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PPN, the Occupation, and Security Buffers

A year ago, Bundy militia groups made headlines for occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge over disagreements over land between several militia members and the Oregon Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

After the occupation began and cameras arrived, demands were made of the BLM (not to be confused with Black Lives Matter). Armed federal police responded to the situation, and attempted to coax the occupiers out of the building.

Very soon after the Feds arrived, militia members from other armed groups arrived at the scene, setting up an area of control between the BLM building and the Feds. They referred to this space as the “buffer zone” and intended to head negotiations between the occupiers and the federal agents. Brandon Curtis, wearing III% gear, made the announcement of the establishment of this zone. This zone was established at the same time as the members of this new buffer group offered an “Articles of Resolution” to the Bundy gang, hoping to end the occupation with a peaceful and fruitful solution.

These new buffer zone militia members arrived at the national resources building occupation to ensure the maintenance of order between occupiers and local law enforcement, but did not support the occupation itself. That being said, many of the individual representatives of the buffer zone and foot soldiers did believe that the grievances that led to the occupation are valid.

PPN members at the buffer zone

LaVoy Finicum, of the occupying Bundy gang, responded to the new buffer zone militia by asking them to leave. He said that they didn’t need more men with long-guns at the scene, adding that the new troops were “not welcome”.

The militia members in the buffer zone, known as the Pacific Patriots Network (PPN), sent a letter with demands to the Harney County Sherriff’s Office, who replied with a hilariously blunt press release refusing all demands.

PPN members were then told by their leadership to abide by a “media blackout” and not to talk to press. This didn’t stop them, however, from allowing the press to photograph their kits.

In order to make a statement to the FBI (but likely also out of boredom), PPN members confronted FBI at an airbase compound after leaving Harney County Resource Center. There, they said that if the issue with BLM didn’t end soon, crazy militia members might show up. This was not meant directly as a threat, as the leadership that was talking to the FBI truly believed themselves to be moderate militias. The leaders of PPN were unarmed, but had a security detail of 6–12 men and rolled up with about 20 cars.

The PPN folks also had an impressive ability to acquire supplies for the occupiers and their own men in the buffer zone. These goods were relayed through the Patriots Supply Railroad, an extensive countrywide network of truckers, suppliers, and militia members.

Pete Santilli (in cowboy hat), who livestreamed from the occupation

The Bundys had been in the mainstream spotlight previously, but the PPN was relatively unknown up until this point. The Patriots Supply Railroad was also a new discovery for many reporters and analysts watching the BLM dispute play out.

This brief examines the PPN and the unique characteristics of the Pacific Northwest militia coalition to demystify some of this a year after the events that brought the group into media focus.

PPN militia member in Washington

The Pacific Patriots Network (PPN), is a conglomeration of several Pacific Northwest right-wing militias who have positioned themselves as an anti-Obama, anti-Fed group.

They only operate in the area for which they have named themselves and have no intention to spread their branding elsewhere. However, this isn’t necessarily true for the groups which fall under the PPN umbrella, as relationships between sub-unit organizations are fluid and include some more evangelical regional and national militias.

PPN Symbology

PPN as an organization does not have unique symbology, and the symbology of member groups makes up most symbology included in PPN press releases, posts, and individual militiamember profiles.

Member Groups

The PPN is a loose network of local and regional militia groups in the Pacific Northwest. The PPN is an umbrella organization that was founded to help facilitate regional Patriot movement cooperation after an incident at the Sugar Pine Mine in April 2015. The groups involved in PPN include the Oathkeepers of Josephine County (JoCo), The Oregon III% (ORIII), the 3$ of Idaho (3%ID), the West Valley Constitutional Guard (WVCG), the Southern Oregon Constitutional Guard (SOCG), the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard (COCG), the Oregon Bearded Bastards (OBB), the Heirs of Patrick Henry, and the Oath Keepers National.

