06/16/20

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA Riots

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsThe riots of the spring of 2020 are far from without precedent in the United States. Indeed, they seem to happen once a generation at least. The 1992 Los Angeles Riots are such an example of these “generational riots.” And while most people know about the riots, less known – though quite well known at the time – were the phenomenon of the so-called “Roof Koreans.”

The Roof Koreans were spontaneous self-defense forces organized by the Korean community of Los Angeles, primarily centered in Koreatown, in response to violent and frequently racist attacks on their communities and businesses by primarily black looters and rioters during the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Despite their best efforts, over 2,200 Korean-owned businesses were looted or burned to the ground during the riots. It is chilling to imagine how many would have suffered the same fate had the Koreans not been armed.

Standing on the rooftops of Koreatown shops they and their families owned, clad not in body armor or tactical gear, but instead dressed like someone’s nerdy dad, often smoking cigarettes, but always on alert, the Roof Koreans provide a stirring example of how free Americans of all races can defend their own communities without relying upon outside help.

The Koreans of Los Angeles were the ultimate marginalized minority group. They were subject to discrimination and often victimized by the black community of the city. Due to language barriers and other factors, they lacked the political clout of other minority groups, such as the large Mexican community of Los Angeles County. This in spite of their clear economic success in the city beginning in the 1970s and 80s.

The reasons for the tensions between the Korean and black communities of Los Angeles pre-dates the riots, which were largely just the match that ignited the powder keg that had been this region of Los Angeles for years. To understand what happened in Koreatown in 1992, it is necessary to understand much more than simply the Rodney King trial and the resulting riots.

The Roots of Korean Business Ownership in Black Communities

How is it that the Korean-American community of Los Angeles ended up owning so much property in what were largely black neighborhoods? The answer, ironically, lies in a previous riot, the Watts Riot of 1965. This riot, which included six full days of arson and looting, was kicked off when a black man was arrested for drunk driving.

The riots occurred roughly at the same time that the Koreans started showing up in America. This meant that, among other things, businesses and real estate were very cheap to purchase. The newly arrived Korean immigrants began buying up the businesses that no one else wanted. By the 1980s, it wasn’t limited to Los Angeles – Koreans were dominating the mom-and-pop shops from coast to coast. But the resentment in the City of Angels was growing.

Prologue: The Death of Latasha Harlins

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsWhile it was not the start of tensions in the city between these two communities, the killing of Latasha Harlins in 1991 certainly ratcheted the situation up to a new level.

Harlins, whose personal life is a hard-luck story that does not bear repeating here, was 15 at the time when she was shot and killed by Korean shopkeeper Soon Ja Du, a 51-year-old woman born in Korea. Du generally didn’t even work in the store, a task that typically fell on her husband and her son. However, that day she was covering for her husband who was outside in the family’s van.

Du claimed that Harlins was trying to steal a $1.79 bottle of orange juice, but witnesses said they heard Du call Harlins a slur and heard Harlins say she planned to pay for the juice, with money in hand. After reviewing videotape footage, the police agreed with the witnesses. Video footage further showed Du grabbing Harlins by her sweatshirt and backpack.

Harlins responded by striking Du twice, which knocked the latter to the ground. Harlins started to back away, prompting Du to throw a stool at her. The two struggled over the juice before Harlins went to leave. Du went behind the counter and grabbed a revolver, firing at a retreating Harlins from behind from three feet away. Harlins was killed instantly by a bullet to the back of the head.

Billy Heung Ki Du, Ja’s husband, rushed into the store after hearing the gunshot. His wife asked where Harlins was before she fainted. Mr. Du then called 911 to report an attempted holdup.

Mrs. Du was charged with voluntary manslaughter, a charge that can carry up to 16 years in prison. At trial, she testified on her own behalf. The jury recommended the maximum sentence, which the judge rejected, instead giving Mrs. Du time served, five years probation, 500 hours of community service and a $500 fine. The California Court of Appeals upheld the sentence about a week before the riots began in a unanimous decision. Harlins’ family received a settlement of $300,000.

The case wasn’t the first example of tensions between the two communities, but it was a microcosm for them and perhaps the worst from an optics perspective. In 1991, the Los Angeles Times reported that there were four shootings in the span of just over four months involving a Korean shooter and a black target. The store was eventually burned down during the riots, never to reopen.

That same year, there was an over 100-day boycott of a Korean-American-owned liquor store that ended when the owner was effectively bullied into selling his store to a black owner. Then-Mayor Tom Bradley, who many blamed for the riots, was instrumental in coming to this “settlement” which chased a Korean owner out of the area.

The Rodney King Verdict: The Riots Begin

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsThe other relevant background story is the trial of Rodney King. This was what touched off the LA riots. The short version of the story is that Rodney King led the police on a high-speed chase going up to 115 miles per hour. He was evading them because he was driving while under the influence and was on parole at the time. His two passengers were loaded into the squad car first, with King exiting the car last.

King was beaten for approximately two minutes straight on a 12-minute tape recorded by a nearby civilian. He was also tazed. King repeatedly attempted to get up despite instructions to stay down. Officers later testified that they believed he was on PCP at the time, but his toxicology test ruled this out. The tape became a national sensation and then-Chief Daryl Gates described himself as being in “disbelief” when he saw the tape.

Four of the five officers on the scene were charged. The jury, which contrary to popular belief, was not “all white,” but did not include any black members, acquitted the four officers on assault, acquitted three of them on excessive force, and resulted in a hung jury on the fourth charge after seven days of deliberation.

At 5 p.m. after the verdicts were announced, Mayor Tom Bradley gave a press conference interpreted by many, including Assistant Los Angeles police chief Bob Vernon, as effectively giving permission to riot. Vernon stated that police incidents increased noticeably after the mayor’s statement.

The event credited with touching off the riots was the arrest of 16-year-old Seandel Daniels at 71st and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles. The rioters began attacking Koreatown on the second full day of rioting.

Koreatown Gets Attacked During the 1992 LA Riots

Koreans began moving to Los Angeles in large numbers after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, a radical departure from previous immigration laws that dramatically changed the demographic character of the nation, including Los Angeles. Many Koreans opened successful businesses in the area, but incurred resentment and racism from black residents, which is documented in popular culture of the time such as Do The Right Thing and Ice Cube’s “Black Korea” off of Death Certificate.

When the riots spread throughout the city, the LAPD blocked roads going through Koreatown into more affluent neighborhoods. This was seen by many residents as a containment that effectively left Koreatown residents trapped inside the riot zone. What’s more, the police and other first responders ignored the pleas for help coming from within Koreatown.

Of the nearly $1 billion in damages done during the riots, over half of it was done to Korean-owned businesses.

Enter the Roof Koreans

Roof Koreans: How Civilians Defended Koreatown from Racist Violence During the 1992 LA RiotsThe Korean community of Los Angeles did not simply sit by and allow their neighborhood and businesses to be destroyed by rioters without lifting a finger. On the contrary, the images of Korean shopkeepers and their families defending themselves from the rooftops of their buildings soon became one of the most iconic images of the riots. Live footage of gun battles was circulated on cable news and elsewhere. The images still resonate with freedom lovers to this day – what image could be more powerful than an ethnic minority refusing to subject itself to a pogrom, instead taking to the rooftops to defend themselves with deadly force, if necessary?

For firearms collectors, the Roof Koreans present another avenue of interest: They used many cool weapons that largely left the market after the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was passed. The Intratec TEC-9 and the A.A. Arms Kimel AP-9 are just two of the weapons used by the Roof Koreans, alongside more standard weapons such as the Daewoo K1, standard issue for the Republic of Korea’s military.

The Republic of Korea’s military is another key part of the story with regard to the Roof Koreans. Far from an untrained mob of men who took up with arms sans training, the Roof Koreans were, by virtually any definition, “a well-regulated militia.” Many of them had experience in the South Korean Army, as South Korea has conscription with very few exceptions.

It’s worth noting that virtually every weapon used by the Roof Koreans to defend themselves, their businesses, their communities, and their families would be against the law or, at least, highly restricted today. “High capacity magazines” (anything over ten rounds) are against the law and there is a 10-day waiting period for all firearms purchases. As the riots lasted five days, this would have put anyone who had not already purchased a firearm in a seriously precarious position.

The Lessons of the Roof Koreans

Kurt Schlichter was in Inglewood at the time of riots, one of the hardest-hit areas. He speaks eloquently on the topic of the Roof Koreans (or “Rooftop Koreans” as he calls them) and the need for communities to defend themselves. His account of defending Los Angeles against riots is worth reading, despite the fact that he was not in Koreatown.

He makes the case that it is not just wise, but the responsibility of all Americans to prepare themselves for such events. And while we would not go as far as him to suggest that people ought to be legally required to prepare for such an event, we do agree with him that everyone is their own first responder. More than that, there is a solid argument to be made that we have a duty to our community to prepare for those times when individual defense is not enough, but a common defense is necessary.

The Roof Koreans provide a perfect, real-life counter-argument to the idiotic question of gun grabbers that free men justify why they “need” certain arms to defend themselves. If ever anyone “needed” a fully automatic rifle with a 100-round magazine, it was the Korean community of Los Angeles.

06/5/20

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China’s Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic “Tank Man”

By: Jose Nino | Ammo.com

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManChina is often described as the next superpower to top America within the next few decades. At first glance, such an assertion makes sense. The country’s vast geography, natural resources, rich history, and tech-savvy populace puts it in a position to thrive in the 21st century. However, China’s rise as a superpower is not one of an overnight success, nor is it filled with pretty rainbows.

Indeed, China is one of the world’s longest-lasting civilizations, with cultural and political traditions that have been passed down to succeeding generations effortlessly. With such a vast history, China had gone through its own zeniths and nadirs. As is the nature of any civilization. However, China’s modern history has been a rollercoaster ride, to say the least.

Despite having a massive formal governing apparatus that would put many empires to shame, China has not always had full control of its territorial jurisdiction. Once European powers reached Chinese shores in search of riches, they soon wanted their piece of the pie. That meant slowly whittling away at Chinese territory. As the first movers in the Age of Exploration, the Portuguese and their missionaries colonized Macau.

Although the Portuguese’s venture was not exclusively about riches, it inspired other European actors such as the British to go and exploit China’s vast resources. Naturally, the Qing dynasty and Britain’s interests clashed once the British wanted to expand trade inside the country. What was originally a trade dispute between a Qing government wanting to maintain trade that overwhelmingly favored China, soon turned into a full-blown conflict as seen in the Opium War.

China was handed a humiliating defeat, which saw it turn over Hong Kong to the British. This marked a turning point in Chinese history. The once-mighty country slowly deteriorated both internally and externally. China soon became a punching bag for smaller, yet more militarily advanced countries that started setting up trading outposts in Shanghai. Indeed, these moves were not welcome by the Chinese and many in the Qing court, but due to the country’s decaying institutions, it could do nothing to prevent further predations.

Even empires on the Western periphery, like Imperial Russia, started to prey on China when it annexed all of the Chinese land north of the Amur River in 1858, exploiting Chinese weakness along a border that was, at the time, 4,650 miles long. As if China’s foreign reversals weren’t enough, Imperial Japan also jumped in the mix and picked apart China like other European powers. Japan put the world on notice when it crushed China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. As a result of this humiliation, Japan added the island of modern-day Taiwan, the Liaodong Peninsula, and the Korean peninsula into its sphere of influence. Japan’s exploitation of its weaker mainland rival did not stop there.

Even after the Qing dynasty collapsed, nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek tried to put the political pieces back together during the 1920s, in an attempt to unify the country and restore Chinese greatness. However, Imperial Japan was ready to humiliate China yet again, when it invaded Manchuria in 1931, and occupied it until 1945, in an attempt to expand its industrialization efforts.

All in all, the mid-19th century up until the mid-20th century was a rocky period. It took game-changing events after World War II for China to finally get its political house in order and build itself up on its own terms.

China: From Powerful Imperial Rule to a Weakened State

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManAs foreign powers such as the United States, Germany, Japan, and Russia carved out spheres of influence in the once-mighty empire, the Chinese imperial court began to lose legitimacy both domestically and abroad. In 1911, the Xinhai Revolution was the final straw that broke the Qing dynasty’s back. Chinese reformers grew tired of their country’s weakness and organized revolts across the country that ultimately forced the last Qing emperor, Pu Yi, to abdicate in 1912. However, the transition from empire to a modern-day nation-state was filled with many road bumps for China.

Despite political reformer and provisional president of the Republic of China Sun Yat-sen’s attempts to modernize the Chinese state, the country was quickly mired in internal struggles that prevented it from forming a coherent political structure in the immediate years following the fall of the Qing dynasty. The warlord control of the country soon became the norm as many optimistic Chinese reformers then realized the road to Chinese political stability would not come easy.

The Move to Unify the Chinese State

By the 1920s, China’s political destiny slowly started to change.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that movements began to emerge, with hopes to unify China and establish it as a sovereign nation free of foreign exploitation. The emergence of the Nationalist and Communist movements in China appealed to the nationalistic sentiment among the populace. Their messages, while ideologically different in economic matters, had a vision of restoring China’s rightful place on the world stage. They viewed the Qing dynasty as corrupt and feckless for allowing European powers and Japan to carve out the country. For China to be great, it had to be free of foreign influence.

The dream of a unified China nearly became a reality when the Nationalist (Kuomintang) movement led by Chiang Kai-Shek ended warlord rule and began consolidating the Chinese state. However, hopes of a unified China on both ideological and political lines were temporarily dashed when the Japanese invaded in the 1930s. The subsequent expansion of World War II to the Asian theater saw the previously dominant Nationalist forces having to fend off Japanese forces. Such fighting left the Nationalist forces greatly depleted, while their Communist foes pulled their forces in the Chinese interior.

Little did the Nationalists know that once World War II came to an end, they would be up against a replenished and emboldened Communist movement. And this time around, they would not go down without a fight.

Unifying the Chinese State Under Communism

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManOnce the dust settled from World War II, national unity went out the window. Communist forces under Mao Zedong were ready to duke it out with Chiang Kai-Shek and his Nationalist faction. So began the second phase of the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949). After four years of hard fighting, the Communists defeated the already depleted Kuomintang in 1949. By October 1949, Mao Zedong’s communist government was ready to usher in a new era of consolidated rule in China by declaring the People’s Republic of China. In response, the defeated Nationalists scurried to the island of Formosa, which would be renamed as Taiwan or the Republic of China. Despite China’s stubbornness in de-legitimizing the independent nation on the world stage, Taiwan would remain under the thumb of Chiang Kai-Shek until his death in 1975.

