Rubber, I’d Like You To Meet Road

I will start with the disclaimer that this essay is, in no way, intended to denigrate the fine citizens of Sanders County, Montana.  To borrow from Donald Trump, “Some, I assume, are good people.”

Others, however, are regularly being shown in what I would argue is a fairly unflattering light.  Take, for example, Sheriff Tom Rummel, who finds himself caught between demands by his fellow wingnuts that he fight the FBI’s efforts to arrest an Oregon standoff thug–and reality.

The duly-elected law enforcement representative of Sanders County seems to take pride in the label Constitutional Sheriff, and may have presented at, but certainly attended the inaugural Convention of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) in Las Vegas in 2012. This is not, in itself, an indictment of the man’s character or work ethic, but it does lead one to ask, “what is this all about?”

The first step here, is to understand the “Sovereign Citizen” movement, and its origins; specifically, the interpretation of Posse Comitatus (literally from the Latin, “force of the county”) as bastardized by William Potter Gale and Henry Lamont Beach.  The Posse movement is an interesting rabbit hole, but seems well enough encapsulated in this description: “a loosely organized, far-right social movement in the United States starting in the late 1960s, whose members spread a conspiracy-minded, anti-government and anti-semitic message in the name of white Christians to counter what they believe is an attack on their social and political rights.”

Posse devotees believe “…that there is no legitimate form of government above that of the county level and no higher law authority than the county sheriff.”  From this also springs the Sovereign Citizen who, in addition to the basic Posse theories, believe “…they are answerable only to their particular interpretation of the common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state, or municipal levels; that they do not recognize United States currency; and/or that they are “free of any legal constraints.” They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate.  Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to “federal citizens,” who, they say, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law.”

From here, it’s just one big hat away from having a Constitutional Sheriff.  All it takes is enough like-minded, or ill-informed voters to appoint themselves a champion. The CSPOA currently boasts membership of “fourteen sheriffs, one county commissioner, and one chief of police, drawn from thirteen states (mostly southern and western).”  These sheriff’s believe they are the “highest executive authority in a county and therefore constitutionally empowered to be able to keep federal agents out of the county.”

Spoiler alert, they’re wrong on all counts; but, you can already see where this is going.  If you paid any attention to the armed occupation of the Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, you already know how it ends…or almost ends.

As reported recently in the Billings Gazette, the United States Attorney’s office unsealed the final indictment related to the Mahleur occupation.  Sanders County, Montana, resident “Jake Ryan is accused of violating a Native American archaeological site by digging a latrine with heavy equipment at the refuge and causing more than $1,000 worth of damage, according to court documents, as well as facing gun and conspiracy to impede law enforcement charges.” 

If you followed that link, you’ll note the Gazette headline wasn’t about Jake Ryan.  It was about Constitutional Sheriff Tom Rummel telling Oregon standoff sympathizers to stand down.  The sheriff seems to be trying to avoid a similar standoff in his county, telling potential militia types that Ryan is not in Sanders County, nor is the FBI.

Tom Rummel with fake gun at head of family member..uh....wait

Tom Rummel

On the other hand, the ironically (and perhaps intentionally?) named right-wing blogger James White contends Sheriff Rummel instead told the Feds to stand down.  His rambling diatribe asserts that the sheriff is “providing cover” for Jake Ryan.  He also reports getting assurances from the CEO of the Mormon Church backed American Lands Council and consequently interest-conflicted Sanders County Representative Jennifer Fielder, that the FBI is dutifully following Rummel’s instructions; no militia needed.

It is worth noting that the Facebook page of The Bundy Ranch, unofficial headquarters for America’s Disenfranchised, Impertinent, Caucasian Kooks (DICKs), posted the Sheriff’s phone and email, claimed Rummel “is not ready to stand up fully to these [FBI] thugs” and encouraged harassment of him until he does so.  After reminiscing about traveling with Jake Ryan to the Bundy Ranch in 2014, White included in his article Sheriff Rummel’s posted plea for people to stop calling and emailing.  Isn’t it funny how irony and karma so often dress alike?

So, by way of Oregon, Nevada and a cornucopia of arrogance, bluster, and ignorance, we are back in Sanders County, asking for calm.  Seems there’s a lesson here somewhere.  Perhaps, joining little groups and speaking at meetings where county sheriffs thump their chests to the beat of Maritime Law is all well and good until one of your local knot heads digs a latrine in a graveyard.  Then, aaaallll the petty fringe dwellers who used to cheer your rhetoric show up, salivating, to see you in action.  When you spend your kid’s college dreams on Kevlar and 30 round clips, you gotta find someplace to show it all off…right?

