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As IREHR continues to track the nature of the ongoing “reopen” mobilization, it becomes ever more clear that the phenomenon has a firm foot in far-right and nationalist politics.

This is true of Reopen Colorado, boasting 24,772 members in its private Facebook group. The group has promoted multiple “reopen” events with more on the horizon, including publicizing an upcoming May 30 event in Elbert County.[1]

On May 21 Reopen Colorado Administrator Joe Oltmann announced that he had just met with “over 100 restaurant owners,” writing that, “We have 421 restaurants in the front range that will open this weekend.” He continued that “They will be following guidelines but they are not going to remain closed through Memorial Day…This. Is. America.”[2]

In October 2019, Reopen Colorado Moderator Brian Rantz displayed another aspect of the group’s politics, posing for a photo at a Montezuma County Lincoln Dinner with Michelle Malkin – the conservative pundit notorious for defending the WW-II-era internment of Japanese-Americans and immigrants of Japanese ancestry. Rantz would write of the event, “Special thanks to Michelle Malkin.”[3]

Of late, Malkin has become better known for her role as the self-declared “mommy” to the “groyper” mobilization led by white nationalists Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey.

On January 24, 2020 Brian Rantz changed his Facebook cover photo to an image of he and Malkin, the Reopen Colorado leader proudly embracing the “groyper mommy” and clutching a copy of her book Open Borders Inc. –  a written reflection of the anti-immigrant politics that led to Malkin’s alliance with white nationalists. By the time Rantz changed his cover photo, Malkin had already been fired from her position with the Young America’s Foundation over her alliance with Nick Fuentes. About one month later Malkin would keynote the white nationalist-organized America First Political Action Conference in Washington D.C.

Reopen Colorado Moderator Brian Rantz and “Groyper Mommy” Michelle Malkin

Brian Rantz, who describes himself as a “proud…Constitutional Christian Conservative,” had in May 2019 posted, and dubbed “important,” a message from Candace Owens concerning her ban from Facebook.[4] By this time, Owens had been pressed into resigning from the reactionary Turning Point USA after publicly declaring that Adolph Hitler’s nationalist politics may have been acceptable had he not spread them beyond Germany’s borders.[5]

To boot, Rantz posted a meme defending Voter ID laws shown to discriminate against seniors, low-income voters, people of color, students, and people with disabilities. Rantz posted another meme implying a religious litmus test for holding public office in the United States.[6]

Reopen Colorado Administrator Joe Oltmann has revealed himself a budding conspiracy theorist, spreading the idea that a “deep state” of backroom conspirators control a broad swath of American politics, ranging from Congressional candidates running for office multiple times to a “weaponized” media that has “become pawns for the stupid to follow.”[7]

Reopen Colorado Administrator Joe Oltmann

Playing on long-standing ideas with roots in anti-Semitism, such conspiracy “theories” reduce complex political and economic relations and actions to the machinations of an invisible elite – Oltmann, for instance, writing that “We can’t see the deep state but the Deep State sees us.” Across the variety of politics at play in the “reopen” mobilization, conspiracy theories also emerge as reactionary attacks on efforts to address societal inequality.[8]

For instance, Oltmann argues that while the “deep state” causes “the police to not be taken to account in certain instances,” it creates an outcome “where also the issue of lack of accountability becomes the boogeyman that every police officer is out to kill each of us, but more specifically minorities.” Oltmann continued:

“We pay taxes, lots of them…while the deep state says we don’t pay enough. They need more! For our children, for our homeless…. for our infrastructure…for our education.”

That is, for Oltmann, a “historical, lineage of secret handshakes and backroom conversations” produces things like concern over police violence against African-Americans raised by groups like Black Lives Matter and policies, enacted through a public process, to raise funds to address issues affecting children, homelessness, infrastructure decay, and education.