Once in command, Mao was focused on consolidating his internal power and centralizing the Chinese state at the domestic level. The Chinese leader was not so concerned about expanding China’s reach abroad during his first few years as Chairman of the Communist Party. Once his power was firmly established, he then proceeded to make China an industrial power conforming to principles of central-planning. China was no longer going to be the pushover that it once was in the latter half of the 19th century. It was ready to leave its mark on the international stage.

The Omnipresent Chinese Bureaucracy

The Chinese story is one of the eternal conflicts between centralized control and violent regionalism, as noted by Jacob L. Shapiro. Chairman Mao was faced with presiding over a large country with a long history of political violence. China encompasses such a vast territory, which necessitates large, bureaucratic systems to administer it. For political purposes, this bureaucracy has helped China maintain control over its jurisdiction in the short and mid-term. However, in the long-term, this bureaucracy would become unwieldy and parasitic. As a result, high taxation and economic stagnation would follow after this bureaucracy became ingrained in the Chinese political system. This has been a fixture of China’s so-called “Dynastic Cycle,” which appeared to rear its ugly head in modern times. Communist Party elites did not want to become the next generation of leaders who fell victim to this vicious cycle.

Mao despised the Chinese bureaucracy and was able to rip it to shreds when he initially took the helm of the Chinese state. However, when Mao wanted to embark on the Great Leap Forward – an ambitious program created to rapidly change the Chinese industry and agriculture through state planning – he had to come to grips with the reality that he needed bureaucracy to carry out his grandiose vision.

Off to the bureaucratic races China went.

The Great Leap Forward

Fearful of Mao’s punitive actions, Chinese bureaucrats fudged data in order to placate him. What seemed like a political maneuver to gain favor within the government, would later turn out to be a disaster for the people living in the countryside. China’s Great Leap Forward experiment was initially marketed as the program to take China to the next level of economic development. The Great Leap Forward was a concerted effort to collectivize the Chinese economy and hand over the commanding heights to the Chinese state. Private property and a market-based price system were cast aside, while the Chinese central planners tried to play god.

But playing god with the economy comes with a massive price to pay. Even the best central planners are unable to break the laws of economics. Such heavy-handed interventions in the economy destroyed China’s agricultural sector. In turn, the decimation of Chinese agriculture created famine conditions, which led to the deaths of an estimated range of 20 million to 45 million people. The casualties suffered during the Great Leap Forward made China another tragic case of democide, as the country became another casualty of central planning. Consequently, Mao Zedong saw his political image tarnished after this failed socialist experiment, which called into question the validity of his political ideology. But the man-made disaster did not deter him from pursuing other ambitious political programs. Mao was intent on leaving his political mark in China.

The Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 was Mao’s final attempt to impose a top-down program on the Chinese populace. This ambitious political venture sought to re-assert proletarian values and rid the Chinese society of subversive bourgeois elements. However, this social program turned into a wide-scale political purge that hamstrung economic growth and undermined the civil liberties of millions in China. Like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution proved that Mao was too ambitious in socially engineering society according to his grandiose political vision. With two controversial efforts led by the Chinese state to radically transform the nation’s society, China’s political class started to become restless. Even the Communist Party knew that Mao took things too far. It was becoming clear that China was on the verge of falling into political chaos. A new course would need to be taken for the country to advance, lest it becomes another victim of its well established Dynastic Cycle. Several leaders in the Chinese Communist Party were ready to step up to the plate.

Geopolitical Tensions Create New Openings

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManPolitics never occur in a vacuum. Countries’ destinies are often shaped by external events, or at the very least, must adapt to international trends. In its quest to become a global superpower, China was no stranger to this. During the ambitious Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution programs, China was experiencing significant changes in its foreign policy. Communism may have had a unified vision against the bourgeois classes, but it witnessed numerous splits among countries throughout the 20th century. National interests often see ideologically similar countries take antagonistic paths.

The Communist sphere was indeed a house divided once the Chinese state was well established and ready to plot its own course. China’s Soviet “Big Brother” would soon learn that China was ready to grow up and pursue its own agenda. Initially, disputes surrounding debts that China incurred during the Korean War and the border they shared with the Soviet Union caused unrest between the two superpowers. Many Soviet officials saw Mao’s leadership purges as a flashback to the brutal regime of Josef Stalin. As a result, Soviet leadership became weary of their Communist “little brother” down South. In the same token, the Chinese remembered their exploitation at the hands of the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Naturally, they had no interest in repeating the same predatory relationship with its northern neighbor.

Looking from afar, America took advantage of this geopolitical tension by playing China off of the Soviet Union. The first concrete step in undermining the Soviet Union was Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, which helped re-establish diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries. With China now tasting the fruits of international capitalism, albeit to a limited degree, its old economic model of top-down control was on the ropes. Additionally, the failed Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution programs made the more pragmatic elements of the Chinese Communist Party reconsider Maoism. The economic benefits from restored relationships with America were simply too large to ignore. On top of that, the Chinese state could capture unprecedented economic benefits from opening up trade with America. This would enable China to not only grow economically but also strengthen its governing apparatus. The Chinese state was then set for new leadership to emerge and continue integrating China into the global market. The days of Chinese isolation would soon come to an end.

The Economic and Political Transformation of Deng Xiaoping’s China

Once Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao Zedong, China was poised for national greatness. Deng acknowledged that Maoism did not bring about its desired results for China, and a new economic program was needed to bring the country back to its feet. Now that the Communist Party was well entrenched in power and China was able to pacify any internal threats, the country was ready to interact with the outside world on its own terms. Gone were the days that China would be bullied by the West.

Recognizing the failure of central planning, while also taking into account the economic potential China had on the international stage, Deng Xiaoping embarked on a series of bold reforms. Unlike its humiliating experience of the late 19th century, China was opening up its markets without being the victim of gunboat diplomacy.

Deng’s regime enacted certain reforms that brought back market dynamics, albeit in limited form, to the Chinese economy. Land privatization and the creation of special economic zones helped make China more competitive in the international arena. According to certain reports, China’s annual GDP growth rate ranged from 9.5 to 11.5 percent from 1978 to 2013. Thanks to these market-based reforms, China’s GDP increased tenfold, and, as a result, millions of Chinese were lifted out of poverty. The horrific scenes of the Great Leap Forward soon became a distant memory as skyscrapers dotted illustrious cities like Shanghai, and factories were built left and right to bolster China’s breakneck industrial growth. “Made in China” soon became a staple of China’s economic prowess, as it flooded the world with basic goods coming out of its factories. But this could never have been possible without China making an attempt to open up its markets.

As Milton Friedman observed, economic freedom is generally a precondition for political freedom. When societies see economic freedoms gradually expanded, the new rich and emerging middle classes begin demanding more political freedoms.

As Chinese economic growth soared throughout the 1980s, its citizens demanded more than just economic prosperity. The death of pro-reform Communist leader Hu Yaobang in April 1989, caused several disturbances throughout the country. While on the economic uptick, Post-Mao China was marked by political uncertainty and Hu’s death added more fuel to the fire. Both the general populace and the political elite were rocked by the market reforms of Deng’s regime, which benefited some members of the newly rising entrepreneurial class, but still did not satisfy China’s humbler citizens.

The ruling elite also faced some questions about political legitimacy. Some of the concerns centered around corruption, employment prospects, inflation, and political freedoms. China’s student class started to demand new freedoms such as democracy, transparency in government, and free speech rights among other things. Protests started to pop up throughout the country, with the main ones centering around Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The Historical Significance of Tiananmen Square

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManHistorically, Tiananmen Square held great significance in Chinese politics. It was the place where the May Fourth Movement of 1919 occurred, when students’ protests aired grievances with the Chinese government’s tepid response to the Treaty of Versailles, which awarded Japan territories in the Shandong province. This movement helped jumpstart the Chinese Communist and Nationalist movements respectively.

Fast forward 30 years, the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong on October 1, 1949, took place on Tiananmen Square as well. This marked the end of the Chinese Communist Revolution (1945-1949) and ushered in the Communist Party’s dominance over Chinese politics.

In 1989, student protestors sought to use this same square as their platform to make history by demanding the introduction of basic civil liberties – such as free speech and the right to peacefully assemble against the government – concepts which were unheard of throughout China’s long political history. In the fateful month of April 1989, they took to the streets in protest. Indeed, these students made history, but things didn’t go as planned for them.

Chinese Leadership Becomes Weary of the Threat of Democratic Reforms

Wanting to preserve the Communist Party’s political supremacy at all costs, China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, along with his Communist Party brain trust, perceived the protests as a political threat. Wasting no time in responding to these protests, the Chinese government proceeded to use force after the Chinese State Council declared martial law on May 20th, and deployed approximately 300,000 troops to Beijing. When troops arrived in Beijing on June 4th, they began killing protestors and bystanders.

The Chinese government arrested thousands of protesters, cracked down on other demonstrations in the country, kicked out foreign journalists, censored coverage of the Tiananmen incident in the press, bolstered police powers, and purged officials it believed to be receptive to the protestors’ cause. Estimates pin the death toll from several hundred to thousands.

Unsurprisingly, this incident received international condemnation. However, China’s status as a nuclear power and its newfound prosperity positioned it where it could avoid any direct military confrontation from other countries who disapproved of its agenda. Unlike 19th century China, 20th century China could take bold political actions without the fear of international actors trying to directly attack it.

The Birth of Tank Man

The Tiananmen Square Massacre: From China's Authoritarian Roots to the Iconic Tank ManA day after the crackdown, on June 5, 1989, one of the most iconic images from the Tiananmen protests emerged. A man, who would be known as Tank Man or the Unknown Rebel, stood in front of a convoy of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square.

The lead tank tried to maneuver past the man but was met with nonviolent resistance. The man repeatedly shuffled in front of the tank to obstruct the tank’s path. After a while, the lead tank stopped in its tracks and the armored tanks behind it stopped as well. From there, a short pause began with the man and tanks remaining in a standstill.

The video footage then shows the man climbing on top of the tank’s turret and chatting with a crew member and the tank’s commander. After having a conversation, the man jumps back down and gets in front of the tank again. The standoff between the man and tank continued until two figures in blue came out and pulled the man to the side. To this day, witnesses at this event are unsure about who pulled the “Tank Man” to the side. Furthermore, the identity and fate of the man is still unknown, although there has been speculation that he was either executed or fled the country shortly thereafter.

China’s Authoritarianism Lives On

The Tiananmen Square massacre was indeed a turning point in Chinese history. After an unprecedented liberalization of the economy up until the late 1980s, the Chinese state firmly put the breaks on any type of political reform that would enhance political freedoms. China showed the entire world that it would put hard limits on freedom, even if it meant receiving stiff criticism from Western democratic governments. As a sovereign nuclear power, China could proceed with its domestic policy as it pleased, knowing full well that no other world power would try to aggress against it.

To this day, civil liberties that Westerners often take for granted are heavily restricted in China. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has embarked on one of the most ambitious censorship programs in human history. Now the Chinese state is even putting Muslim Uighurs in re-education camps, much to the chagrin of international human rights observers. The Tiananmen incident remains one of the most heavily censored topics in Chinese political discourse.

The iconic image of the man confronting the tanks is a strong symbol of mankind’s eternal struggle to achieve freedom. Despite its fantastic economic growth, China remains one of the more authoritarian countries in the world. Just like freedom did not come to the West overnight, basic freedoms will likely take decades before they firmly take root in China.

Until then, the Chinese state remains firm in its hold over the Chinese populace.

05/29/20

Enter The Great Ammo Giveaway!

Jamie Burns over at BulkMunitions reached out to us at NoisyRoom.net recently to see if we’d be interested in hosting a giveaway that would give one of our readers some free ammo ($300 gift card to BulkMunitions). Of course, we checked to make sure there weren’t any hooks in the deal. Nope, all good so we said: “Sure, let’s go for it.”

If you want a chance to win a gift card worth $300 at BulkMunitions, be sure to enter below! Act fast though; sweepstakes closes June 10, 8 PM EDT.”

05/28/20

Coronavirus Produces All-Time Record Gun Sales – and New Gun Control

By: Travis Olander | 80-Lower.com

Travis Olander manages 80-Lower.com, offering 80% lowers, AR-15 kits, and gunsmithing parts for shooters and Second Amendment enthusiasts.

Through March and April, Americans flocked to gun stores, emptied the digital shelves of online gun dealers, and collectively set monthly sales records. Yet as Coronavirus spread across the country and states were left to decide how to handle lockdowns and quarantines, many Democrat governors and officials used the opportunity to close gun stores. While groups lobbied the White House to deem gun stores essential businesses, Americans turned to a niche part of the firearm market often overlooked: At-home gun build kits.

Coined “ghost guns” by those on the left, these kits allow enthusiasts to machine their own firearms from parts at home. The Gun Control Act of 1968 allows any individual who can otherwise legally own a gun to build one from scratch, no license or paperwork required. The process requires some relatively advanced tooling and machinist’s know-how. Yet while these gun-making kits have been available years, they’re experiencing new scrutiny – and a new wave of popularity among Second Amendment advocates – in the age of Coronavirus.

Legally, these kits are not considered firearms so they can be ordered and shipped directly to any humble abode. While many gun stores struggle to meet demand and others battle their state legislators to even stay open, veteran and first-time buyers are turning to these DIY kits. This drew ire from Senate Democrats who, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), introduced a bill to ban such kits altogether. The bill also requires all firearms to be serialized by January 1, 2022.

Elsewhere, Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduced H.R. 5717, a bill that would impose a 30% ammo tax and 50% tax on all firearm sales at the federal level. In Arizona, Michael Bloomberg dumped dollars into anti-gun propaganda while state Senator Rebecca Rios (D) co-sponsored S.B. 1625, yet another state-level assault weapon ban.

The legislative halls of Congress are not the only places lawmakers are attempting to derail the Second Amendment. As the FBI and ATF struggle to keep up with record demand for gun sale background checks, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Blumenthal sent a letter to the agencies asking them to halt pending gun sales. Currently, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has three days to complete a background check for a pending sale. If it cannot complete the check, gun dealers can process the transaction for the buyer.

Legislation has been introduced to overturn this rule which guarantees Americans’ Second Amendment rights cannot be delayed by proxy indefinitely. H.R. 1112, sponsored by Democrat Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, would allow the ATF and FBI to stop any gun sales in perpetuity by negating the time requirements for completing background checks.

