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Chapter Eight:

People’s Rights Network and Racism

Ammon’s Army: Inside the Far-Right People’s Rights Network

Chapter Eight:

People's Rights Network and Racism

Racism, Racism Denial, Nativism, & Islamophobia Inside the Network

If far-right conspiracy theories constitute the most prominent “threat from above” in People’s Rights circles, the “threat from below” in the group’s middle American nationalism finds expression in the myriad forms in which racism appears in the United States.

Perhaps its most common expression in People’s Rights takes the form of racism denial. Broadly defined, this involves denying that systemic, institutional, or broad cultural racism continue to play a significant factor in shaping outcomes for people of color in American society and institutions. Such a view delegitimizes the struggles of those who continue to face racial discrimination and violence. This view also helps pave the way for the broad assault on the federal capacity to address inequality embodied in People’s Rights politics.

In one form, racism denial occurs when the vicious and significant role of racism in U.S. history is minimized, or outright denied. People’s Rights leader Ammon Bundy did this when he declared that his father, Cliven Bundy, was correct in stating that black people in the United States may be more oppressed today than under slavery.[89] Both Cliven and Ammon Bundy have likely been influenced in this regard by the work of the Cleon Skousen, the founder of the National Center for Constitutional Studies, whose pocket U.S. Constitution the Bundys are known to use. Among other things, Skousen’s work has cast slavery as humane, painted Abolitionists as villains, described enslaved African people as “usually a cheerful lot,” and heaped praise on Confederates for their treatment of the human beings they enslaved.[90]

After declaring his father correct in this assessment, Ammon Bundy, with a straight face, declared that wearing a mask in the face of COVID-19 concerns is comparable to slavery and that, “It’s not about race at this point. It is about tyranny.”[91] This is a classic attempt to erase racism from history.

Similarly, Georgia state leader Field Searcy posted an article assailing the historically sound assessment that Mount Rushmore is a monument to “two slave owners on stolen land.”[92] Missouri Area 3 assistant Michael Sudholt wrote in 2019 that the Electoral College was “never about slavery,” even though it incorporated the U.S. Constitutions’ white supremacist representational structure that counted enslaved Africans as 3/5 of a person. Sudholt gave a full-throated defense of the Electoral College as a means of assuring a state “voice in presidential elections.” The meme accompanying his post declared “throwing out the Electoral College” would result in “LA, Seattle, Miami, NY & Chicago” deciding “what’s best for the entire country! You know cities with highest homeless rates, pollution, illegal aliens, crime & corruption.”[93] Amidst this threat from urban areas – itself a common racist trope – Sudholt failed to mention that such a voting system violates the value that everyone’s vote counts the same.

Brand Thornton, a member of the Utah People’s Rights Facebook group and a ceremonial leader for the group, has posted memes rejecting the reality of white privilege and declaring that white people protesting racism are “brainwashed” and simply protesting against white people “because they are white.”[94] Thornton has also offered up visions of violence against anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter alike, writing recently, “Antifa and BLM, your choice, you want peace or pushing up daisy’s (sic)?”[95] Thornton’s attack on BLM is the flipside of racism denial – if racism is not a real issue, then challenges to it are illegitimate and part of something nefarious.

In a similar vein, Utah People’s Rights state leader Derrik Staheli posted a video showing two unidentified individuals robbing someone in a car. As the two attempted to escape on a motorcycle, the vehicle driver rams the vehicle into them. Even though the apparent robbers are not identified, and do not appear in the short video to be connected to a protest, Staheli writes, “This should be done with ALL  BLM/ANTIFA Thugs!!! Love it!” [Capitals in Original].[96]

Similarly, Oregon Area 2 assistant Wayne Standiford posts an image of Candace Owens casting BLM as rioting, taking drugs, and being a “radical leftist anarchist” group. Another post by Standiford asks “Why are some of you still supporting BLM?”[97] And Idaho Area 5 assistant Jennifer Acheson posted a recent evidence-lacking meme accusing “Antifa/BLM” of starting recent fires in Oregon and “firing on people trying to evacuate.”[98]

