Bluestem Prairie notices that Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechaley, Representative Tina Mulally (R-35/Rapid City), and Pennington County Commissioner Travis Lasseter are hosting a December 1 speech in Rapid City by an insurrectionist police officer and a right-wing radio radical.
Former Graham County, Arizona, sheriff Richard Mack founded the “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” and travels the country to peddle the unconstitutional and dangerous notions that local sheriffs can supersede the authority of Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and even their own state governments. Mack disguises this insurrectionist sentiment as “training” for the cops he’s trying to indoctrinate and recruit into his unconstitutional movement:
The central tenet of CSPOA, borrowed from the anti-government extremist sovereign citizen movement, is that the county sheriff is the ultimate authority in the county, able to halt enforcement of any federal or state law or measure they deem unconstitutional. Mack, a former Arizona sheriff, has used this false narrative to oppose gun control laws and, in the last two years, to exploit anger and frustration over federal and state actions to combat COVID-19.
ADL is releasing this report today because we are especially alarmed that Mack is increasingly seeking out law enforcement audiences, billing his extremist events as “trainings.” In a disturbing development, in 2021, Mack won official state approval for his “trainings” in Montana and Texas, which allows attendees to receive continuing education credit for attending Mack’s events [Anti-Defamation League, “New ADL Report on Richard Mack and the CSPOA: Extremists Training, Recruiting Law Enforcement Nationwide,” 2021.10.06].
If you have to ask what’s wrong with local cops arrogating judicial power, you need to go back to civics class. You’ll hear this:
Mack says that more than 100 sheriffs have shown up at the annual conventions his group has organized, including many in 2014 where Finch received the group’s top honor: Constitutional Sheriff of the Year. With forty other sheriffs, Finch signed a resolution there declaring they would not tolerate any federal agent who attempted to register firearms, arrest someone, or seize property in their counties without their consent.
Jared Goldstein, professor of constitutional law at the Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, said this vow conflicts with the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which authorizes federal agents to enforce federal law even when it clashes with state or local laws. “What makes them dangerous,” Goldstein said in an interview, is that they want “the sheriffs to resist federal authority,” using phraseology that he contends leaves the door open for violence. In their stubborn resistance to federal authority, he added, they are like Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed last year for flouting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling granting gay couples the right to wed — “but with guns” [Julia Harte and R. Jeffrey Smith, “‘The Army to Set Our Nation Free’,” Center for Public Integrity, updated 2016.05.24].
Mack’s movement has its roots in white-supremacist activism and domestic terrorism:
In the 1970s, a minister in the white supremacist Christian Identity movement, William Potter Gale, wrote a series of articles that would come to be known as the handbook of the Posse Comitatus movement. Gale described sheriffs as the only “legal” law enforcement officers in the country and urged citizens to form their own militias to resist encroachments on their rights if sheriffs did not. The constitutional abuses he cited included the federal income tax system, gun control, federal education, and civil rights laws. He advised citizens to form their own “common law” courts to try officials who violated the constitution, and prescribed archaic punishments, such as hangings.
Contemporary “sovereign citizens,” who generally reject federal authorities, are inspired partly by Gale’s rhetoric and partly by past bloody clashes between federal officials and citizens charged with illegal gun sales and ownership. Terry Nichols, who is now in prison for planning the Oklahoma City federal center bombing that killed 168 people and wounded more than 680 others this week 21 years ago, is a notorious member of the sovereign citizen movement, according to the FBI [Harte and Smith, 2016.05.24].
Bradlee Dean is another bigoted crank who, while playing chaplain one day in 2011 to the Minnesota House of Representatives, violated the chamber’s decorum by boosting the lie that President Barack Obama is not a Christian. That breach prompted Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers to move to strike Dean’s name from the House journal and vow never to let Dean or liars like him onto the House floor:
“I know this is a non-denominational prayer in this chamber and it’s not about the Baptists and it’s not about the Catholics alone or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans,” Dean said in his invocation in the Minnesota House. “Or the Presbyterians, the evangelicals or any other denomination, but rather the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus. As every President up until 2008 has acknowledged. And we pray it. In Jesus’ name.”
Zellers, R- Maple Grove, restarted the House session and brought in a chaplain to redo the prayer. He also condemned Dean’s prayer in a floor statement.
“Members, I can only ask for your forgiveness. That type of person will never ever be allowed on this House floor again as long as I have the honor of serving as speaker,” Zellers said [Tyrese Griffin, “Fallout Continues over Anti-Gay Minister’s Prayer at Minnesota Capitol,” Washington Independent, 2011.05.23].
Insurrectionism and lies—par for the course for Republicans like Lasseter, who proudly displayed a Confederate symbol on Legislative campaign website in 2016, and Mulally, who has praised her ideological Rapid City school board for its rejection of facts and science in its crusade for coronavirus. Nor should the presence of South Dakota Gun Owners as a sponsor at the bottom of this unhealthy event surprise us: SDGO allies itself with the radical Gun Owners of America, which is giving Kyle Rittenhouse a gun and which has employed Mack in PR work, and SDGO backer Jordan Mason’s political marketing consultancy Launch Collective.
But what about those other listed sponsors? Event site Grand Gateway Hotel, Outback Steakhouse, and Left Turn Haulers (PPP recipients in Black Hawk)—do you businesses really want your corporate brands associated with right-wing radicalism and indecorous lies?
Fortunately for all of us, CSPOA says seating is limited, so maybe there will only be room for a few of the suckers on whom people like Mack and Dean prey, poor frightened people who can easily be lured into forking over $15 for an evening of destructive reinforcement of their ignorance, insecurities, and prejudices.