While gun-related crimes and homicides have been on a steady and significant decline over the last two decades, it’s common knowledge that gun sales and gun rights cause violent reactions, even physical attacks, from anti-gun advocates. Coronavirus has only exacerbated this phenomenon: According to the Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting organization, handgun sales have increased by 91% since last year. Long guns, by 73.6%. The FBI reported over 3.7 million background checks in March, followed by 2.9 million more in April. If true, that means over 6.6 million firearms were added to Americans’ homes in just 60 days, excluding gun kit sales.

With the presidential election fast approaching and Coronavirus amplifying the line of scrimmage between conservative constitutionalists and liberal authoritarians, gun control is sure to be an issue that comes to a head in 2020.

05/16/20

Mexico Comes Demanding Documents On Fast And Furious… Why Now?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

MEXICO CITY, May 11 (Reuters) – Mexico’s foreign minister on Monday posted a video online detailing a diplomatic note to the U.S. embassy requesting answers about a gun-running sting under the Obama presidency, keeping a spotlight on the controversial issue.

Live: Trump threatens tariffs on Mexico over immigration ...

In the video, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard cited former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as saying Mexican authorities knew about the 2009-2011 scheme known as ‘Fast and Furious.’

Representatives for Holder did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Nor did the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.

It was the first time Ebrard or President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had made direct reference by name to a key U.S. figure connected to the program since the issue resurfaced in Mexico a week ago.

In a bid to curb cross-border gun smuggling, the U.S. scheme allowed people to illegally buy arms in the United States and take them to Mexico so that the weapons could be tracked and lead law enforcement officials to crime bosses. Some of those guns were subsequently blamed for the fatal shootings of both Mexican and U.S. citizens.

The current Mexican government has zeroed in on the program to highlight possible corruption under previous Mexican administrations amid a debate over how much they knew about the U.S. operation.

Holder, who served as U.S. Attorney General under Barack Obama between 2009 and 2015, had previously issued a statement via the U.S. embassy in Mexico contending that “Mexican authorities” knew about the program, Ebrard said.

“The (Mexican) government requests that it be provided with all the information available regarding the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation,” Ebrard said in the video posted on Twitter.

Lopez Obrador first brought up the gun-running program last Monday when answering questions about Genaro Garcia Luna, a former Mexican security minister who was arrested in the United States in December on drug trafficking offenses.

Garcia Luna served under former President Felipe Calderon from 2006-12, spearheading a crackdown on drug cartels. Lopez Obrador has used his arrest to argue that corruption was rampant in past Mexican governments.

Some critics of Lopez Obrador contend that he has done U.S. President Donald Trump a favor by raising questions about Garcia Luna as the U.S president prepares to fight a November election against Joe Biden, who was vice president from 2009 to 2017 under Obama.

Lopez Obrador’s supporters say he has focused on the issue to illustrate hypocrisy among his domestic adversaries.

Calderon, a longstanding political rival of Lopez Obrador, said last week there was no agreement between Mexico and the United States to permit illicit entry of arms.

‘Fast and Furious’ followed earlier sting operations that began under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. (Reporting by Drazen Jorgic and Sharay Angulo; Editing by Dave Graham and Jane Wardell)

***

Judge rules DOJ must share documents from Fast and Furious ...

Americans paying attention to the unresolved Obama era scandals would like to know all the truth too. So as a refresher here is the latest status of the investigation.

May 2016:

JS: Last week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an important opinion in Oversight Committee v. Lynch, the subpoena enforcement litigation related to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. Media outlets generally reported it as a win for Congress and loss for the Executive. In an acute sense, that is true — Judge Jackson ordered the Justice Department to produce sensitive materials that reflect deliberations about how to respond to congressional requests and media inquiries. However, the opinion is a much more complicated ruling that reinforces some longstanding executive branch legal arguments that Congress has perennially disputed. In the longer term, this opinion may actually be a win for the executive branch, despite being ordered to hand over documents the President designated as privileged.

Background

The case arose from DOJ’s refusal to turn over to Congress a number of disputed documents pursuant to President Obama’s formal assertion of executive privilege. The underlying congressional investigation sought information related to failed gun trafficking investigations led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that came to be collectively referred to as Operation Fast and Furious. Starting during the fall of 2009, ATF agents in Arizona began setting up a series of sting operations targeting gunrunners who were moving large quantities of firearms across the Mexico border. But, inadequate surveillance, technology failures, and poor judgment led ATF to allow many of the guns it was using in the stings to “walk.” A number of those lost weapons ended up in the hands of drug cartels and showed up at various crime scenes on both sides of the US-Mexico border, including at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Just last week, within days of Judge Jackson’s opinion, news outlets reported that one of the guns at issue in Operation Fast and Furious was found at El Chapo’s hideout.

However, the document dispute has very little to do with the allegations about ATF’s problematic investigative tactics. With the exception of a few documents related to wiretaps, grand jury materials, and confidential information in open investigative files, Congress received almost all of the underlying documents related to Operation Fast and Furious.

Instead, the most significant dispute in the case relates to Congress’s allegation that DOJ officials lied to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in February 2011. Congress then aggressively sought all documents related to the Department’s communications and deliberations about how to respond to the congressional investigation and media inquiries, for before and long after the alleged misrepresentation to Grassley. The administration eventually accommodated the Committee by providing access to all the documents that had led to providing Grassley inaccurate information. Those documents demonstrated good faith but a lack of diligence by responsible officials in both Phoenix and Washington, DC. However, Congress forged ahead with a sprawling meta-investigation that raised significant institutional concerns within the Executive about the collapse of “separation” in the separation of powers. (At that time, I was Associate Counsel to the President and was involved in White House negotiations with the Oversight Committee over various congressional requests related to Operation Fast and Furious.) The document stalemate served as the primary basis for a House vote of contempt of Congress against then-Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2012. That same month, the House authorized this civil enforcement lawsuit.

Short-Term Loss for the Executive

At the top line, last week Judge Jackson ordered DOJ to produce all the documents it had designated as protected by the deliberative process privilege. In the absence of an appellate reversal, the Oversight Committee will obtain its prize: some 5,342 unique documents reflecting executive branch deliberations about how to respond to a hostile congressional committee and how to respond to media requests. To be sure, the Committee will seek to make hay of those deliberations and any impolitic remarks they contain.

DOJ had argued the production of documents revealing deliberations about how to respond to Congress would chill fulsome responses to Congress. The court quotes DOJ’s longstanding position that disclosure “would inhibit the candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight.” I have previously argued that branch independence is critical in response to oversight requests.

Judge Jackson’s order relies on her holding that Congress’s oversight need outweighs DOJ’s confidentiality interest on the facts in this record. Specifically, she suggests the need for deliberations to be confidential was substantially weakened by prior subject matter disclosures by the public report of DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). She finds “whatever incremental harm that could flow from providing the Committee with the records that have already been publicly disclosed is outweighed by the unchallenged need for the material.”

Ironically, DOJ has long relied on the OIG report to bolster its argument that Congress could obtain the information elsewhere, which is one of the factors to be considered in the leading DC Circuit opinion on privilege, In re Sealed Case (Espy).

The court’s analysis seems to suggest that an executive branch entity must challenge the legitimacy of Congress’s investigative interests at the categorical subject-matter level rather than at the incremental request level. By characterizing Congress’s interest as an “unchallenged need,” Judge Jackson uses DOJ’s ready concession that Congress had legitimate oversight interests in problematic gun trafficking investigations against it. DOJ didn’t challenge Congress’s investigation as illegitimate, but it certainly argued that Congress has almost no legitimate interest in peering into DOJ’s process of drafting letters to Congress. At the individual request level, DOJ vigorously challenges Congress’s need. The opinion reflects a court that appears to have prudential concerns about assigning relative values to inherently political determinations about the needs and interests of coordinate branches.

However, oversight disputes do not play out at the categorical level. They play out in the give-and-take of phone calls, letter requests, subpoenas, media availabilities, depositions, and transcribed interviews. Further, unlike judicial proceedings, there are no referees, protective orders, evidentiary rules, or motions to quash during that investigative process. By the time an interbranch dispute reaches the courts, all of those fights have happened and positions have hardened. A categorical approach is a meat axe where a scalpel is needed.

That is why I took some issue with the court’s prior ruling that that the matter is justiciable. To me, justiciability requires judicious review of the reasonableness of requests, the chilling effect of a particular disclosure, and the incremental nature of harms. So, as I wrote in October 2013:

If a court is going to resolve an important dispute between Congress and the President, wouldn’t congressional need, withholding grounds, and accommodation alternatives be the essential inquiry? … The notion that the underlying facts about controversial ATF investigative tactics have come to light and remedied should bear on analysis of Congress’s need to intrude on Executive Branch deliberations.

Likely of little solace to the executive branch, Judge Jackson cabined her rationale to “the specific and unique circumstances of this case.” In addition, the court specifically noted that its “ruling is not predicated on a finding that the withholding was intended to cloak wrongdoing on the part of government officials or that the withholding itself was improper.”

Longer-Term Win for the Executive

Of more comfort to DOJ, Judge Jackson has now ruled in favor of the Executive Branch, and against Congress, on the two most contested issues that are likely to have enduring precedential effect.

First, as I have discussed previously, the court’s August 2014 ruling held the Executive Branch may assert a deliberative process privilege in response to a congressional subpoena. Congress had argued that the deliberative process privilege was grounded in common law alone and therefore inapplicable to a separation-of-powers dispute. In Judge Jackson’s prior opinion, “the Court reject[ed] the Committee’s suggestion that the only privilege the executive can invoke in response to a subpoena is the Presidential communications privilege.”

Second, in last week’s opinion, Judge Jackson specifically held that the deliberative process privilege also applies to deliberations about how to respond to media inquiries or congressional requests. Congress had argued that the privilege is confined exclusively to policy deliberations. Rejecting that argument, the opinion notes “the Court holds that documents withheld by defendant that reveal the Department’s internal deliberations about how to respond to press and Congressional inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious are protected by the deliberative process privilege.”

As a practical matter that protection dissolved in the face of the court’s prior disclosure and incremental harm analysis. But the holding is a significant doctrinal win for the Executive branch. Many DOJ attorneys will have an impulse to appeal this ruling in order to shield the ordered disclosures, but perhaps the executive branch’s two substantial legal victories will caution against it.

04/16/20

Patriots’ Day: The Forgotten History of America’s Patriots’ Day and What it Commemorates

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

Patriots' Day: The Forgotten History of America's Patriots' Day and What it CommemoratesWhile it’s not celebrated too widely outside of New England, Patriots’ Day (or “Patriot’s Day” if you live in Maine) is a big deal there, primarily in the state where the Battles of Lexington and Concord actually took place – Massachusetts. For anyone reading this from New England who isn’t aware: No, you’re not getting the third Monday in April off so you can stay home and watch the Boston Marathon.

Even before the Declaration of Independence was written, there were the Battles of Lexington and Concord – the true beginning of the American Revolution. To be sure, this is something that had been brewing for some time. There was the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Intolerable Acts. But the Battles of Lexington and Concord marked the first shots fired between Patriots and Tories, beginning what would eventually lead to the independence of the American colonies from the British Empire.

While the battles began as a small skirmish, they quickly became a bona fide fight – and a bridge from which the American rebels could not walk back.

Increasing Tensions in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

By the time of the battles, the British occupying troops had already earned the nickname of “redcoats,” or even “devils” depending on who you spoke to. They had been occupying Boston since 1768, and due to forced quartering as well as increased resistance on the part of the colonists, the tensions between the natives and the occupying army were only growing with time.

Boston was to some degree under the control of General Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts and the commander of a garrison of some 3,000 British troops stationed in the city. However, outside of the city was a whole other issue. Indeed, it was outside of the city where the rebel sentiment held the most sway. While it is often said that one-third of colonists were Tories, another third Patriots, and another third apathetic, the Patriots held the overwhelming majority of support among Massachusetts colonists outside of Boston.

Gage planned to assert central control over the more rural parts of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by using small strikes to confiscate the Patriot militias’ supplies. He had some success in doing this in advance of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in what was known as the Powder Alarms.

Still, due to the threat of Indian raids, every town in Massachusetts was required to have a militia. And these militias needed supplies. Disarming all of them seemed unlikely at best.

Confiscating the Colonial Arms

On April 14, 1775, the order came down from the central authority in London that General Gage was to confiscate the colonial arms. On the morning of April 18, Gage sent a mounted patrol of 20 men to intercept messengers and, perhaps most importantly, to find Samuel Adams and John Hancock. It was their search for the latter two men that tipped off the colonists that something bigger was afoot. This put the residents of the area on a higher alert than they otherwise might have been.

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith was ordered to go relieve the Concord militia of its arms and powder, but not to disturb the locals or their property. He did not give orders to arrest the rebel leaders for fear that this would spark a huge uprising.

The Patriots had largely been alerted to both the general plan (remove their arms and powder) and the specific plan (go after the Concord militia), and the Massachusetts Provincial Congress ordered the militias to resist the British troops with force.

On April 18, in preparation for the arrival of British troops, Paul Revere took his famous “midnight ride” to warn the colonists of the area that “the British are coming.” Indeed, the colonials had intercepted the transmission from London and knew that April 19th would be the day of the raid, even before General Gage knew. The leading lights of the rebellion left the city of Boston and laid low to avoid an arrest.

The Minutemen Are Born

The American mythos surrounding the Minutemen is about as powerful as that surrounding the cowboy. Thus it is fitting that the Minutemen were born during the battle that kicked off the struggle for American independence.

While it’s true that the Minutemen were in existence before these battles, it was during Lexington and Concord when they really came into their own as an important force. Indeed, in response to the “midnight ride,” militiamen were organized as far as 25 miles away while British troops were still landing.

Lexington was more of a minor skirmish than anything. The British troops weren’t even supposed to be there. British Marine Lieutenant Jesse Adai decided to turn right instead of left, putting him in Lexington instead of Concord.

Upon meeting up with the rebels, an unknown British officer rode in front of the British troops, waved his sword and ordered the militia to disperse, yelling “lay down your arms, you damned rebels!” For his part, the captain of the militia ordered his men to disperse, but his orders were either unheard or not obeyed. In any event, while some of the men did choose to disperse, none of them laid down their arms. Both commanding officers ordered their men not to fire, but someone did.

No one is sure who fired first. In fact, most historical sources agree that it was someone uninvolved in the fighting. Only one British troop suffered minor injuries. However, eight patriots were killed and 10 were wounded at Lexington. Most of these occurred during a British bayonet charge.

In Concord, militiamen from both Concord and neighboring Lincoln were already amassing. Tensions mounted between an advancing Patriot militia and a retreating British force at The North Bridge. A firefight broke out, leading militia commander Major Buttrick to yell out, “Fire, for God’s sake, fellow soldiers, fire!”

