More than two dozen members of the police and military in Oregon have at one point been members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia group, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Friday. According to the leaked data obtained by Distributed Denial of Secrets, a non-profit whistleblower organization that shares leaked information with journalists and researchers, Oregon police signed up to join the group as early as 2009. The data includes members’ names, the date they joined Oath Keepers and contact information for anyone who paid dues to the group, which is comprised of nearly 40,000 individuals across the country. But, according to OPB, it is difficult to discern from the available data whether people on the list were current members of Oath Keepers, unless they had paid the group’s $1,000 lifetime membership fee.
As the Capitol insurrection on January 6 descended into a frenzy of mob violence, a far-right paramilitary group known as the Oath Keepers marched through the sea of rioters and protesters, up the east steps of the Capitol building and into the rotunda. Video from that day shows the Oath Keepers marching in a military formation known as “Ranger File”, described by the Associated Press as ‘standard operating procedure for a combat team that is “stacking up” to breach a building – instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.’ On November 10, 2020, nearly two months before the insurrection that had sought to prevent the transfer of power to then-president-elect Joe Biden, the Oath Keepers distributed a propaganda letter titled “March on DC, Stop the Steal, Defend the President, & Defeat the Deep State.”
The Oath Keepers, a militia made up of mostly retired military and law enforcement employees, have long sought to pose as a militant vanguard among Trump supporters, particularly older men. The group and its eyepatch-sporting leader Stewart Rhodes often acted as a paper tiger in recent years; blustering and ominous threats against antifascists and liberal protesters failed to materialize in concrete organizing steps. Since Donald Trump’s decisive loss in the 2020 presidential election, the Oath Keepers escalated their rhetoric: encouraging violent attacks on anti-racist and liberal protesters as well as members of the news media.