Skip to main content

Following IREHR’s reporting on troubling relationships between far-right paramilitaries and law enforcement, this article opens a series looking at militia organizing in Olympia, Washington that surfaced after a police officer was photographed with a group of heavily-armed Three Percenters.

In the midst of nationwide protests over police killings of African-Americans, a smiling police officer was caught posing with a cluster of heavily-armed far-right paramilitarists gathered in darkness to “protect” businesses in a small strip mall in Olympia, Washington.

Mugging for the camera, with the police officer in the middle, members of the group flashed the notorious “OK” hand-sign, a symbol the Anti-Defamation League has included in its Hate Symbols Database, used by a range of far-right and racist groups.

The militia group posing with the officer, the Three Percent of Washington, has promoted the idea of a “boogaloo,” or Civil War II, on the political horizon; allied its cause with racist and bigoted groups that promote violence against their enemies; and has at least one leader who has promoted the idea that Muslims should be expelled from the United States.

After a concerned Olympia resident brought attention to the issue, Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby responded, “I’m discouraged that I have to make a post like this…I have confirmed a photo of an Olympia police officer posing with a group of armed militia members…I find this behavior to be abhorrent and unequivocally unacceptable.”[1]

Both Mayor Selby and interim Police Chief Aaron Jelcick indicated that the situation would be investigated, Jelcick expressed disappointment that “the photo was taken at all” and “may damage the trust our community places in us.” Jelcick later stressed that the department “does not align itself with any one group, nor does it seek the help of any militia, any armed civilians, or any vigilante groups” [2]

It should be noted that beyond bad optics, such activity may be against the law. As the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law documented in the 2018 report, Prohibiting Private Armies at Public Rallies, Washington appears to have both constitutional and statutory prohibitions on the types of militia activity deployed by the Three Percent of Washington.[3]

Wash. Rev. Code § 38.40.120. Authorized military organizations

No organized body other than the recognized militia organizations of this state, armed forces of the United States, students of educational institutions where military science is a prescribed part of the course of instruction or bona fide veterans organizations shall associate themselves together as a military company or organize or parade in public with firearms: PROVIDED, That nothing herein shall be construed to prevent authorized parades by the organized militia of another state or armed forces of foreign countries. Any person participating in any such unauthorized organization shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

In their statements, neither the mayor or police chief identified the officer involved, nor did they announce any administrative measures to be taken to remedy the “unacceptable” behavior or outline a plan to rebuild community trust.

Moreover, both the mayor and the police chief failed to mention that more than one Olympia police officer was potentially involved in this incident.

The Facebook post where the police-militia relationship surfaced came from Braden Paull of the Washington Three Percenters (pictured above at the far right with glasses on his hat) who wrote, “this is us the 3% with a OPD at 140am when she came to thank (sic) us for being there and her partner on duty came and thanked us to (sic).”[4]

In other words, according to the Washington Three Percenter activist, in addition to the officer in the photo, her partner, on duty, also thanked the armed far-right paramilitary group for their presence. Three Percenter Braden Paull has also expressed the idea that “another revolutionary war” is coming to America and promoted anti-immigrant views.

Olympia is not the only community facing this problem. IREHR recently reported on troubling relationships between far-right paramilitaries and police officers in Marysville, Washington, Salt Lake City, Utah and Hood County, Texas. Since our report, a Chicago police officer has come under investigation for wearing a mask adorned with the Three Percent logo, and an Orange County, California Sheriff’s Deputy was placed on paid administrative leave after being videoed wearing Three Percent and Oath Keepers patches. A Snohomish, Washington police chief was reassigned after declaring that armed vigilantes in that town constituted nothing more than a night of tailgating. And, a Coos County, Oregon Sheriff spread rumors of  a busload of anti-fascists headed to town, prompting an armed mobilization.

The issue of police relationships with such groups is especially pressing in Olympia given that another armed far right group, American Wolf, has aggressively inserted itself in a quasi-policing capacity into protests addressing the murder of George Floyd. That group’s leader, Peter Diaz, is also a member of the Three Percent of Washington private Facebook group where he has promoted his own organization.

Peter Diaz of American Wolf

These concerning issues are being seen across the country. In Olympia, the police department has still not made it crystal clear that the officer, or officers, will face consequences for allying themselves with these nationalist paramilitaries.

This is unacceptable.


[1] Gentzler, Sara. Photo of Olympia Police officer with armed men prompts mayor’s post, OPD investigation. The Olympian. June 6, 2020.

[2] Jelcick, Aaron. City of Olympia – Government. June 5, 2020.; June 15, 2020.

[3] Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. Prohibiting Private Armies at Public Rallies: A Catalog of Relevant State Constitutional and Statutory Provisions. Georgetown Law. February 2018.

[4] Paull, Braden. Facebook. June 5, 2020.

Chuck Tanner and Devin Burghart

Author Chuck Tanner and Devin Burghart

Chuck Tanner is IREHR's research director. Devin Burghart is the executive director of IREHR.

More posts by Chuck Tanner and Devin Burghart