Anti-govt movement rapidly expanding nationwide…
BOISE (Idaho) — An anti-government activist Ammon bundy has launched a far-right group that is expanding rapidly across the country and even making inroads into Canada according to a recent report by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
Despite legal issues faced by prominent People’s Rights leaders and continuing even after some of the organization’s social media groups were removed, the rapid growth was achieved. According to the report, the organization’s growth has been 53% over the past year due in large part to continued anti-public healthcare sentiment.
People’s Rights started in deep-red Idaho, which remains one of the least-vaccinated states with only about 43% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the report, the group now includes activists from 38 countries.
” I think the report underestimates the group’s strength because they have also formed alliances with a variety of groups, from the Tea Party, the Proud Boy and anti-vax organizations,” stated Chuck Tanner, IREHR research director. “In some places they can mobilize at levels which make an impact on policies.”
People’s Rights was founded in 2020 during a backlash against the public health measures implemented at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic. Bundy, who is most well-known for leading an armed group of activists in the occupation in Oregon of a wildlife refuge in 2016,, is now one of many candidates in Idaho’s governor’s race. The group regularly staged protests at schools, public health districts, and state Capitol buildings. The IREHR report analyzed data about the People’s Rights network’s internal membership.
Bundy didn’t immediately respond to emails and phone calls left by The Associated Press.
Last year, the organization had just under 22,000 members nationally, according to a report by IREHR and the Montana Human Right’s Network. Now it has grown by roughly 53%, according to the new IREHR report, with more than 33,000 members including nearly 400 official leaders in 38 states. According to the report, it also includes more 100 members from Canada — mainly in Ontario — even though its political ideology is based on fringe interpretations and Christian nationalism.
” We noticed that three to four months ago, they began listing Canadian provinces on their website. Tanner stated that although it isn’t huge, it is quite strange.
People’s Rights is still mostly focused in the northwestern states, particularly Idaho, where Bundy lives and roughly 17 out of every 10,000 are members, according to the report. Most of the growth has been around COVID-19-related activism, said Tanner.
” There has been rapid growth in areas where there weren’t many members, but also significant growth in areas we know are organized on the ground like south Washington and central Oregon,” Tanner stated. “They’ve really built this COVID-denial activism, and as a group are playing an outsized role in the attack on public health measures to address the pandemic.”
Prominent members of the organization have faced serious legal woes. In Idaho, Sean Anderson dropped from a leadership role after he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a police shootout last year.
Another well-known People’s Rights activist, Pam Hemphill is currently facing federal charges. Prosecutors claim that she participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. Hemphill has pleaded guilty to the charges.
Bundy was convicted earlier this year of trespassing on the property and obstructing police officers. He refused to leave a room in the Idaho Statehouse after protests that attracted hundreds of people, including People’s Rights activists. Tanner stated that the growth of the organization has not been slowed by this decision.
The organization has promoted extreme political concepts including state secession and the repeal of the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments, Tanner said. People’s Rights asks members to be prepared to defend themselves and others from government officials.
“People’s Rights spreads really radical ideas about overturning the United States civil rights,” Tanner stated. “This is an anti-democratic, bigoted, broad-based social movement.” But Joe Lowndes, a University of Oregon political science professor who studies conservatism and right-wing movements said that it’s unclear if the organization will survive in a post-pandemic environment.
“People’s Rights are early adopters the anti-mask and anti-vaccine movements. They’ve been able build through that to push this vague conspiratorial, antigovernment idea,” Lowndes said. It’s difficult to predict how it will survive the long-term. It’s hard to see how there’s any staying power beyond the pandemic issue, unless it’s some kind of that general, post-apocalyptic-prepper stuff In places like Idaho where far-right political groups have a stronghold it’s hard to determine if People’s Rights was actually leading the anti-pandemic movement, or simply following the flow. Jaclyn Kettler is a Boise State University political science professor.
“It is difficult right now to track their impacts compared to other ideologies of similar types,” Kettler stated. It will be fascinating to see what happens over the long-term. For instance, a lot of the Tea Party organizations aren’t active like they were in 2010, but we can still see the influence of them.”