‘Sovereign Citizens’ Like the Dallas Fire-Truck Shooter Are Skipping Straight to the Guns
I missed this back on the 18th, so posting late.
On their surface, the claims made by Douglas Leguin in his 911 call last Monday are almost comical. His name is Dougie Doug, and he has seceded from the United States established Doug-e-stan, an independent republic, because “shit’s too screwed up.” That he’d taken over a house that wasn’t his and tried to lure first responders into an ambush was reprehensible, but his rhetoric was funny on first hearing. Almost immediately though, media reports tied Leguin to the Sovereign Citizen movement, which placed his ramblings in a more serious light.
The FBI classifies Sovereign Citizens as extremists who are part of a movement that commonly commits acts of domestic terrorism. Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh’s accomplice in the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Federal Building, considered himself a member of the movement, as did Jerry and Joe Kane, a father and son who killed a pair of West Memphis, Arkansas police officers before dying in a shootout with police.
Despite the notoriety afforded the movement by the like of Nichols and the Kanes, much of the Sovereigns’ belief set remains essentially inscrutable. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the basic tenet of their beliefs is that it is up to the sovereign citizen to decide which laws he or she will follow. This is because, they assert, the common law under which the country was founded was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law. Under the common law, the sovereigns assert they were free men or women, whereas they have been enslaved under admiralty law. This change is confirmed by, among other things, the fact that flags in courtrooms have a gold fringe, an accouterment meant for naval flags. Sovereigns reassert the rights they say they were provided by the common law, such as not paying taxes.