Given Oltmann’s vision of secret powers lurking behind American politics, it is of little surprise that he appears to promote the idea of a pending civil war found among some militia advocates.  Commenting on an article about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency, and ban on firearms at the state capitol, in the face of threats of violence amidst a January militia mobilization, Oltmann responded,

“I told you…Virginia is where the Civil War ended and make no mistake it is where it will start…. The saying ‘don’t mess with Texas’ can’t hold a candle to the people of Virginia…keep it frosty my friends.”[9]

To top off his conspiratorial leanings, Oltmann also appears to oppose a minimum wage, commenting on a fast-food bill that he deems too high:[10]

So much for concern about essential workers…

Reopen Colorado Moderator Ryan McBride also circulated an announcement of the same militia mobilization that led Joe Oltmann to envision a pending civil war. The article McBride posted bore an image of the Confederate battle flag and declared, “Virginia has now become ground zero for the tyranny of government and the liberal agenda to take our guns and to destroy our constitution.”[11] McBride would write in the lead-up to the militia mobilization, “Wow the Govt in Virginian has gone crazy. Actually, since they are obviously crazy, should someone take their guns away?”[12]

McBride has also posted material promoting the anti-Muslim canard that the Muslim faith promotes child marriage and that “creeping Sharia law” is a threat to the United States. Despite the fact that child marriage is a problem across religions and regions; and that religious leaders of all major faiths have rejected the practice; a post by McBride alleges child marriage a feature of “the Muslim faith.” The post alleges “creeping Sharia law” a threat, warning that “In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President.”[13]

Such ideas are common fare at anti-Muslim events, including those attended by other groups involved in the “reopen” mobilization, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

In keeping with such views, McBride posted a meme that promotes the fallacious idea that voter fraud is rampant and advocates Voter ID laws.[14]

Meanwhile, Repen Colorado Moderator Susanna LaRosa is an opponent of abortion rights, distributing a meme from the National Pro-Life Alliance – a religious right organization that has supported prison time for women that have abortions, according to People for the American Way. LaRosa has also posted information from the Falkirk Center, a religious right organization founded by Jerry Falwell Jr. and Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk.[15]

The politics found among leaders of Reopen Colorado mirror what IREHR is seeing across this mobilization – the strong and recurring presence of the Tea Party, nationalist militias, and groups like the Proud Boys. The variety of far-right politics displayed by leaders of Reopen Colorado should flag concern for all who value human and civil rights.




[1] Reopen Colorado. Facebook. Events. Accessed May 22, 2020.

[2] Reopen Colorado. Facebook. May 21, 2020.

[3] Rantz, Brian. Facebook. October 12, 2019.

[4] Rantz, Brian. Facebook. May 19, 2019.

[5] Magee, Ny. Candace Owens quits Turning Point USA after members demand she resigns. The Grio. May 7, 2019. ; Rantz, Brian. Facebook. July 20, 2019.; Rantz, Brian. Facebook. May 19, 2019.

[6] Rantz, Brian. Facebook. May 11, 2019.;    Rantz, Brian. April 21, 2019. For background on discriminatory aspects of voter ID laws, see the Brennon Center generally, and Johnson, Theodore R. and Max Feldman. The New Voter Suppression. The Brennon Center. January 16, 2000. This article contains links to additional information on the topic of discrimination and Voter ID laws.

[7] Oltmann, Joe. Facebook. November 23, 2019.

[8] In the white nationalist movement, conspiracy theories tend toward a more revolutionary goal – frequently viewing American needing to be replaced in total. In either instance, both set up a radical assault on democratic processes.

[9] Oltmann, Joe. Facebook. January 15, 2020.; See the article eliciting the response here: Owen, Tess. Virginia declares state of emergency after armed militias threaten to storm the capitol. Vice. January 15, 2020.

[10] Oltmann, Joe. Facebook. January 1, 2018.

[11] McBride, Ryan. Facebook. December 17, 2019.; Bucky. Battle Lines Drawn in Virginia! Richmond Jan 20! Army of Northern VA! Nut Up for Shut Up Time!!! Political Bullpen. December 5, 2019.; for more on the issues of child marriage, see: Brightbill, Katherine. Op-Ed:

[12] McBride, Ryan. Facebook. December 16, 2020.

[13] McBride, Ryan. Facebook. March 9, 2020.; for background on religious issues and opposition with regard to child marriage, see le Rout, Elisabet and Salina Palm. What lies beneath? Tackling the roots of religious resistance to ending child marriage. Girls Not Brides. October 2018.

[14] McBride, Ryan. Facebook. November 30, 2019.; for more on the fallacious claim of rampant voter fraud, see Brennan Center for Justice. The Myth of Voter Fraud.

[15] LaRosa, Susanna. Facebook. October 17, 2015.; Blue, Miranda. Anti-Choice Group Backed by Rand Paul Says It Wants Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions. Right-Wing Watch. September 11, 2017.; LaRosa,  Susanna. Facebook. May 2, 2020.


Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

More posts by Chuck Tanner