Like these depictions of BLM, attacks on communities of color are often rooted in stereotypes and depictions of them as a threat. In the People’s Rights context, such bigotry is most commonly directed at Muslims and immigrants. For instance, Idaho People’s Rights Idaho figure Casey Whalen has produced a video interview of Trevor Louden on the conspiratorial topic of Cultural Marxism – the idea that movements ranging from environmental and feminist to anti-racist are part of a communist plot.[99] Elsewhere, Loudon has spun an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory in which “far left and Islamist agendas” lay behind a range of liberal public policies.[100] Connecting such anti-Muslim bigotry to a communist plot and liberal policies sets the stage for linking bigotry to the broad-scale assault on federal government capacity envisioned by People’s Rights.

Missouri Area 5 assistant and onetime Missouri Citizens Militia member Michael Clevenger posted an article with an accompanying statement declaring “Go back to Mecca and enforce your laws there!” Another Clevenger post alleges that Islam is already banned from the U.S. because sharia law is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution, a common anti-Muslim canard on the far right.[101]

Montana Area 5 assistant Ed Kugler also serves as president of Last Chance Patriots, a group that originally formed as Flathead ACT for America and was a chapter of the largest anti-Muslim group in the country, ACT for America. During its time as Flathead ACT, the group brought a steady stream of anti-Muslim speakers to Montana and pushed anti-Muslim bills at the Montana Legislature.[102]

A similar animus is also directed at immigrants. Casey Whalen has also advocated that the federal government should “PUT THE MILITARY ON THE BORDER TO PROTECT THE COUNTRY” and “Charge all governors and mayors who created a sanctuary city/state” with criminal violations.[103] Likewise, Utah Area 5 assistant Darrin Berg promoted a GoFundMe project to fund Donald Trump’s border wall.[104] In a post criticizing Donald Trump for not pledging during his 2016 campaign to indict Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others, Berg combined hostility to immigrants and Muslims alike, arguing that given the trajectory of the election,

“I could be like so many celebrities and move to Russia, where Mr. Putin has vowed if one act of terrorism is committed on their soil, the Muslims will be gone the next day. At least then I won’t have to worry about terror attacks or floods of illegal immigrants (who should be allowed to vote, but are denied the right). On the bright side, I will avoid the rush to be ruled by a dictator and live in a socialistic society. This might be funny, if it weren’t so stunningly true.”[105]

The title of a video posted by Missouri Area 5 assistant Michael Clevenger declares that, as in Germany, a refugee crisis is headed to the U.S. Another meme posted by Clevenger depicts what appears to be federal vehicles and a helicopter and declares “I wish my Federal government would put this many resources on our Southern Border instead of on Cliven Bundy’s cattle ranch.”[106]

Oregon Area 2 assistant Wayne Standiford posted memes stating that descendants of enslaved Africans should pay reparations to Union soldiers, and mocked efforts by the National Football League to acknowledge police violence against black people. [107] He also played to racist stereotypes when he shared a photo of brown-skinned people looting with a comment that they wouldn’t loot if they worked at night.[108]

Another form of racism denial is seen in equating slogans such as “black power” (associated with a movement historically struggling against white supremacy) with “white power” (associated with a movement historically seeking to preserve white domination), as Missouri Area 5 assistant, Michael Clevenger, did in a meme posted in early 2016.[109]

In another form, the racism deniers post memes or material focusing in a one-sided fashion on negative aspects of victims of police racism, thus delegitimizing the historical institutional racism of the police. Missouri Area 3 assistant Michael Sudholt posts a video by Candace Owens purporting to present the “facts” about George Floyd.[110] Similar posts were made by Idaho Area 5 assistant Jennifer Acheson about Breonna Taylor and Idaho Area 6 assistant Aaron Egusquiza about Jacob Blake.[111]

Other People’s Rights area leaders have distorted facts about voter fraud and/or promoted voter ID policies that potentially suppress the vote among communities of color and others. Missouri Area 3 assistant Michael Sudholt writes that “It is a national disgrace and blatant election fraud to continue to claim that a requirement for voter ID is all about voter suppression among minority voters. The only minorities whose votes would be suppressed would be those who have no right to vote.”[112] Despite Sudholt’s, claim the Brennan Center for Justice has produced a wide range of studies demonstrating that voter ID policies would suppress the vote among people of color and other voters.[113]

