaked document states. “Some of them are members of Combat Veterans & Patriot Guard. Will work to bring them onboard to Oath Keepers… In response to our inquiry, the state defense official acknowledged he signed up online for a 1-year Oath Keepers’ membership “several years back,” but said he wasn’t actively involved with the militia. He also said he has notified the NY Guard Commander of his association.”
And, finally, Joseph’s reporting lays out that: “In New York, WNYC/Gothamist identified dozens of names that appeared to match those of current/former police, court + corrections officers in New York City and other jurisdictions, including Nassau County on Long Island, and Dutchess + Greene Counties in upstate New York.”
Of course officials, including Mayor Bill De Blasio are now scrambling to launch investigations, but this reporting speaks to something much deeper. Routinely, around the country police officers are linked to far right groups. Further, police agencies themselves develop a culture of fascistic internal groups, like the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department gangs, which promote violence and brutality against civilians and celebrate on duty killings. This is especially true in specialist groups like the DC Metro Police’s Gun Recovery Unit, which has as a logo a skull with a bullet hole between the eyes.
The culture of policing in the United States is a breeding ground for the types of far-right dehumanization of large subsets of people. This is a very important, but little discussed, factor behind the epidemic of police terrorism that has touched off multiple mass uprisings in the past several years.
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Eugene Puryear is a longtime journalist and community organizer currently-based in New York City. Eugene helped to organize a number of the large-scale demonstrations that took place against the continuing U.S. war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, he was a key leader In the struggle to free the Jena Six in 2007, and a founder of the anti-gentrification group Justice First, the Jobs Not Jails coalition, DC Ferguson Movement and Stop Police Terror Project-D.C. Puryear is the author of the book Shackled and Chained: Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America, and spent five years in radio prior to helping found BT News.