Fire they did. The British regulars were soon outnumbered and outmaneuvered. It was a stunning strategic victory for the American Patriot forces.

The Reaction to the Battles

It’s likely that none of the colonists expected to win this battle, nevermind to win it quite as handily as they did. Most probably didn’t even think there would be a confrontation where each side was shooting to kill. However, the early stages of the American revolution are filled with examples of the colonists being surprised as they walked further and further out onto the ledge of independence.

All told, 15,000 militiamen showed up to encircle Boston on three sides and to keep the British regulars hemmed inside the city where they could only do negligible damage. Men were pouring into the region from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, forming the core of what was about to become the Continental Army.

General Gage did not declare martial law but instead continued his move to seize private weapons by other means.

The main reason the battle was a strategic failure for the British was that it baited them into exactly the kind of confrontation they were trying to avoid by confiscating arms from the colonial militias. The battle was largely seen as the moment when the rebels crossed the metaphorical Rubicon and could not go back to the status quo antebellum.

For what it’s worth, the Patriots very heavily relied upon propaganda to paint this battle in a positive light. Inconvenient facts were suppressed and more positive aspects of the Patriots’ role in the battle were played up to give the colonists a battle they could believe in.

Over the years, the battle began to take on an almost mythic quality. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Concord Hymn” was one of the earliest post-Revolutionary attempts at lionizing the battle. “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was memorized by generations of schoolchildren.

Four Massachusetts National Guard units can directly tie their lineage to this battle.

The Beginnings of Patriots’ Day

In 1894, the Lexington Historical Society petitioned the Massachusetts General Court to declare April 19th “Lexington Day.” Concord wasn’t willing to let this stand and counter-petitioned that it be declared (what else?) “Concord Day.”

They were both at a bit of a loss when they found out that the biggest battle fought on April 19th was actually in Menotomy, which is now known as Arlington. It has been speculated that one of the reasons the much larger battle is less remembered than the two smaller ones is because the name of the town has changed several times since the American Revolution.

As a compromise designed to keep everyone happy, Governor Frederic T. Greenhalge proclaimed the day “Patriots’ Day,” which replaced the previous Fast Day. The new state holiday served to consolidate what had previously been a variety of local observances throughout the state. It further commemorated the first blood of the Civil War during the Baltimore Riots of 1861, where four Massachusetts militia members were killed.

Maine became the second state to celebrate the holiday in 1907, likewise replacing what had formerly been Fast Day. New Hampshire became the third state in 1991, with Connecticut joining as the fourth in 2018. It is currently celebrated on the third Monday in April.

Because Bay Staters love their sports, the Boston Marathon takes place on Patriot’s Day, and the Boston Red Sox have been scheduled for home games every year since 1959. In 2013, they played despite the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Those who do not live in Massachusetts or New England frequently confuse or conflate the holiday with Bunker Hill Day or Evacuation Day. The former of these celebrates an unrelated battle in June, and the latter commemorates the British evacuation from the city of Boston after the successful siege by the nascent Continental Army. Evacuation Day, for its part, is often confused with St. Patrick’s Day because it is commemorated on the same day.

All of these (except St. Patrick’s Day, of course) are part of a family of holidays known as Minor Revolutionary Holidays. But Patriot’s Day is arguably the most important of them for three reasons. First, it celebrates the very beginning of our nation. Before the Battles of Lexington and Concord, we were nothing more than a bunch of colonies with a few radical rebels. After the battles, we became a nation in the making.

The other reason largely flows from the first: While there are only a handful of New England states that celebrate Patriot’s Day, it is recognized in Wisconsin as a day off for the public schools. The State of Florida urges people to celebrate it without it being an official holiday. People around the country have at least heard of Patriot’s Day in a way that they haven’t, for example, Bennington Battle Day.

Finally, the Battles of Lexington and Concord are arguably where the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms was born. It was the attempt by the redcoats to seize their arms that demonstrated just how important this right was to the colonials. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the Patriots putting their lives on the line to defend that right.

So, on April 19 (or the third Monday of April, whichever you like), go ahead and remember Patriot’s Day – why it’s celebrated and what it is intended to remember. Even if you’re not in New England, it’s important to remember the origins of our nation in a small battle outside of Boston.

03/1/20

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & Abusive

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s unlikely that there is a single federal alphabet organization less popular among the readership of this website than the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. These are the people who gave us both the Siege at Ruby Ridge and the Siege of Waco. What’s more, they may well be engaged in an entirely unconstitutional exercise: monitoring and patrolling the gun ownership of law-abiding citizens.

There’s also a solid case to be made that the ATF is a rogue organization, the most corrupt of the federal alphabet agencies. This can be seen through a number of scandals beginning with Ruby Ridge, threading through the siege at Mount Carmel in Waco, and continuing to the notorious “Fast and Furious” scandal.

While firearms owners, weapons enthusiasts and Second Amendment advocates might have a special bone to pick with the ATF, we believe that all freedom-loving Americans should be concerned about the overreach, lawlessness, and lack of accountability in this organization. Roman poet Juvenal once posed an important (and famous) question about powerful justice officers: Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” – Who is to guard the guardians?

All told, there are over 20,000 firearms laws and regulations on the books at the state and federal level. Many of these contradict each other or are written with a lot of room for interpretation. Gun owners and gun dealers are easy prey for a corrupt and lawless federal agency that wants to twist its arms outside the bounds of the law.

It’s also worth considering what overreach and lack of accountability other federal organizations are responsible for that we don’t know about, simply because they do not have the same spotlight on them as the ATF – a reminder that the scandals mentioned above are just the ones that we know about.

We recommend reading this article in concert with our other articles on the ATF: WacoRuby Ridge and Fast and Furious. Each of these contains familiar tropes with regard to the ATF: Entrapment, “lost” evidence, a total lack of accountability, aggressive policing tactics where discretion would probably have saved lives, and a vengeful manner of doing business.

The Pre-History of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveThe ATF’s genesis lies all the way back in 1886, as a part of the Department of Treasury. Then it was known as the Revenue Laboratory within the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The pre-history of the ATF can then be traced through the Bureau of Prohibition, itself a branch of the Bureau of Internal Revenue formed in 1920. The Bureau of Prohibition was then spun off as an independent agency under the umbrella of the Treasury Department in 1927, before becoming a part of the Justice Department in 1930, and eventually merged into the FBI briefly in 1933.

In December 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the Prohibition Bureau became the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In 1942, they were also tasked with enforcing federal firearms laws, which were scant at the time, to say the least – remember that fully automatic machine guns were legal until 1986.

In the early 1950s, the Bureau of Internal Revenue became the Internal Revenue Service that we all know and love today. As part of this reorganization of federal alphabet agencies, the Alcohol Tax Unit was tasked with collecting tobacco taxes as well and became known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division (ATTD).

It was with the 1968 Gun Control Act that the agency became the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division of the IRS, and also received some jurisdiction over bombings and arson. In 1972, it became a fully independent bureau of the Treasury Department – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (B.A.T.F). It was here that the Bureau became tasked more with the enforcement of the law around firearms than it did about collecting taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

A Long History of Abuse and Corruption in the ATF

The ATF had a bad reputation long before the events of Ruby Ridge and Waco. They were subject to Congressional hearings in the late 70s and early 80s because their methods for securing a case were considered overzealous. Evidence at the hearings was presented by American citizens who had been charged, experts who had closely studied the Bureau, and internal officials from the Bureau. The Senate sub-committee investigating declared:

“Based upon these hearings, it is apparent that ATF enforcement tactics made possible by current federal firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible.”

The ATF was considered especially harmful because they often targeted people who not only didn’t know they were doing anything wrong but had absolutely no malicious intent at all. Their efforts focused on gun collectors rather than stopping street crime. Indeed, the same investigation found that 75 percent of all ATF prosecutions were targeted at people who had no knowledge that they were breaking the law and had no intent to do anything criminal.

The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) was squarely aimed at reducing the abuses of the Bureau. Nothing less than a complete overhaul of the 1968 Gun Control Act, FOPA allowed for increased interstate sales of long arms, shipping ammunition through the U.S. mail, ended record keeping requirements on most forms of ammunition, and protected the transportation of otherwise illegal firearms across state lines (“safe passage”).

This is also the act that largely prohibited the ownership of fully automatic machine guns by civilians, so it certainly wasn’t perfect.

Ruby Ridge and Waco

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveFollowing FOPA in 1986, the next big chapters in ATF history are the sieges at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco in 1993. These events lead directly to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The Siege at Ruby Ridge

In 1992, Ruby Ridge, Idaho, was the site of an 11-day standoff between the ATF and Randy Weaver – who had been entrapped by the ATF into violating the law regarding the barrel length of a shotgun. They attempted to coerce him into becoming a snitch inside the Aryan Nations (which, as it turned out, was basically an organization entirely full of snitches). When he refused, the ATF moved forward with prosecution.

There was a series of bureaucratic SNAFUs that led to Weaver not knowing what his court date was, missing it, and then deciding not to show up at all out of the very legitimate fear that he would not get a fair shake. So the Marshal Service came in, guns blazing in tactical gear, and did what the feds are perhaps best known for: They shot Weaver’s dog. Unfortunately, it went further than that. They also shot his 14-year-old son Sammy in the back and his wife through a door while she held their infant child.

Patriots descended onto the scene and 11 days later, Weaver came out. He was tried and acquitted of all charges except for failure to appear.

The Siege at Waco

The next year, the ATF had a similar situation in Waco, Texas, where they were investigating a religious group known as the Branch Davidians. Here, the ATF (according to many accounts) was more interested in performing for television cameras than they were in enforcing the law. They used aggressive policing tactics against a group of people who had not been convicted of – or even formally charged with – any crime. The final result was a 51-day siege, at the end of which 82 Branch Davidians (including women and children) were gunned down or burned to death.

Each of these events was directly cited by Timothy McVeigh as radicalizing for him on his road to attacking the federal building at Oklahoma City, stating:

“I chose to bomb a federal building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost the bombing was a retaliatory strike; a counter-attack for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s Hostage Rescue and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government – like the Chinese – was deploying tanks against its own citizens.”

Expanded Powers Post-9/11

Unsurprisingly, the ATF was rewarded for its indiscretions with broader police powers post-9/11, when any three-letter alphabet agency was basically given carte blanche to run roughshod over the civil rights of American citizens. This included an expanded jurisdiction over fuels used in amateur rocketry.

It’s worth briefly noting that the ATF (actually the BATFE, as their agents are quick to tell anyone who will listen) has a bit of a chip on its shoulder because there is a perception that the agency is made up of FBI rejects. The ATF tends to not cooperate with the FBI, something people hoped would end when the ATF was moved from Treasury to Justice. But the so-called “battle of the badges” continues. Each wants to investigate terrorist attacks involving explosives, and there are no clear federal guidelines about which gets which.

The Harassment of Gun Show Buyers and Sellers

Starting in May 2004 and ending (as far as we know) in August 2005, the ATF worked with local police in Richmond, VA, to harass and intimidate otherwise legal gun buyers. People at eight different gun shows were approached by officers and discouraged from buying guns. Gun salesmen were targeted, interrogated, and accused of doing business without a license. Buyers were detained without charge and had their homes visited by ATF agents – all for exercising a Constitutionally protected right. An ATF letter demanded the appearance of buyers to appear before the ATF and explain their purchases. Soon after, the ATF visited the homes of buyers from a Pittsburgh, PA gun show, demanding to see their papers for purchases and arresting those who refused to comply.

All of this was just the lead up to Operation Gunrunner, better known as the Fast and Furious Scandal, an official policy of allowing certain illegal weapons purchases to go through between 2006 and 2011. It led to the deaths of a Border Patrol Agent and some of the weapons in question were even used in a terrorist attack.

The Baiting of Hmong Refugees

One of the more disgusting ATF escapades post-9/11 was right out of their old entrapment handbook: They baited a bunch of Hmong refugees from the Communist regime in Laos into buying illegal weapons over a period of years. It’s worth noting that these men were hardly hardened revolutionary militants. In many cases, they were elderly and infirm men. Even the prosecution admits that their stated goal was not to overthrow the Communist government in Laos but to arm the native Hmong to protect themselves.

Charges were eventually dropped when a judge told the feds they had no case. But the whole ordeal lasted almost four years and cost tens of millions of dollars. The defendants saw deteriorating health throughout the case – imagine your father or grandfather having to deal with a dubious criminal prosecution in his advancing age.

The Entrapment of Mentally Disabled Teenagers

Have you heard about the ATF entrapping mentally disabled teenagers and coercing them into getting neck tattoos? You read that right, the ATF opened up a fake head shop that it used for (what else?) entrapment. In this case, a 19-year-old mentally disabled drug addict was manipulated by agents into getting the logo for a shill business tattooed on his neck. This was allegedly to keep him from finding out that he was unwittingly informing for the government, a defense so stupid that a federal judge repeatedly and pointedly asked the ATF to explain how suggesting that someone else get a neck tattoo was a method of preventing agents from blowing their cover.

The ATF was ordered by a judge to pay for the removal of the tattoo. But this was apparently not the only example of the ATF using what it euphemistically refers to as a “low IQ informant” – there was another case earlier that same year, with another shill business.

Part of the problem with the ATF is that the right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. For example, a Bureau audit in September 2008, found that the ATF had waylaid no less than 76 weapons and 418 laptop computers.

Just How Bad Is the ATF?

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s no surprise to our readers that we’re not the biggest fans of federal alphabet agencies. So one might be tempted to ask exactly what the big deal is about the ATF. Why single them out for criticism?

The ATF is a unique corrupt federal alphabet agency. Indeed, the Trump Administration has gone so far as to cut the organization’s funding. This is part of a broader mood that the ATF is unique among federal alphabet agencies. While there’s rarely a thirst in Washington to scale back federal police powers, the ATF is so controversial even within the halls of official power, that the executive branch – of all places – has looked for ways to constrain it.

The complaints about the ATF are not by any means limited to civilians who they have wronged. As an example, the ATF received 400 employee complaints within one two-year period. This is an astounding number of complaints for an organization that only has 5,000 employees.

What’s more, internal agents who complain are often subjective to punitive measures within the agency, meaning that what resources aren’t being spent on entrapping citizens are being used to persecute what slim opposition to corruption exists within the organization – so how much of their time and money are they using to lock up bad guys?

Indeed, the ATF has been accused of making threats of rape and murder against ATF agents and their families when those agents make good faith reports of corruption and misconduct within the organization. Much of the corruption from the perspective of ATF agents acting in good faith and their families can be found at Clean Up ATF and their forums, a website that we highly encourage people to check out.