Similarly, Idaho Area 5 assistant Jennifer Acheson writes that “Voter fraud is real stop ignoring it!”[114] Again, the Brennan Center offers an array of actual evidence debunking the myth of voter fraud in U.S. elections.[115]


Seven: Conspiracies and Antisemitism Unbounded


Nine: Anti-Indigenous Activism


[89] Tanner, Chuck. “Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights Mobilize Following Arrest of Idaho-Based Ally.” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. July 31, 2020.

[90] See Burghart, Devin. “Third Controversial Speaker Scheduled to Speak at South Carolina Tea Party Convention.” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. January 16, 2015.

[91] Tanner, Chuck. Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights Mobilize Following Arrest of Idaho-Based Ally. Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. July 31, 2020.

[92] Searcy, Field. Facebook. July 4, 2020. It is widely recognized that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington owned enslave people. For the detail examination of the reasonableness of assessing the Black Hills as stolen land, see Lazarus, Edward. Black Hills White Justice: The Sioux Nation Versus the United States 1775 to the Present. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. 1991.

[93] Sudholt, Michael. Facebook. March 22, 2019.

[94] Tanner, Chuck. Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights Mobilize Following Arrest of Idaho-Based Ally. Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. July 31, 2020.

[95] See Thornton, Brand. Facebook. August 9, 2020.; Thornton, Brand. Facebook. July 16, 2020.; Thornton, Brand. Facebook. June 29, 2020.; Thornton, Brand. Facebook. June 27, 2020.; Thornton, Brand. Facebook. June 27, 2020.;   Thornton, Brand. Facebook. June 27, 2020.

[96] Staheli, Derrik. Facebook. August 18, 2020.

[97] Standiford, Wayne. Facebook. September 19, 2020; Standiford, Wayne. Facebook. August 29, 2020

[98] Acheson, Jennifer. Facebook. September 10, 2020.

[99] For more on the origins and the racism and antisemitism behind the “Cultural Marxism” trope, see Berkowitz, Bill. “’Cultural Marxism’ Catching On.” Southern Poverty Law Center. August 15, 2003.

[100] North Idaho Exposed. Cultural Marxism with Trevor Loudon. June 17, 2020.; Whalen, Casey. Trevor Loudon Interviewed on Cultural Marxism. InlandNWReport.; Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and Kitsap Showing Up for Racial Justice. Threats to a Welcoming Kitsap. Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. December 5, 2019.

[101] Clevenger, Michael. Facebook. January 30, 2017; Clevenger, Michael. Facebook. June 1, 2016.

[102] Montana Human Rights Network. ACTing for Islamophobia. 2017.

[103] Whalen, Casey. Facebook. November 8, 2020.

[104] Berg, Darrin J. Facebook. December 20, 2019.; Berg, Darrin J. Facebook. November 11, 2016.

[105] Berg, Darrin J. Facebook. August 15, 2016.

[106] Clevenger, Michael. Facebook. May 11, 2016; Clevenger, Michael. Facebook. February 10, 2016.

[107] Standiford, Wayne. Facebook. September 21, 2020; Standiford, Wayne. Facebook. September 20, 2020;

[108] Standiford, Wayne. Facebook. C. September 18, 2020.

[109] Clevenger, Michael. Facebook. February 12, 2016.

[110] Sudholt, Michael. June 9, 2020.

[111] Acheson, Jennifer. Facebook. September 22, 2020.; Egusquiza, Aaron. Facebook. September 25, 2020.

[112] Sudholt, Michael. Facebook. March 16, 2019.

[113] Brennan Center for Justice. Research on Voter ID.

[114] Acheson, Jennifer. Facebook. September 22, 2020.

[115] Brennan Center for Justice. “Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth” Brennan Center for Justice,

Ammon's Army

Inside the Far-Right People's Rights Network

A Special Report of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and the Montana Human Rights Network

Copyright © 2020. Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.