The ball is in your court, Sheriff Rummel.  Will you assist in the execution of a lawful federal warrant, handed down by a grand jury comprised of American citizens; or will you draw a Bundy-line in the Sanders County sand?  Should be a great show…don’t forget the snacks.


19 Comments on "Rubber, I’d Like You To Meet Road"

  1. Kalispell Bee (April 11, 1911)
    “(L)aw abiding citizens of the state who pay taxes and don’t need military protection must pay a tax to protect Amalgamated Copper that never kept a law it could break or paid a cent of taxes it could evade.”

    The Montana Legislature had expanded the state militia. Counties were required to provide and supply armories and taxpayers had to foot the bill. The sheriff could call up able-bodied men between 18 and 45. “Able-bodied” did not include criminals, lunatics, idiots and those in government positions.

    Montana citizens objected. They had no intention of placing their life and liberty at the sheriff’s diposal. And, they certainly weren’t going to pay a new tax. Able-bodied men eagerly signed a referendum petition to put the new law to a vote. Then 66% voted to repeal the Militia Law.

  2. This Tom Rummel and those holding elected positions like him need to be removed from their positions immediately. By their own admission they are not US citizens and in order to hold elected office in the US you must be a US citizen.

    Sovereign means that they claim to not be US citizens and that they do not have to follow US laws. So, there you have it. The solution can not be made any more clearer. Those like Tom Rummel, Jennifer Fielder, Theresa Manzella, Chris Hoffman and all other elected “officials” are not legitimate because they say they are not even US citizens.

    Not one law these law-makers make has to be followed. Not one arrest these law-enforcers make can be admissible in court. Any attorney can get their client off by putting before the court the fact that the arresting officer makes claims that they do not have to follow US Constitution and federal laws that they do not agree with. Shouldn’t we be arresting them for being illegal aliens now? If they claim to be sovereign then they’re stating that their drivers license is null and void since it is a US ID. Heck, their birth certificates aren’t even admissible since it is a federal document.

    Yeah, this is all kind of tongue-n-cheek. But, really think about it. They’re the ones pushing for a civil war and saying that they do not see themselves as US citizens. When are we going to stop being pushed around by these people? If they’re sovereign as they loudly and publicly claim then any elected job they have in the US is not legitimate.

    The United States is better than this. If they don’t want to be a part of the US then they need to be removed, have all federal benefits taken from them and be treated as illegals.

    enough is enough.

    • Interesting argument, but like “natural born citizen,” not likely to get judicial review.

      Variations of the sovereign movement have been present throughout US history. Fortunately, majority rule, and sometimes brute force, were required to preserve the rule of law.

      FYI – Birth certificates are not “federal” documents. Driver’s licenses are state documents that must meet “Real ID” (US Congress imposed) security requirements.

  3. Let’s see if ‘Field Marshal’ Fielder plays the ‘Fielder Follies’ with ALC/ALEC ‘tools’ and the Sanders County ‘Free Militia’ lads and lassies…..Pay Attention Attorney General Fox, or are your state police subordinate to Rummel and ilk?

    • You should review the law enforcement authorities of the various state agencies, Department of Justice and Fish, Wildlife and Parks. They are limited by statute. Pay particular attention to when and how state officers can investigate and arrest. There was an unsuccessful attempt in the 2015 Montana Legislature to remove some basic law enforcement authorities from game wardens.

      Like many western and southern states, sheriffs in Montana exercise a significant, often out-sized, political influence in the state legislatures. In large part this can be attributed to 19th century perceptions of law enforcement and attempts to limit outside (state) law enforcement in towns and counties.

  4. DEPORT ‘EM, dang’ illegal aliens, and have the Montana tribal police agencies escort ’em to the border!

  5. If they aren’t US citizens, take them to the nearest border and toss them over it. Then shoot them if they try to sneak back in. I prefer the “stick them in a raft somewhere off the southern California coast” but that is a long way to take a local boy.

  6. Here is what these constitutional sheriffs protect! Take a good hard Look Montana!

  7. Dustin Henkelmann | March 25, 2016 1:10 PM at 1:10 PM |

    Good letter. Pretty witty.