The astonishing thing is the sheer volume of complaints ranging from petty corruption to reprisals against agents seeking reform to sexual misconduct and beyond. We take no stance on whether or not each and every accusation against the ATF is accurate. Nor do we take the stance of “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” However, drilling down and looking at the individual complaints, and evaluating each on their own merit, will likely lead you to rather sinister conclusions about the ATF.

What Does the ATF Really Do With Your Form 4473?

Federal Form 4473, also known as the Firearms Transaction Record, is well known to everyone who has ever purchased a firearm. You think that after you fill that out, it goes to some kind of ultra-secure ATF repository – but absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the form just sits wherever you bought it until the company goes out of business, at which time it’s transferred to the ATF at long last.

What this means is that the Form 4473 is not only insecure but basically a form of kabuki similar to the security theater people undergo every time they go through an airport. Finding the document is just about impossible, even when they have a suspect or a weapon. It’s the ultimate needle in a haystack problem, with as many as 70 phone calls required for the average trace. A single big-box retailer might send in as many as 50,000 for one moderately busy location closing.

Of course, there is always another sinister aspect to such intrusions: Grooming us all for an increasingly obvious police state.

The Beltway Sniper case presents an illustrative example: There the ATF went out and collected every Form 4473 from all of Maryland and Virginia. This was a precedent for future fishing expeditions, where the ATF can go out, collect as many forms as they want with dubious legal standing, and now have de facto gun registrations for everyone that they collected forms about.

The ATF Slush Fund: Is the ATF a Rogue Agency?

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveThe answer to this question very much depends on what one means. So what do we mean when we ask if the ATF is a rogue agency?

Simply put, we mean: Is the ATF even beholden to the federal government and our elected officials? Is there accountability? The answer is… kind of.

It’s worth noting again that the ATF has had its budget first frozen, which is an effective budgetary cut, then explicitly cut. What’s more, we discussed the Senate investigations of the early 1980s above. And each of the scandals we have covered elsewhere on the website (Ruby Ridge in 1993, Waco in 1994, and Operation Gunrunner in 2010) have had their own investigations. But we think there is one scandal not covered here that is particularly damning when considering whether or not the ATF is a rogue agency.

Over the course of several years, the ATF built up a slush fund that was used without Congressional or executive oversight through a rather unlikely revenue stream: Cigarettes.

Anyone who knows anything about organized crime knows that, silly as it may sound, illegally selling cigarettes is still big business. There’s still a lot of money to be made out of knocking over a truck carrying cigarettes, then selling them well below market value and without paying any of the relevant taxes. This, indeed, is one of the things the ATF is actually supposed to be looking into – if you remember, this was one of their first assignments.

The New York Times uncovered this operation in February 2017. And at first, it looked like a few bad apples in one office. However, what the Times found was that this was a nationwide operation based out of the Bristol, VA office. Anytime an agent wanted money for an operation, they didn’t go through the official channels of power. They simply called the Bristol office, which had tons of money thanks to their partnership with a cigarette wholesaler.

Unsurprisingly, the slush fund was not only spent on investigative expenses. Two informants were paid a whopping $6 million each – good work if you can get it. One agent, in particular, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on real estate, electronics and donations to his church and children’s sports teams. Other purchases included a $21,000 NASCAR suite and a trip to Las Vegas.

Mixing private and public funds is highly illegal. The ATF, at long last, acknowledges that there was no legal justification for the slush fund. But again, this was not a rogue field office or rogue agents: ATF headquarters was openly steering agents to the Bristol office whenever they needed money for something. There were no prosecutions, Congress was kept in the dark, and the Justice Department went out of their way to cover for those involved. This abuse of funds is nothing special – civil asset forfeiture funds are frequently misused. However, the difference is how the funds were acquired.

Tens of millions moved through the bank account in question before it was shut down in 2013. No one knows exactly how much money was involved, because no one was keeping track.

How the ATF Slush Fund Worked

This slush fund bears special examination because it is an example of the ATF as a rogue agency, not one that is “simply” corrupt in the same way as other federal alphabet agencies. Worthy of note is the manner in which headquarters facilitated the use of the slush fund, but also how it began and how it operated on a day-to-day basis.

Thomas Lesnak was a well-liked ATF agent. Affable, he was generally thought of as a “good cop.” He had the groundbreaking idea that the ATF would catch cigarette smugglers, not by setting up front companies, but by working with an actual, existing company.

The ATF agents allowed Big South Wholesale to conduct illegal cigarette sales so that the ATF could then catch smugglers and their customers who often paid in illegal weapons and stolen goods. This is very similar to Operation Gunrunner in that the ATF allowed legitimate businesses to commit crimes so that they could track criminals based on these purchases.

This was already illegal. That’s because undercover operations have a series of protocols designed to ensure transparency. Undercover operations are supposed to run entirely on government money so that there can be government oversight of how the money is being spent. In this case, the money was largely put into a personal account owned by the owner of Big South Wholesale. The spending out of this account, which Congress didn’t even know about, was controlled by Lesnak.

What the money was spent on could be an article all by itself. Credit cards, a fleet of luxury cars, vending machines with hidden cameras, and the personal American Express bills of ATF agents were just some of the perks of working for the ATF and being in the know about this fund. It was a long list as one might expect from an account that ran into the tens of millions.

It gets worse. One of the requirements of keeping this slush fund on the hush-hush meant that the ATF always needed guilty pleas. What this meant in practice was that the ATF was bribing suspects to plead guilty. One defendant testified that he was paid $100 cash monthly, plus the rent on his house while he was in jail, plus a first-class plane ticket to plead guilty to charges.

It wasn’t government whistleblowers who uncovered the scheme, either: U.S. Tobacco thought something was amiss and decided to look into it. They were then informed that the ATF was running their own private lemonade stand out of the warehouse. They raided it and sued the nominal owners for $24 million. The target of their biggest investigation, Paraguayan tobacco company Tabesa, had their own become President of Paraguay.

When notified, the ATF didn’t do anything. No one was prosecuted or even reprimanded. Lesnak retired soon afterward, presumably with a full pension.

It’s easy to get angry at the corruption of the ATF, and with good reason. But what might get lost in the legitimate indignation of a federal alphabet agency profiting off of cigarette smuggling is that the bad guys got away.

Cigarette smuggling admittedly sounds a little silly, but it is often done as part of money laundering operations for much more serious crimes. Not only did the ATF do something highly illegal, they also let other actual criminals get away. There’s a lot more going on here than a simple case of “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

Who Watches the Watchmen?

The ATF is a classic example of what happens when a federal alphabet agency is given increasing police powers with no meaningful oversight. In the case of the ATF, it’s resulted in a whole lot of crime.

There is also the small question of to what degree the activities of the ATF are Constitutionally protected. While this is an open question for a number of federal alphabet agencies (especially in the era of Congress largely delegating its legislative powers to bureaucracies), it is an especially sharp question with regard to firearms, which are Constitutionally protected in a way that, for example, recreational drugs are not.

The ATF goes out of its way to avoid Congressional oversight in a manner that is more similar to the CIA than it is the DEA or the FBI.

Weaponizing the ATF

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s not news that gun grabbers have been ineffective at achieving their goals through the regular legislative process. There’s simply no appetite in American politics for a large-scale gun ban or even firearms registration. Every time they attempt it, the attempt falls flat and they’re back to, for example, trying to get payment systems to refuse services to gun owners and weapons retailers.

However, there is a more troubling avenue that gun grabbers are beginning to take. Following up on the recent love affair of leftist liberals with the CIA and the FBI (anyone old enough to remember the Bush Administration, remembers when the NPR set considered these to be tyrannical and Orwellian institutions), the Democratic Party is now looking to the ATF to do what it cannot do through the legislature: Take people’s guns away and send a chilling effect over the gun market.

The “Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act” stands in the great American legislative tradition of duplicitously Orwellian bill names. While it mostly just stands to make already illegal activity even more illegal, it has some rather chilling provisions that include closer ATF oversight of gun dealers, stiffer penalties for falsified forms (remember that the ATF is mostly going after people making honest mistakes), ATF discretion when it comes to granting gun licenses, and allowing the ATF to demand certain dealers conduct physical inventories.

It is worth raising the question of what might happen with the ATF under an aggressively anti-Second Amendment administration and Congress. Imagine, if you will, what the Obama Administration with the 111th Congress might look like in today’s far more polarized landscape. This was when the Democrats had a significant majority in both houses of Congress, as well as a friendly rubber stamp in the White House. What would such a government do with the ATF?

Nothing good.

Whither the ATF?

In 2014, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, proposed disbanding the ATF entirely, giving its duties to more general law enforcement agencies. Those related to weapons, arson, explosives, and terrorism would be given to the FBI. Those related to alcohol and tobacco smuggling would be handed off to the DEA. Congress failed to act on his bill. He introduced the bill again the next year and was met with similar results. Sensenbrenner did not mince words:

“The ATF is a largely duplicative, scandal-ridden agency that lacks a clear mission… it is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges and a lack of leadership. For decades it has been branded by high-profile failures. There is also significant overlap with other agencies. … Without a doubt, we can fulfill the role of the ATF more efficiently.”

While nothing ever came of this, the Trump Administration began attempting to strip the alcohol and tobacco responsibilities from the agency. This is part of a more general attempt by Republican officials to, in the words of a Mother Jones article “kneecap the ATF.”

We should be so lucky. The ATF is a rogue organization with a dubious Constitutional mandate. This is not a position of the anarchist-libertarian extreme, but one that anyone with the evidence in front of them and a lick of common sense could come to.

02/27/20

The Waco Siege: What Happened When the Feds Laid Siege to the Branch Davidian Compound

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

history of the Waco Siege“The record of the Waco incident documents mistakes. What the record from Waco does not evidence, however, is any improper motive or intent on the part of law enforcement.”

Joseph Biden, U.S. Senator, Delaware (D) and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which issued the Waco Investigation Report

The siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, is an important event in American history because it directly led to one of the biggest terrorist attacks on American soil – the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. It’s not necessary to defend this act of terrorism to understand why the entire freedom movement of the time was so incensed by it. Indeed, it stood as a symbol of federal overreach and the corruption of the Clinton Administration.

It’s important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the siege of Waco, just as it is important to do so with the siege of Ruby Ridge or the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. With every event, it is important to stick to the facts and what can be extrapolated from them to make the strongest argument about what went wrong and why, and what could be done differently in the future.

Background: Who Are the Branch Davidians?

The Branch Davidians were a tiny offshoot of mainstream Seventh-Day Adventism. This stemmed from an earlier split between the main church and a group called Shepherd’s Rod, The Rod or the Davidians. It was effectively a reform movement within Adventism, albeit with some beliefs considered heretical by the mainstream church, none of which are important or relevant for this discussion.

The Branch Davidians were established some 20 years later, and a much more radical departure from Seventh-Day Adventism born from disappointment at the failure of earlier prophecies to materialize. There was some wrangling over the leadership of the group after the death of its founder, but Vernon Howell, better known to the world as David Koresh, ultimately won out over the wife and son of the founder.

Everyone liked Howell when he first showed up at the compound in 1981, including the head of the organization at the time, Lois Roden, with whom he had an affair, despite a more than 40-year age gap (he was in his late 20s, she was in her late 60s). He wanted to have a child with her, one that he believed would be the Chosen One of their religion.

Her son, George Roden, took over upon her death, which led to a power struggle between the two. Roden challenged Howell to raise the dead, going so far as to exhume a corpse for this purpose. Howell attempted to file charges against Roden over the grave robbing, but the police told him that more evidence was needed.

It was then that Howell and seven of his followers raided the compound armed with five .223 caliber semiautomatic rifles, two 22 caliber rifles, two 12-gauge shotguns, and almost 400 rounds of ammunition. They said they were trying to collect evidence of illegal activity on the compound, but forgot to bring a camera with them for that purpose. This was the definitive split where Howell won control of the Branch Davidian church at Mount Carmel. Those who did not follow him continued to use this name and argue that he was never rightfully in possession of it.

It was then that Vernon Howell became David Koresh, a name based on the historical King David and Cyrus the Great (“Koresh” is the Hebrew version of “Cyrus”).

By 1989, Koresh began marrying the members’ wives and daughters, some as young as 12, which was cited as a reason for the eventual raid. He claimed this came from an order from God. The men in the group other than Koresh were to remain celibate.

The Sinful Messiah

Koresh first began getting media attention from the Waco Tribune-Herald in February 1993. “The Sinful Messiah” was the name of a series of articles by Mark England and Darlene McCormick about Koresh and his followers. The articles mostly revolve around the child abuse claims and Koresh’s claim that he had over a dozen children, some of them with girls as young as 12.

Additionally, the group was suspected by local law enforcement of “stockpiling” illegal weapons. Local law enforcement alerted the ATF in May 1992, based on a call from a concerned UPS driver. By June 9th, the ATF had officially opened an investigation into the group.

This is perhaps the time to begin talking about some of the misconceptions or smears about the Branch Davidians. We are agnostic as to whether or not the group was a “cult,” as this can be defined differently by different people. However, the notion that Koresh kept his people in line with either mesmerism or fear does not square up with reports to Congress and elsewhere from survivors of the group. What’s more, rather than the dregs of Waco, many in the group were educated, most were religiously serious, and the group eschewed drugs and junk food.

Contrary to popular belief, Koresh did not claim to be the Second Coming of Christ, but rather to be a new messiah for a new age. The term “sinful messiah” was in fact one of Koresh’s own coinage, meaning that he was a messiah-like Christ but, unlike Christ, had a sinful nature.

The allegations of child abuse that prompted the final siege on Mount Carmel is even highly in dispute. Most of the allegations against Koresh come from either disgruntled former members or those involved in child custody battles. The church was investigated by state authorities but not prosecuted because no solid evidence was ever found. That Koresh married a 14-year-old girl is true, but this would have been totally legal with parental consent at the time – so what were state authorities supposed to do?

Assuming that the allegations of child sexual abuse were true – and we consider them to be extremely dubious – what was the ATF or the FBI doing there? And how does opening fire, throwing hand grenades, poison gassing and burning alive children serve to protect them? These are the important questions that stand as a stunning indictment of federal law enforcement, even if one accepts that child abuse was taking place within the compound.

As with Ruby Ridge, the allegations of the federal government and their toadies in the corporate media are distortions (“Koresh claims to be Christ”), dubious (“Koresh is abusing children”) and, more to the point, irrelevant (“The Branch Davidians were cooking meth”). The FBI and ATF were on the scene in Waco for one reason and one reason alone: To serve a search warrant to determine whether or not the Branch Davidians were making automatic weapons.

