MONTGOMERY, Ala. September 28, 2022— Susan Corke, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Intelligence Project, released the following statement ahead of the start of U.S. v. Rhodes, the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes along with group members Caldwell, Harrelson, Meggs and Watkins, accused of seditious conspiracy.
Our democracy suffered a terrible, deadly attack on Jan. 6, 2021, when hard-right extremists and supporters of former President Trump joined together in an effort to stop the peaceful transfer of power through violence and intimidation, hoping to allow Trump to remain in power despite losing the election.
While this trial seeks to determine their guilt on seditious conspiracy charges, there is no doubt that members of the Oath Keepers group played a key role in the planning and organizing around the Jan. 6 insurrection. Oath Keepers leadership and activists acted as a violent vanguard to direct the energy of other protesters into attacking the Capitol and disrupting the transfer of power – by force.
It is of the utmost importance that they, and all those who helped plan and perpetrate the attack on Jan. 6, be held accountable. It is essential that anyone responsible for the attempt to undo a democratic election must face the full range of consequences for their actions.
Without such accountability, our democracy will continue to be at risk with false and nefarious attacks on our elections and voting rights as they are right now — by some of the same actors who were involved in Jan. 6. We must do everything we can to prevent that and to protect free and fair elections to ensure a truly inclusive democracy.
Background on the group:
The SPLC has been tracking the anti-government, heavily armed extremist Oath Keepers group and their leader, Stewart Rhodes, for years.
Since inception of the group in 2009, the SPLC has repeatedly warned that Rhodes and many of his followers were a threat to communities across the country and, given their stated intentions to undermine our democratic institutions, U.S. democracy, as a whole.
Oath Keepers had previously worked to interfere with elections, like at their so-called “Operation Sabot” in 2016 when they patrolled at polling locations and at “Operation DefendJ20” in 2017 when Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and the far-right Bikers for Trump group descended on the Capitol to protect Trump supporters.
SPLC organizational summary extremist file: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/oath-keepers
Stewart Rhodes extremist file: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/elmer-stewart-rhodes
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.