  8. Highpoint, thanks for that link. This self-described sheriff makes my point about these people thinking they are above the law. A sheriff has a sworn duty to uphold the law and not take political sides. Rummel has made the statement that he will not obey any federal law that he does not not agree with. It is not within his power to pick and choose what laws he obeys and enforces. He needs to step down now that he has played his card that he is not there to do his job.

    The majority does rule. The majority has elected President Obama not just once but, twice. Now this criminal masquerading as a sheriff is saying he will not obey federal laws. That brings into question everything else that he does. He does not have the best interest of the majority in mind.

    These seditious constitutionals are a very small minority in the United States. They’re just loud, obnoxious and make multiple social site profiles to spread their bigotry and hate for our nation. They make claims to be constitutionals while picking and choosing what part of the Constitution to follow. When they wave their Confederate battle-flag higher than the US flag and they yell that they are taking up arms to overthrow the US then it is clear that the Constitution they are talking about is the Confederate one.

    This attack on the United States must be stopped.

    • In Montana the office of sheriff is a partisan political office. Look at Phoenix, Arizona for the extreme version of partisan politics of a sheriff. After meeting the basic requirements for the office, the most important skills for a sheriff is fund-raising and shaking hands.

    • Rummel, Fielder and Manzella may belong in same sentence, but not Chris Hoffman.
      Perhaps one of us is very misinformed! Our very conservative Republicans in Ravalli County have long sought to diminish and impede the role of our popular Republican Sheriff Chris Hoffman.
      Incidentally,thanks to Montana Law, and the Ravalli Local Government Study Commission, Ravalli County will vote June 7, for preference for all County Offices(Commissioners, Sheriff, Treasurer, Attorney etc) to be elected on a partisan basis, OR to vote preference for County Officials to be elected on a non-partisan basis.

  9. playing nod&wink with these clowns is what ignited the Trumpster fire in the GOP-and what will lead to their demise as a National power. Unfortunately being painted into a corner will probably cause a flurry of irrational acting out, much like ISIL is launching lots of small attacks in Europe even as they are losing major battles and territory in Syria and Iraq. It would be really interesting if we got a major heat wave in time for the GOP convention…

  10. Dear Cowgirl,
    The saying, A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, holds true in this essay. I have worked with Sheriff Rummel for years as a member of the Sanders County DUI Task Force. To be sure we have different views on many things, yet he is not the man portrayed in the essay, or many of the above comments. Like anyone in law enforcement he is constrained by the demands put upon him on any given day. Yet at the end of the day, if your life or your family was in danger, regardless of your political views, Sheriff Rummel would be there doing what he could to get you and your family out of harms way. That is the man he is regardless of this political philosophies.

    John Marshall

    • To Sheriff Tom Rummel and residents of Sanders County that might be checking into this thread on Montana Cowgirl:

      I read above subjects loaded with bias against Sheriff Rummel,
      subjects which may or may not influence Tom Rummels present performance of his duties.

      So then I read, and read, all of his long STATEMENT at James White link, and I went to bed content with what he said. I’d already discounted the present value of alledged Tom Rummel infrequent assoiciations.(Let the truth unfold!)

      I’d already decided it’s a question of performance of duty, OR of neglect of duty.

      I posted that the name 0f Sheriff Chris Hoffman did not belong in that sentence.
      Neither did the name of Sheriff Tom Rummel! Not on the scant evidence available.

      I’m just trying to say the Justin Robbins article
      might have unthinkingly put Sheriff Rummel, and Sanders County,
      also Justice, into more difficult situations.

      If I lived in Sanders County I might be really pissed right now!
      And that’s why I want to say this.
      Many, many online political commentators don’t know beans about what’s happening in Ravalli County,
      And I’m just guessing that something like that
      may be what’s happening regarding Sanders County.

      Maybe a few people from Sanders County woulkd link to news articles
      and go on and write up current news,
      or lack of, with the prosecution of an alledged latrine digger,
      operating ?a back hoe? with how big of a bucket,
      for how many feet deep and long!
      And what are the gun charges??

      Just current news to the general public.
      Like what might the Sanders County or MT AG now have to say!
      Build a bridge not a wall,
      and people will visit your construction site!

  11. Always fun when an article about enforcing laws uses an uncredited photo. I know because I took it…

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