The Raid of Waco

The actual events of the raid can be difficult to tease out. Each side disagrees as to what the sequence of events was.

What we know is that, based on an affidavit filed by Davy Aguilera, the ATF obtained a search warrant. This was based on the testimony of a postal agent about what he considered to be suspicious deliveries to Mt. Carmel. However, none of the deliveries were in and of themselves illegal and included items such as 45 AR-15 upper receivers and five M-16 upper receivers.

The search warrant was mostly based on the number of weapons possessed by the Davidians. But in the United States of America, we have the right to own as many weapons as we can afford. What’s more, the notion that the Davidians were “stockpiling” weapons is a red herring: They were selling weapons (legally) in addition to buying them, so “inventory” might be the more accurate term for what they had at Mt. Carmel.

According to Dick J. Reavis, author of The Ashes of Waco:

“One of the prophecies that has been around Mt. Carmel since 1934 called for an ultimate confrontation between God’s people, or those at Mr. Carmel, and the forces of an armed apostate power called Babylon . . . Perhaps with that in mind, in 1991, the Davidians began studying armaments and buying and selling guns. He (Koresh) pretty quickly found out there is a lot of money to be made at gun shows and he and other people started going to gun shows. And they bought and sold. They bought items that weren’t guns, and they bought items that were guns. We now say, or the press now says, most people say, they stockpiled weapons. All gun dealers stockpile weapons. We call those stockpiles an inventory. There was an inventory of weapons at Mt. Carmel. A number of guys were involved in the gun shows, just as a number were involved in souping up and restoring cars, and just as a number were involved in playing in the band. There were circles or knots or subsets of people who had hobby interests that were only indirectly related to theology, and guns were one of those interests.”

The ATF’s raid, codenamed “Showtime,” was moved up one day in response to a local newspaper’s article on the Davidians. The local sheriff was not aware of the raid, but the Davidians knew it was coming. The ATF chose to raid the property rather than pick up Koresh while he was in town. An ATF agent who had infiltrated the group reported that they knew of the raid and that his cover was blown. When asked what they were doing when he left the property on the day of the raid, he said that the Davidians were praying.

There was another factor influencing the ATF’s decision to raid the Davidians when they did: Money. According to Henry Ruth, one of three independent reviewers of the Treasury Department’s report on Waco:

“With appropriations hearings a week away, a large successful raid for the ATF would’ve proposed major positive headlines for the agency. It would’ve helped counter the narrative of the ATF as a rogue agency. And it would’ve spread fear about radical fringe groups which would put pressure on Congress to increase its budget. Part of their motivation was to use the siege at Waco as a publicity stunt.”

There is much discussion and debate about who fired first, however, there is ample evidence that it was the ATF when they went to shoot the Davidians’ dogs in their kennels on the way to surrounding the compound. What’s more, the ATF showed up in a cattle trailer protected by a tarp, wearing no body armor. They were not dressed for an armed confrontation with apocalyptic religious extremists.

A ceasefire was negotiated by local authorities. The sheriff claims that the ATF only withdrew once they were out of ammunition. What this means is that if the Branch Davidians were the dangerous extremists they were portrayed as they could have easily shot down every ATF agent either then or when they went out to recover their dead. They did not; the Davidians honored the ceasefire.

“They could’ve killed every ATF agent out there the day of the raid, had they kept shooting. But when they said they would leave their property, they quit shooting. They were highly protective of their property.”

Jack Harwell, Sheriff, McLennan County

And so began the 51-day standoff in Waco, Texas.

The Waco Standoff

The standoff is frequently thought of as a benign and inert non-confrontation. However, this is untrue. While it’s true that no shots were fired, there was a virtual constant low-level assault on the compound in the form of noise (rabbits being slaughtered, jet planes, pop music, and other loud noises), threatening tank movements and poison gas, and flash-bang grenades. Federal agents would frequently give the middle finger to or “moon” the people inside Mt. Carmel.

The tanks were used to crush the outer perimeter, outbuildings, private vehicles belonging to the Branch Davidians, and were repeatedly rolled over the grave of Branch Davidian Peter Gent, despite protests from both Branch Davidians and federal negotiators.

While none of this is acceptable, two of these activities bear special examination: the gas and flash-bang grenades.

The “tear gas” used against the compound was military-grade, a type that can turn toxic very easily. The federal agents knew there were children and even infants in the house, children too small for any gas mask to cover. They shot the grenades in anyway, effectively considering the suffering of the children inside as acceptable collateral damage. Further, flash-bang grenades are deadly and certainly violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the ceasefire.

Koresh became concerned with the safety of the group due to increasingly aggressive tactics. All told, 11 people left the Davidian house, all of whom were arrested as material witnesses, with one indicted for conspiracy to commit murder. Children inside were increasingly unwilling to leave Koresh’s side, especially once they learned that the children who had previously left had been separated from their mothers and other women in the group who had been caring for them.

Communication predictably began to break down. The FBI considered using snipers to take out Koresh and other leaders of the movement and feared a mass suicide. However, Koresh denied such a thing was imminent and those leaving the compound had seen no plans in place for mass suicide.

How the Media Portrayed the Standoff

Koresh and the Davidians watched what the ATF and other federal agents were saying publicly about the initial raid during their 51-day standoff. The public narrative didn’t line up with what the Davidians had experienced, making negotiations even more difficult:

Jim Cavanaugh, ATF negotiator: Well, I think we need to set the record straight, and that is that there was no guns on those helicopters (used in the initial raid). There was National Guard officers on those helicopters . . .
Koresh: Now Jim, you’re a d*mn liar. Now let’s get real.
Cavanaugh: David, I . . .
Koresh: No! You listen to me! You’re sittin’ there and tellin’ me that there were no guns on that helicopter!?
Cavanaugh: I said they didn’t shoot. There’s no guns on . . .
Koresh: You are a d*mn liar!
Cavanaugh: Well, you’re wrong, David.
Koresh: You are a liar!
Cavanaugh: OK. Well, just calm down . . .
Koresh: No! Let me tell you something. That might be what you want the media to believe, but there’s other people that saw too! Now, tell me Jim again. You’re honestly going to say those helicopters didn’t fire on any of us?
Cavanaugh: What I’m sayin’ is . . . now I listened to you, now you listen to me, OK?
Koresh: I’m listening.
Cavanaugh: What I’m sayin’ is that those helicopters didn’t have mounted guns. OK? I’m not disputing the fact that there might have been fire from the helicopters. If you say there was fire from the helicopters and you were there that’s OK with me. What I’m tellin’ you is there was no mounted guns, ya know, outside mounted guns on those helicopters.
Koresh: I agree with you on that.
Cavanaugh: Alright. Now, that’s the only thing I’m sayin’. Now, the agents on the helicopters had guns.
Koresh: I agree with you on that!
Cavanaugh: You understand what I’m sayin’?
Koresh: I agree with you.
Cavanaugh: OK, OK. So see, we’re not even in dispute and Steven’s getting all worked up over it.
Koresh: Well, no. What the dispute was over, I believe Jim, is that you said they didn’t fire on us from the helicopters.
Cavanaugh: Well, what I mean is a mounted gun . . . like a, you know, like a mounted machine gun.
Koresh: Yeah. But like that’s beside the point. What they did have was machine guns.

This distrust by the Davidians of the ATF and their lead negotiator, Jim Cavanaugh, helped exacerbate the standoff.

The Final Siege of Mount Carmel

The newly-minted U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was unhappy with the progress being made at Waco, and invoked (what else) the abuse of children in her pitch for a resolution to the conflict. For his part, President Clinton, who had dealt with a similar situation as Governor of Arkansas in 1985 – with The Covenant, The Sword, and The Arm of the Lord – initially urged waiting out the group. Reno, however, cited antsy agents and budgetary concerns. Ultimately, Clinton told her to do whatever she thought was best.

The FBI Hostage Rescue Team – derisively nicknamed the “Hostage Roasting Team” and which denied any evidence of child abuse – came armed with 50 caliber rifles and punched holes in the walls of the building with explosives so they could pump CS poison gas into a building with small children and infants inside. The plan was to announce to the group that there was no plan to take the house by force while slowly pumping greater amounts of CS gas inside to increase pressure on them to leave.

The fires began around noon on the final day of the standoff. The FBI maintains that they were started deliberately by the Davidians, with some survivors claiming that the FBI started the fires either intentionally or accidentally. Footage of the Davidians talking about gasoline seem to refer to them making Molotov cocktails to fight the FBI with.

Nine people left the building during the fire. The remaining people inside all died either from the fire, smoke inhalation, were buried alive by rubble or were shot. Some showed signs of death by cyanide poisoning, which would likely have been a result of the burning CS gas. All told, there were 76 deaths.

FBI claims in the 51 days during the standoff they never fired a single shot. Then 27 of the people in the compound died of bullet wounds. Then those were self-inflicted or inflicted by other members inside the compound. Federal investigators considered suicide as a possible form of gunshot death for the Davidians. It did not consider forced execution to be a likely cause of death.

An exchange between Sen. Chuck Schumer and Assistant Attorney General Edward Dennis in the Clinton Administration in the subsequent congressional investigation summed it up best:

Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Congressman, New York (D): We’ve heard that in the 51 days the FBI was involved, they did not fire a single shot . . . First, That would mean quite certainly that 27 of the people who died in the compound, I think the autopsy report showed 27, I may be off by one or two, who died of bullet wounds, those were self-inflicted or inflicted by other members within the compound . . .

Edward Dennis, Former Assistant Attorney General, Clinton Administration: I think that’s a key issue. The fact that Koresh was capable of setting the fire, of killing his own followers, that parents were capable of killing children, or adults were capable of killing children, really says more about the mentality of the individual that you were dealing with and the difficulty in trying to figure out the best way to talk he and his followers out of that compound.

After the Raid

Today the only building on the site is a small chapel erected years after the raid. The building itself was razed. The incoming head of the ATF, John Magaw, was critical of the raid and made the Treasury Department’s Blue Book report on the matter required reading for incoming agents.

Nine Branch Davidians received sentences of up to 40 years for counts including voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges. Several other Davidians, including foreign nationals, were imprisoned indefinitely as material witnesses. Derek Lovelock, a British national, was held in McLennan County Jail for seven months, with the bulk of this time in solitary confinement. Livingstone Fagan claims to have been repeatedly beaten by guards at Leavenworth and other places. It was here that Fagan claims he was sprayed with cold water by a high-pressure hose before the guards put an industrial fan outside of his cell. Guards strip-searched him every time he left his cell, so he began refusing exercise.

Over 100 civil suits were brought against the government by Branch Davidians and their surviving families. Most of these were dismissed before ever coming before a jury. Where cases were brought to court, the Davidians were ruled against. A jury in San Antonio, however, acquitted Branch Davidians in the killing of four ATF agents on grounds of self-defense.

Perhaps the most important piece of evidence that the ATF fired first was lost. Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin testified under oath that the right-hand entry door to the building had only incoming bullet holes in it. A Texas state trooper testified that he saw two men load what looked like that door into a Uhaul. The Branch Davidians argued at trial that the condition of the left-hand door (i.e., intact) means that the right-hand door was not destroyed in the fire, but “lost” on purpose. There seems to be no better explanation considering how buttoned down the crime scene was and the stakes involved in shielding the ATF and other federal agents from the investigation.

The door was not the only evidence that was “lost.” The ATF’s footage of the original raid was also mysteriously (and miraculously, depending on what side you’re on) somehow lost. All this, despite congressional demands to produce both:

“I will just make one comment to the witnesses relative to the video and the front door. We have consistently asked as a committee to get a copy of the videotape which they now say is blank. We have asked for the door, and the door is missing.”

William H. Zeliff, Jr., U.S. Congressman, New Hampshire (R)

What the Waco Siege Tells Us About the Federal Government

The Waco siege does not provide any new or stunning insight into the federal government or how it operates. It does, however, confirm something that we know all too well: That when the federal government makes mistakes, its tendency is not to address and remedy those mistakes but to double down, come back harder, and take every measure they can to conceal their wrongdoing.

However, there is another more sinister strand to this story: Did the FBI kill men, women, and children because of budgetary concerns?

There is some evidence to suggest that they did. Federal law prevents the military from enforcing federal law. What’s more, any training that law enforcement agencies receive from the military must be paid out of their own budgets – unless the training is for enforcing “drug laws.” Late Congressman Steven Schiff of New Mexico testified that, ”In order for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to have obtained the military assistance they did receive, not because of the Posse Comitatus Act, but because of existing military policy, they misrepresented to the military that this was an anti-drug raid when it was never an anti-drug raid.”

In David Hardy’s “This is Not an Assault,” he stresses, “Once the military trainers pointed out that the ATF would have to pay, the ATF suddenly claimed that the Davidians – who in fact eschewed hard liquor, tobacco, cow’s milk, and junk food – were a ‘dangerous extremist organization’ believed to be producing methamphetamine.”

There is no evidence that the Branch Davidians were in any way involved in drug production. There is, however, ample evidence to suggest that the federal government callously ignored the lives and safety of those inside to grandstand before cameras and justify bigger budgets.

02/11/20

The Italian Years of Lead: Could the Secret “Strategy of Tension” Foreshadow America’s Future?

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

The Italian Years of Lead: How the Strategy of Tension Could Foreshadow America's FutureWhile there are some in the United States who believe we are headed toward another Civil War, there is perhaps another, more recent parallel worth exploring – the so-called “Italian Years of Lead.”

The short version is that in the late 1960s through the early 1980s, Italy was a hotbed of assassination, shoot-outs, and bombings between various factions of the far-left, the far-right and the Italian government – with American, British and Soviet intelligence agencies often pulling the strings.

While the death toll was a lot lower than it could have been, it’s a fascinating and oft-overlooked area of history. When all was said and done, the Italian political landscape had been radically changed. Thousands of leftists were forced to flee the nation, but ultimately, shocked by the violence, Italian politics moderated.

Did we mention that a Masonic Lodge came very close to overthrowing the government? Strap yourself in. You’re about to take a bumpy ride down an obscure historic lane, where “truth being stranger than fiction” is most certainly true (and well documented).

Background of the Italian Years of Lead

The Italian Years of Lead: How the Strategy of Tension Could Foreshadow America's FutureBefore diving into the Italian Years of Lead, it’s important to understand the political climate of Italy after the Second World War. The Communist Party was always a strong force in post-war Italian politics. In the first election after the war’s end, in 1946, the Communist Party received 18.9 percent of the vote. Going into the second election at the end of the war, the Communist Party was poised for even greater success, buoyed by their alliance with the Socialist Party – an almost exact replay of what happened in Czechoslovakia. In both cases, the Communist Party had entered into an alliance with naive Socialists, whom they quickly outfoxed, dominating the electoral combination of nominal equals.

