Far-right anti-government group Ammon Bundy is growing rapidly, new report says

BOISE – A far-right group started by anti-government activist Ammon Bundy is rapidly growing nationwide and is making inroads into Canada, according to a new report from the Human Rights Research and Education Institute ‘man.

The rapid growth occurred despite legal challenges faced by some prominent peoples’ rights leaders and continued even as some of the organization’s Facebook groups were removed from the social media platform. The organization has grown by around 53% in the past year, largely due to lingering anti-public health sentiment, according to the report.

Human rights began in dark red Idaho, which remains one of the least vaccinated states with only about 43% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . The group now includes activists in 38 states, according to the report.

“I think the report underestimates their overall strength, as they have also forged alliances with a range of groups from the Tea Party to Proud Boys and anti-vax groups,” said Chuck Tanner, research director of the institute, which follows extreme right movements. “In some places, they are able to mobilize at levels that have an impact on policies. “

Human rights began in 2020 amid a wave of backlash against public health measures taken at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Started by Bundy – who is best known for leading a group of armed activists in the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon in 2016, and who is now one of many contenders for the Idaho Governor Post – The group has frequently staged protests against public health districts, state Capitol buildings, schools, and government officials’ homes. The new report analyzed internal data from members of the Human Rights Network.

Bundy did not immediately respond to phone and email messages left by The Associated Press.

Last year, the organization had just under 22,000 members nationwide, according to a report by IREHR and the Montana Human Rights Network. Today, it has grown by around 53%, according to the new IREHR report, to more than 33,000 members, including nearly 400 official leaders in 38 states. It also has more than 100 members in Canada – mostly in Ontario – although most of its political ideology centers on marginal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution and Christian nationalism, according to the report.

“We noticed three or four months ago that they started listing Canadian provinces on their website. It’s not big, but it’s quite strange, ”Tanner said.

Human rights are still mostly concentrated in the northwestern states, particularly Idaho, where Bundy lives and where about 17 out of 10,000 are members, according to the report. Most of the growth has been around activism related to COVID-19, Tanner said.

“There has been rapid growth in places that didn’t have a lot of members initially, but there has also been significant growth in areas that we know are really organized on the ground, like South Washington and the central Oregon, ”Tanner said. “They really built this COVID denial activism and, as a group, are playing an outsized role in attacking public health measures to tackle the pandemic.”

But Joe Lowndes, a political science professor at the University of Oregon who studies conservatism and right-wing movements, said it was not clear whether the organization’s growth would hold power in a post-world world. -pandemic.

“People’s rights were sort of the first to embrace the anti-mask and anti-vaccine movements, and they were able to build on that to advance this vague, conspiratorial, anti-government idea,” Lowndes said. . “But it’s hard to say how this can be sustained over the long term. I don’t see that there is much resistance beyond the pandemic issue, unless it’s a bit of that general, apocalyptic-prepper kind of stuff. “

Prominent members of the organization faced serious legal challenges. In Idaho, Sean Anderson gave up his leadership role after being sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a police shootout last year.

Another prominent people’s rights activist, Pam Hemphill, faces multiple federal charges after prosecutors said she participated in the Jan.6 uprising on the United States Capitol. Hemphill has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Earlier this year, Bundy was convicted of trespassing and obstructing officers after prosecutors said he refused to leave a locked room at the Idaho Statehouse following protests attended by hundreds of people, including many members of the rights of the people.

This did not appear to slow the growth of the organization, Tanner said. The organization has promoted extreme political concepts, including secession of the state and the repeal of the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments, Tanner said. The Human Rights website calls on members to be prepared to stand up for themselves and others against government officials.

“What People’s Rights is doing is spreading some really radical ideas about the overthrow of civil rights in the United States,” Tanner said. “This is a broad-based, anti-democratic, sectarian social movement. “

In places like Idaho, where some far-right political factions already had a stronghold, it’s hard to say whether People’s Rights was leading the anti-pandemic movement or just following the far-right mainstream, Jaclyn Kettler said, a Boise State University. political scientist.

“It’s a little difficult right now to trace the impacts they’ve had compared to others with similar types of ideologies,” Kettler said. “It will be interesting to see what happens in the long term here. For example, a lot of Tea Party organizations are not as active as they were in 2010, but we can still see their influence.

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