October 14, 2020 – Seizing on COVID-19 anxiety, Ammon Bundy and his allies have cultivated a dangerous new network of militia members, anti-maskers, conspiracists, preppers, anti-vaxxers, and others into an army of followers—Ammon’s Army.
This report by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and the Montana Human Rights Network explores the breadth and depth of the network built by Bundy and named “People’s Rights.” What started in late March with a few dozen supporters in a rural Idaho warehouse has swiftly expanded to a membership base of over twenty thousand across the country.
Relying on field reports, countless hours of video footage, interviews, archival material, and a massive trove of online data, report researchers have captured the first full picture of Ammon’s army.
Data presented in this report suggests that the rapid growth of the People’s Rights network has been spurred by a fusion of Bundy’s core of the far-right paramilitary supporters built up over years of armed standoffs with a mass base of new activists radicalized in protest over COVID-19 health directives.
The leadership of the People’s Rights network has remained hidden, locked away inside a new online platform away from public scrutiny, until now. Under the People’s Rights banner, Bundy has assembled a team of 153 “assistants” in sixteen states. This report, for the first time, names all 153 of those activists and examines their backgrounds–including extensive far-right activism by many area assistants. Though the national and state leadership is still dominated by men, this report also documents how People’s Rights has a majority of women in local leadership positions—a first for modern far-right networks.
This report also details how People’s Rights carved up the country into local areas. It maps the locations of the more than twenty thousand members of the People’s Rights network. It also dives into the data collected by report researchers on the composition of the online membership base of the twenty-two different People’s Rights Facebook groups that helped accelerate the spread of the network. The report digs into the new online platform developed by People’s Rights, a way to communicate with activists in case of de-platforming by major social networks.
The results of this study contravene many of the myths surrounding the People’s Rights network. Instead of a more traditional “anti-government” narrative, People’s Rights leaders have expressed a desire for governmental power to be used to protect the “righteous” against “wicked” liberals, antifa, Black Lives Matter activists, and others. Several People’s Rights leaders are running for elected office—to become the government. Absent that sort of intervention, leaders have proposed a type of armed enclave-style “neighborhood” nationalism, where “righteous” neighbors stand against the “wicked.” People’s Rights leaders have often defined the “wicked” using far-right conspiracism, racism, antisemitism, anti-indigenous, and anti-transgender sentiment.
Despite the different network branding, this report further highlights how the People’s Rights network shares many commonalities with far-right paramilitary movements of the past, including the Posse Comitatus and the militia movement.
Throughout the report, the danger of Ammon’s army becomes evident. Already there have been significant clashes and growing rage. In the context of the pandemic, it puts the lives of community members and public servants at risk, straining democratic institutions, and damaging civil society. We hope this report will serve as an alert to all communities in the path of Ammon’s army.
FULL REPORT: https://www.irehr.org/reports/peoples-rights-report/