Meanwhile, in Czechoslovakia, a Communist coup d’etat was engineered by a section of the government dominated by Communist elected officials. The CIA stepped in, putting their thumb on the scale in an attempt to prevent the Communists from succeeding in Italy as well. This was one of the first battles in the burgeoning Cold War. All told, the CIA funneled somewhere between $10 and $20 million to defeat the Communists (between $106 and $212 million in 2019 dollars). In contrast, the Soviets spent between $8 and $10 million every month to ensure a Communist victory in the elections.

In an incredibly tense and vitriolic campaign, the Christian Democrats eventually bested the Communists, getting 48 percent of the vote to the Communist Party’s 31. The anti-Communist Socialist grouping netted the balance of the remainder, with small parties picking up the rest, as is common in Italy. The Christian Democrats formed a broad tent coalition, despite having an electoral mandate that did not require it, bringing in Liberals, Republicans and Social Democrats.

However, this did not end the involvement of the CIA in Italy, nor the strength of the Communist Party. The CIA spent an average of $5 million annually in Italy, both to prop up center-right governments and to weaken the influence of the trade unions, who traditionally supported the Communist Party. From 1948 until the first Italian election after the fall of Communism in 1992, the Communist Party polled between 22 and 33 percent in Italian elections, a fact that always filled the CIA with dread.

It is worth briefly mentioning that the successor to the National / Republican Fascist Party, the Italian Social Movement, never polled higher than 9 percent.

The CIA was also a key player in Italy through Gladio, the stay-behind organization it backed in Italy to fight a guerilla insurgency against a potential Communist takeover of the country. The extent of Gladio’s direct involvement in the Years of Lead is a hotly debated topic among historians.

The Hot Autumn of 1969 and 1970

Throughout the 1960s, Italy became increasingly industrialized and modernized, which led to discontent among both the left and the right. These forces were very briefly united in a series of protests in Italy in 1968. However, the similarities between the far-left and far-right were too tenuous, and the establishment parties were largely skeptical of the counter-cultural orientation of the young radicals.

These protests set the stage for what is known in Italy as the “Hot Autumn.” This was a series of wildcat strikes throughout Italy in its industrial sectors, largely in response to layoffs due to increased efficiencies in industrial production. It was the basis of a growing Communist Party, and one that was shifting even further to the left in response to networks of activists known as “autonomists.”

The Italian Years of Lead were in some part a reaction of the far-right to this ascendant Communist movement. However, as stated above, international intelligence agencies were deeply involved and the truth of how the whole thing started moving is incredibly complex.

The Years of Lead Claim Their First Victim: The Death of Antonio Annarumma

The Italian Years of Lead: How the Strategy of Tension Could Foreshadow America's FutureThe initial movement in the Years of Lead was simply a continuation of the Hot Autumn. A group of autonomist students and workers occupied a FIAT factory in Milan. During a related protest in November 1969, Milan police officer Antonio Annarumma was killed by an iron tube. The leftist protesters claimed that this was an accident, however, the courts found differently.

This was followed by the first, but certainly not the last, bombing in the Italian Years of Lead. On December 12, 1969, a bomb went off in the National Agrarian Bank’s headquarters in Piazza Fontana, some 200 meters from the Duomo. The bomb claimed the lives of 17 people, with another 88 wounded.

At first, the press and the police blamed the attack on anarchists. Police arrested prominent anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli, who died under suspicious circumstances when he fell from the fourth-story window of the police building while in custody. The three police officers in charge were later investigated but cleared of any wrongdoing. Police commissioner Luigi Calabresi was later assassinated by autonomist paramilitary group Lotta Continua as revenge for the death of Pinelli.

Another anarchist, Pietro Valpreda, was arrested and held without charge for three years after a cab driver identified him as his “suspicious passenger.” He was later exonerated.

Approximately three years after the bombing, the police finally switched their focus from investigating anarchist operatives to looking into the far-right, neo-fascist grouping Ordine Nuovo (New Order). On March 3, 1972, Italian police arrested Franco Freda, Giovanni Ventura and Ordine Nuovo founder Pino Rauti, who consistently described himself as a non-fascist and a leftist throughout his lengthy political career on the far-right in Italy. The first two were eventually convicted for two separate bombings in 1987, and sentenced to 16 years.

The Masonic P2 Lodge – which we will go into in greater detail later – played a key role in running interference for the accused through their member General Gianandelio Maletti, the head of the Servizio Informazioni Difesa, the Italian state security services.

Curiously, the initial reaction of the police was not far off from what Ordine Nuovo had intended. The bombings were meant not just to create a sense of overall terror, but to implicate the Communist movement in Italy.

The Left Strikes Back: The Formation of the Red Brigades

In reaction to Ordine Nuovo and inspired by Latin American guerilla movements, as well as similar movements on the continent, the Brigate Rosse was formed in 1970. As was the case with many far-left groups in Italy and Germany at the time, they saw the post-war government as a mere continuation of the previous fascist regime, now backed by NATO.

They grew out of a series of strikes against the Sit-Siemens corporation. The bulk of their initial leadership was young and had been expelled from the Italian Communist Party’s youth movement for their extremism. Their first action was a simple one: They set ablaze the car of Sit-Siemens corporate leader, Giuseppe Leoni. No one was hurt.

The Red Brigades and Ordine Nuovo each committed a number of actions throughout the Italian Years of Lead, and will pop up a number of times throughout this article. A failed fascist coup would soon increase the tensions in Italy.

The Failed Fascist Coup d’etat: Golpe Borghese

The failed fascist coup of 1970 probably had very little chance of success. Still, it became a watchword on the Italian left. Hundreds of members of the Neo-Nazi group National Vanguard plotted to overthrow the government with 187 allies from the Italian Forestry Service, of all places.

The plan was to seize the offices of RAI, the state Italian broadcaster. This is what the Forestry Service members were in charge of. Vanguard militants planned to assassinate the President of Italy, Giuseppe Saragat, as well as Italian police chief Angelo Vicari while seizing the Quirinale, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense. The Vanguard would then have a large cache of weapons at the ready. High-ranking military officials including Air Force General Giuseppe Casero were involved, as was the Sicilian mafia. The plotters believed they would be supported by NATO forces in the Mediterranean, however, support for the coup was marginal within the CIA and other intelligence services, which saw the status quo as the best policy in the region.

A couple of people entered the Ministry of the Interior, but the coup otherwise went nowhere, as it was called off at the last minute. All 46 plotters were eventually acquitted because the coup was such a massive failure.

The Years of Lead Ramp Up: After the Coup

The Italian Years of Lead: How the Strategy of Tension Could Foreshadow America's FutureWhile the coup was somewhat comical in its ineffectiveness, it was like throwing gas on the fire of the Years of Lead. Armored car driver Alessandro Floris was assassinated by the October 22 Group. The arrest of his assassin, Mario Rossi, led to the dismantling of the group by Italian police, who quickly stumbled onto the cache of weapons and propaganda the group was hoarding. This group was considered a precursor of the Red Brigades who, in April 1974, kidnapped a judge in an attempt to free October 22 Group prisoners.

Police officer Luigi Calabresi was the next victim, assassinated on May 17, 1972. Police first suspected Lotta Continua, then shifted their focus to neofascist militants. Three members of Lotta Continua were eventually convicted 16 years after his death.

Next was the May 31, 1972 bombing in Peteano, which claimed the lives of three carabinieri. This was initially blamed on Lotta Continua as well, however, it was later found out to be the work of neofascist terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra. Much like the earlier neofascist bombing, this was a false flag, with the intention of making the Italian state act in a more authoritarian manner. The Italian state security services helped Vinciguerra escape Italy to the safe harbor of Francisco Franco’s Spain. Further investigation found that Nuovo Ordo had worked closely with the Italian state security services to help execute the bombing.

On April 16, 1973, two members of Potere Operaio attacked the house of Italian Social Movement member Mario Mattei with a flammable device. He escaped unscathed, while his two sons, aged 8 and 22, burned to death. Their charred bodies were found embracing one another after the fire was over. It is worth noting that the Italian Social Movement, a small, but a mainstream party in Italy, played no part in the Italian Years of Lead, whose right-wing actors were cut from a far more radical bent than the Social Movement’s parliamentarians.

One month later, the police headquarters in Milan was bombed by anarchist Gianfranco Bertoli. The attack killed four and wounded 75. In May of 1974, the Piazza Della Loggia in Brescia was bombed by Ordine Nuovo. Eight people died and 102 were injured. One month later, two members of the Italian Social Movement were murdered in Padua, murder initially ascribed (like the burning of Mario Mattei’s home) to infighting within the Italian right. The Red Brigades later claimed the murders – their first. Previously, the organization had only participated in bank robberies, kidnappings, and bombings. A second fascist coup was planned for July 1974 but never executed. On August 4, 1974, Nuovo Ordine bombed the Italicus Express train, killing 12 and injuring 48. While Nuovo Ordine claimed responsibility, no perpetrators were ever brought to justice.

For those having trouble keeping track, the right-wing terrorist groups mostly bombed things in an attempt to get the government to crack down, while the left-wing terrorist groups specialized in kidnappings and targeted assassinations.

Some Red Brigade leaders were arrested in 1974, but the organization continued – as did the violence. Indeed, the violence began to be somewhat accepted as part of life in Italy at the time. The far-left sympathizers generally claimed that the violence attributed to the far-left was, in fact, false flag operations on the part of the far-right.

The murders, bombings, and kidnappings are too numerous to go into detail starting around 1975. This was the year that left-wing groups killed MSI militant Mikis Mantakas during a riot and MSI militant Sergio Ramelli was beaten to death by members of Avanguardia Operaia (a successor group to Lotta Continua) with wrenches. Left-wing student activist Alberto Brasili was stabbed to death by neo-fascists and carabinieri Giovanni D’Alfonso was murdered by the Red Brigades.

Things only intensified in 1976. Left-wing group Prima Linea assassinated MSI lawyer Enrico Pedenovi. Neo-fascist Pierluigi Concutelli assassinated Judge Vittorio Occorsio. In 1976, there were several more murders, almost all of them perpetrated by left-wing terrorist groups, including the murder of Carlo Casalegno, deputy director of the liberal newspaper La Stampa. In 1978, there were no fewer than 12 murders by left-wing groups, most of them by the Red Brigades, including a security chief for FIAT motors, three police officers, three judges, a university professor, and a notary.

Things had reached a fever pitch and it seemed that Italy would never return to a peaceful normal.

Italy Turns a Corner: Kidnapping of Aldo Moro

The Italian Years of Lead: How the Strategy of Tension Could Foreshadow America's FutureItaly finally turned a corner when the Red Brigades went a step too far: They kidnapped Italian former Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who at the time was the president of the mainstream center-right party in Italy, the Christian Democrats.

The former Prime Minister’s car was ambushed by members of the Red Brigades on March 16, 1978. The assailants fired 91 shots at his five bodyguards, all of whom were killed in the attack. Prima Linea militant Mario Ferrandi said that at the time, he knew that everything was going to change – the Red Brigades had finally bitten off more than they could chew.

The actual motive of the attack is not entirely clear, but it was probably to disrupt negotiations between Christian Democracy and the Communist Party of Italy. The latter was finally being brought into government, albeit in indirect roles, for the first time since the end of the Second World War. Moro wrote 86 letters during the 55 days he was held in captivity, including to figures such as Pope Paul VI, but also to his family. Some were sent and delivered, others were discovered later.

Conclusive evidence demonstrates that Moro was not tortured. He was, however, put on a “trial” by a “people’s court” of Red Brigades, with predictable results. The Red Brigades wanted to trade him for terrorists imprisoned and eventually requested only one.

Moro’s body was found on the day of his murder, May 9, 1978. The P2 Lodge has been implicated in Moro’s kidnapping.

The response of the Italian government – and indeed, the Italian public – to the kidnapping and murder of a former Prime Minister was sweeping and had consequences far beyond a simple winding down of the Italian Years of Lead.

First and foremost, the Historic Compromise brokered between the Christian Democracy and the Italian Communist Party was over. It had been unpopular with Italy’s European allies. But the kidnapping of a man considered the natural next president of the republic killed it stone dead. The intention was for Italy’s two major parties to rule in a grand coalition. The Historic Compromise officially ended in November 1980.

The president, Giovanni Leone, resigned less than a month after the kidnapping. The government’s response was largely seen as a failure. The Communist Party declined in influence, while the Christian Democracy remained steady until the early 90s when it began to be supplanted by the more popular Lega Nord, now known simply as the Lega.

It is worth noting that, much as the MSI was at odds with the far-right terrorist groups, so too were the far-left terrorist groups largely opposed by the Communist Party and outright despised by trade unionists.

Oddly, despite a massive government clampdown, 1979 was the bloodiest year of the Years of Lead, with 659 attacks, including 11 assassinations. Among the victims that year were four policemen, a Lieutenant Colonel of the carabinieri, a trade unionist, a bartender, and investigative journalist, a judge, and a university student. All of these were committed by leftist terrorist groups. Additionally, the Red Brigades shot five teachers and five students in the legs that year.

1980 topped 1979 in terms of assassinations with a total of 17. The victims that year included five policemen, a carabinieri general, a petrochemical manager, a cook, four judges, a security guard, and a journalist. Prima Linea even turned on one of its own that year, killing William Vaccher on suspicion of treason to the group. All but one of these were committed by left-wing groups.

The Biggest Attack: The Bologna Massacre

The Italian Years of Lead: How the Strategy of Tension Could Foreshadow America's FutureWhile the Italian left had been pushing big numbers with assassination, a new group on the far-right, the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari, formed by dissident members of the Italian Social Movement explicitly with the purpose of committing counter-attacks against the left, was planning something big – the Bologna Massacre. This bombing of the Bologna Centrale train station killed 85 and wounded more than 200. While the group denied involvement, several of its members were sentenced to prison for the bombing.

Christian Democratic Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga’s statement on the attack cuts to the heart of the difference between the left- and right-wing actions during the Years of Lead:

“Unlike leftist terrorism, which strikes at the heart of the state through its representatives, right-wing terrorism prefers acts such as massacres because acts of extreme violence promote panic and impulsive reactions.”

In short, the strategy of the left was more akin to a Third World guerilla insurrection, while the right hoped to provoke the state into clamping down on the left through false flags and other large-scale acts of terrorism.

Two members of the NAR were convicted, Francesca Mambro and Giuseppe Valerio “Giusva” Fioravanti, the latter a former Italian child actor. The pair later married and had a daughter. Both admit to having committed terrorist acts but maintain their innocence with regard to the Bologna Massacre.

The Years of Lead Wind Down

Left-wing violence in Italy related to the Years of Lead continued as far as 1988. However, after the Bologna Massacre, things had died down considerably. 1981 saw three kidnappings resulting in two murders. The third, the kidnapping of American General James L. Dozier, then deputy-chief of NATO’s Southern European forces, was freed by an anti-terrorist squad.

In 1982, the Red Brigades attacked a military convoy, killing a corporal and two police officers. The assailants were never apprehended. Later that year, two guards were killed by Red Brigades during a bank robbery.

1983 was completely quiet, and thus might be a good place to mark the end of the Years of Lead proper. However, in 1984, American diplomat and Director General of the international peacekeeping force, Multinational Force and Observers, Leamon Hunt, was killed by the Red Brigades. In 1985, the Red Brigades killed an economist and a policeman. In 1986, they assassinated the Mayor of Florence. Italian Air Force General Licio Giorgieri was assassinated by the Brigades in 1987. In 1988, the Red Brigades committed their final assassination, that of Senator Roberto Ruffilli.

On October 23rd of that year, the Red Brigades declared that their war against the state was over.

In 1985, French President Francois Mitterand declared that he would not extradite convicted terrorists back to Italy. Instead, he aimed to integrate them into French society. Brazil and Nicaragua have likewise provided safe haven for left-wing terrorists of the Italian Years of Lead, most notably Alessio Casimirri, one of Moro’s kidnappers who owns a restaurant in Nicaragua.

Epilogue: The P2 Affair and the Strategy of Tension

The Italian Years of Lead: How the Strategy of Tension Could Foreshadow America's FutureWhile the players were mostly firmly identifiable either as being on the left or on the right, one group played both sides: The shadowy Masonic Lodge in exile Propaganda Due, also known as the P2 Lodge.

While the very mention of Freemasonry generally has people reaching for their tinfoil hats, the P2 Lodge’s involvement in the Years of Lead – and other clandestine machinations within the Italian State – are very well documented, primarily through obstruction and obfuscation of the resulting investigations.

The P2 Lodge and the extent of its influence were discovered in March 1981, when police found a list of 962 alleged members, including future Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and pretender to the Italian throne Victor Emmanuel. The ensuing scandal forced the resignation of the Italian government at the time.

In July 1982, the ultimate aims of the Lodge were discovered, two documents entitled “Memorandum sulla situazione Italiana” and “Piano di rinascita democratica.” These documents identified the Italian Communist Party and the trade unions as the biggest threats, proposing a grand alliance between the Christian Democrats and the Communists as the way forward. It also outlined a means to control the media and political parties through extensive bribery.

A government report commissioned by the successors of the Communist Party, the Left Democrats, as well as Swiss historian Daniele Ganser, have claimed that the Years of Lead were in large part the result of a “strategy of tension” by NATO, the CIA, Gladio and their allies (including the P2 Lodge). This is where actors, generally in the government, create or allow a state of hostility for the purpose of making political capital out of it.

It is entirely possible that the Years of Lead occurred due to a purposeful lack of action on the part of the Italian government, which saw the chaos as an opportunity for greater power.

The American Years of Lead?

America is a long way from its own Years of Lead. What’s more, one of the principal ingredients – material support from powerful foreign governments – seems to be lacking. However, as the American political landscape becomes both increasingly radicalized and polarized, with extremist groups on the left and right growing in numbers, militancy and desperation, it’s not too hard to imagine that they might start shooting at one another in the very near future.

That won’t kick off a civil war, but it will make life in America considerably more tense and unpleasant.

01/28/20

The Oregon Standoff: Understanding LaVoy Finicum’s Death & the Management of BLM Land

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

history of the Oregon standoffWhen one talks about the Bundy Family, the first thing that springs to mind is the standoff in Nevada in 2014. However, perhaps even more important is the standoff and occupation at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Indeed, the two events are often conflated because Ammon Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, the man who stood up to the federal government over “grazing fees” on the Bureau of Land Management land.

The occupation was a highlight for both the militia and the sovereign citizen movement as well as proponents of states’ rights. The main argument from those occupying the land is that the federal government is mandated by law to turn over the land that they manage to the individual states in which the land sits. This, they argued, was particularly true of the Bureau of Land ManagementUnited States Forestry Service, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service land.

The 2016 Oregon standoff was over two ranchers convicted of arson on federal lands – despite the fact that the men, a father and son pair named Dwight and Steven Dwight Hammond, did not want their support.

Harney County in rural eastern Oregon is one of the largest counties in the United States by landmass, but one of the smallest when it comes to population. With a mere 7,700 people, cows outnumber humans in Harney by a factor of 14-to-1. Nearly three-quarters of the land in the county is federally managed. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established by then-President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. It’s a large area of the county and surrounding area at 187,757 acres.

How Federal Land Management Works

history of the Oregon standoffWhile each federal agency manages land differently, it is worth taking a closer look at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a template case for how federal land management works in general.

The BLM manages fully 1/8th of all the landmass of the United States. The Bureau was created by then-President Harry S. Truman in 1946, through the combination of two existing federal agencies – the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. Most BLM land is concentrated in 12 Western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

There’s truth to the idea that BLM lands are largely lands that no one wanted to settle. The actual land is remnants held for homesteading that no homesteaders actually claimed. Ranchers, however, often use the land for grazing with 18,000 permits and leases held for 155 million acres. There are also over 63,000 gas and oil wells, as well as extensive coal and mineral mining. So while the land might be land that individuals don’t want to live on and farm, it is far from without value.

Part of the controversy in both the Nevada and Oregon standoffs was the question of ownership of these public lands. Cliven Bundy did not feel obligated to pay grazing fees for what is ostensibly “public” land that, the argument goes, is not owned by the federal government at all, but no one in particular. Similarly, the men who were convicted of “arson” on federal land weren’t terrorists or thrill-seeking firebugs. It was part of a longer-standing dispute with the federal government over their right to graze cattle on the land that started with the pair doing controlled burns that became uncontrolled. They became a cause celebre for the Bundy crew because they were another symbol of the conflict over who rightfully owned the land.

This comes down to a question of ownership: Can the federal government simply decide that it “owns” 1/8th of the country that is supposed to be set aside for the general public? Does the federal government have such authority or does this authority reside with the states? Homesteading was technically still allowed until 1976 (1986 in Alaska), but the formation of the BLM in 1964 effectively spelled the end of homesteading in the lower 48. The argument of Ammon Bundy and company was that the federal government had no such authority, which instead rested with the states.

In a certain sense, this is a purely academic question. In another sense, the federal government owns whatever it says it does, because who is going to say otherwise? However, this was the theory and argument that underpinned the occupation of the Wildlife Refuge.

What is Agenda 21?

It is briefly worth addressing “Agenda 21” before moving on, as many of those involved in the standoff believed in this. The veracity of Agenda 21 is not important for our purposes. What is important is that many of the people involved in the standoff believed it to be true.

Agenda 21 is a name for a supposed United Nations statement on reducing the world population from above 7 billion to below 1 billion. Those who believe this is a goal of the United Nations believe that it will take place effectively by hoarding everyone off of the land and into cities, where they will be reliant upon others for food production. They also believe that it will take the form of state-funded or state-mandated abortions. In some cases, they believe that autism caused by vaccines is a way to lower the population since people with autism are far less likely to have children than those without.

This is an important context for the standoff because some of those involved believed that they were not fighting for the freedom of two men they believed to be wrongfully convicted of arson or even over obscure questions of natural and Constitutional law, but for their very lives, livelihood, and posterity against a tyrannical would-be one-world government. One does not need to agree with the world view of these people to see it as an important factor in the standoff.

Who Are Bundy and Finicum?

history of the Oregon standoffAmmon Bundy is a name probably known to many readers of this website. He is the son of Cliven Bundy, the man who had previously stood up to the BLM over grazing rights in Nevada in 2014. Ammon had recently formed the group Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. A faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Ammon believed, as did his father, that his resistance to the federal government was not merely political, but specifically ordered by God.

Lavoy Finicum, also a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, was another leader of the movement. Like Cliven Bundy, Finicum decided that he was no longer going to pay grazing fees to the BLM. He published a video on YouTube where he stated that he did not believe that it was legal for the federal government to own the land in question, and cited Cliven Bundy as a direct inspiration for his new stand against the federal government. He refused to pay $12,000 in fees accrued in under six months.

Finicum had also been on the federal radar after he was erroneously named in a case against William Keebler, who planted a bomb at a BLM cabin. If there are any MSNBC viewers out there, you might know Finicum as “tarp man” due to his omnipresent blue tarp that he used to protect himself from the elements.

Background: The Hammond Arson Case

It’s not necessary to get too lost in the weeds on the Hammond arson case, however, it does bear a simple retelling. Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr. and his son Steven Dwight Hammond were convicted of two counts of arson in 2012, in relation to two fires they set in 2001 and 2006. The pair agreed not to appeal their sentences in exchange for having other charges dropped. The father served three months and the son served a year and a day, the whole of their sentence.

After release, however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (who else?) demanded that they be resentenced. The pair were resentenced for five years, with credit for time served and ordered to return to prison. They were eventually pardoned by President Trump on July 10, 2018. However, in the interim, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne made plans for what they called a peaceful protest. The Hammonds eventually rejected the help of this protest, but it went ahead anyway.

On November 5, 2015, Bundy arranged a meeting with Sheriff David Ward for later that day. Bundy and Payne insisted that the sheriff do all that he could to protect the Hammonds from returning to prison. Ward explained that there wasn’t much he could do. He also reported that Bundy and Payne became somewhat threatening and aggressive when he told them this. It was then that the specter of an armed militia was raised.

In early December 2015, both Bundy and Hammond had moved to the area. They began organizing a “Committee of Safety” modeled on those of the Revolutionary period. Local residents began to notice a lot of outsiders in the community at this time and they weren’t exactly a welcome addition – many would aggressively ask locals about their opinion on the matter. Local police and federal employees in the area reported that they, their spouses and even their children had been followed home or to school by militia members. Open carry became common in a place where, previously, it had not.

The situation was incredibly tense. There were two public forums early in January 2016, designed to defuse tensions between locals and militia members. After a peaceful January 2nd protest ended, Ammon Bundy urged people to join him in an armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The Standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Ammon and Ryan Bundy moved to the refuge with a number of armed participants and began setting up defensive positions. Law enforcement largely avoided the area due to the tense situation and the presence of armed militia members. The standoff continued for six weeks, largely without incident. There was a lot of bluster, mostly from the Bundy camp, but not much happened for the most part. Court orders were issued and ignored. January 6th saw a fistfight between a group called “Veterans on Patrol” and militants in the refuge.

Indeed, the occupation was largely uneventful, save for the death of LaVoy Finicum. On January 26th, Finicum left the refuge with other leaders and supporters of the occupation in a two-truck convoy. It was here that federal authorities attempted to arrest him for the first time using a traffic stop. Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier were peacefully arrested at this time.

Finicum was quite nearly arrested. His truck was stopped and hit with a 40mm plastic-tipped round of pepper spray. It was at this time that he refused to kill the engine on his truck and informed officers that the only way they were going to prevent him from reaching his rendezvous point was to shoot him. He is reported to have yelled at the Oregon State Police: “You back down or you kill me now. Go ahead. Put the bullet through me. I don’t care. I’m going to go meet the sheriff. You do as you damned well please.”

Seven minutes after the stop, Finicum drove off in his truck with two passengers. His truck became stuck in the snow before a roadblock. He narrowly avoided hitting an FBI agent. He ran out of his truck and was fired upon twice by the Oregon State Police, which they did not initially disclose. One hit his truck and the other went wild as Finicum moved around in the snow. According to the FBI, he alternated between holding his hands up and reaching toward his jacket where he had a loaded semi-automatic weapon.

According to the Oregon State Police, Finicum repeatedly yelled, “You’re going to have to shoot me!” and the officers considered him a lethal threat to an officer armed only with a taser. They claimed that he reached for his pocket. Two officers fired a total of three times with a third officer holding his fire when he realized that a fourth shot wasn’t needed. He was provided with medical assistance 10 minutes after the shooting.

According to footage and witnesses featured in the documentary American Standoff, officers shot Finicum the moment he stepped out of his truck with his hands up and continued to fire shots at the vehicle as well as gas the other two passengers.

Aftermath of the Occupation

FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita was prosecuted for five counts of lying to investigators in relation to Finicum’s death. He was acquitted on all of them. A tape of the incident was released to the public, however, as is often the case, people saw what they wanted to see. The Finicum family commissioned a private autopsy but did not share the results with the public. Finicum’s widow Jeanette filed suit against the Oregon State Police, while his family filed a wrongful death suit against the federal government, the State of Oregon, the Bureau of Land Management and many other public officials and government organizations.

The occupation continued for another two weeks but had largely lost steam as the militants’ leaders had mostly been arrested or surrendered or both. On the afternoon of February 10th, some remaining militants drove past a roadblock at high speed. Michele Fiore attempted to mediate the situation and de-escalate. This resulted in the remaining militants surrendering at 8 am the next day.

All told, 27 militants were arrested in relation to the occupation, 26 of these for a single federal count of conspiracy to impede officers of the U.S. from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats. Several of these were indicted on state charges as well.

Why Does the Oregon Standoff Matter?

The standoff in Oregon matters for two main reasons: First, it is yet another example of how an armed population can sway the hand of government. Remember that the Hammonds eventually were pardoned. But more than this, it provides a lesson in how not to go about resistance.

There is nothing to be gained by occupying an area where the local population is unsupportive. In the case of the Oregon occupation, while many in the area were sympathetic to the Hammonds and expressed such at public forums designed to mediate between the locals and the militia, the militants were largely outsiders who had come into the area to support someone who didn’t even want their support. For their part, the militiamen weren’t by all accounts going out of their way to win hearts and minds.

None of this requires absolving the federal government or the Oregon State Police for their role in the matter. It does, however, shine a light on the role of optics and tactics when confronting federal power. All things considered, this might not have been the right battle to pick.

There is one last point to be made, however: Despite the outcome, the federal government now has another example to look to that will urge it to exercise caution and restraint when dealing with armed protesters. This was not a situation like Waco or Ruby Ridge. The Second Amendment and militia movements have learned a lot from these incidents in terms of responding before things spiral out of control.

The occupation might not have been perfect, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.