Each group has its own command structure and level of autonomy within the PPN network, and there is even overlap between the groups at a leadership level. The PPN was mobilized along a single historical event, so this swift amassing of linked groups makes sense.

There are five key founders from the PPN. These men are Joseph Rice, BJ Soper, Brandon Curtiss, Brandon Rapolla, and Chino Ruiz. All but Ruiz remain active today.

Leading member of JoCo with a sign for JoCo. III% of Idaho flag in the background.

The Oathkeepers of Josephine County (JoCo)

Josephine County Oathkeepers (JoCo) are headquartered in Grants Pass, OR and host both a leadership and a public member meeting once a month.

JoCo has, in addition to normal militia exercises, made community service a key aspect of their programming. This mostly includes work on community projects and projects to aid or raise money for veterans.

JoCo has been through some interesting changes in the last four months, and have technically broken away from the Oathkeepers national over philosophical differences. They now go by Liberty Watch of Josephine County (LWJoCo). However, at the time of action by the PPN, LWJoCo was still slated as Josephine County Oathkeepers.

Joseph Rice is in charge of JoCo, and JoCo was extremely active in the fight for the Sugar Pine Mine, making the first national call to militias.

Oregon III% logo

Oregon III% (ORIII)

I have written about another III% organization from Georgia (GSFIII). You can read that here. Ideologies are similar between III% organizations, though there are some subtle differences based on area of operations.

The Oregon III% (ORIII) were formed in 2014, but weren’t very active until the Sugar Pine Mine incident at the end of 2015. This event kicked off a period of high activity of the Oregon III%, including their involvement with the Pacific Patriot Network in early 2016.

Oregon III%ers have divided themselves into several zones, each with their own unique leadership and membership. Many members attend events across the borders of their respective zones, but each zone has its own independently-scheduled events.

Map of ORIII zone divisions
  • Zone 1 is headed by Ron McCue
  • Zone 2 is headed by Trevor Anders
  • Zone 3 is headed by Damon Locke
  • Zone 4 is headed by Tom McKirgan
  • Zone 5 is headed by Jerrad Tyrea Robison
  • Zone 6 is headed by Tim Harris
  • Tri-County III% (formerly Zone 7, now an autonomous III% zone recognized by ORIII) is headed by Jason Ward
  • Zone 8 (the single county of Lane) is headed by Isreal Southerland
Members of ORIII Zone 1, featuring male and female members alike

ORIII Zone 1 is by far the largest group and most active of the 8 zones in the state. Their closed Facebook group has nearly 400 members, while corresponding groups for other zones usually fall between 30 and 150 members. ORIII Zone 1 also has their own website and hosted a Christmas party this year, complete with an optional White Elephant gift exchange.

Idaho III% logo

3% of Idaho (3%ID)

The 3% of Idaho (3%ID) is another III%er organization and operates mostly in Idaho.

The group has stated their distaste at stereotypes that III% members are domestic terrorists, though they admit that many III%ers fall into a definition of the term. To combat the chances of this notion applying to the 3% of Idaho, the group states their purpose is defensive in purpose rather than offensive. However, that being said, the group’s site includes a call to action rather than waiting for the next “shot heard ‘round the world”.

Most of their online presence includes citing cases of Federal Government overreach and tips on how to prepare for disaster/civil war.

Brandon Curtiss is in charge of 3%ID. More on him later.

WVCG logo

West Valley Constitutional Guard (WVCG)

The West Valley Constitutional Guard (WVCG) is a III%-aligned group. They operate in the county of Yamhill in the West Valley area of Oregon.

WVCG members at a 4th of July parade. Image includes III% and Gadsden flags, III% shirts

Though the III% brand is far-right, the WVCG has indicated that potential members of all political leanings are welcome to apply for membership with the militia. However, the group reaffirms the value of a government of representative republicanism. WVCG also maintains the III% commitment to inviting all genders, creeds, and ethnic identities. That being said, the overwhelming majority of members in WVCG photo releases are bearded white men. WVCG is a member of the ORIII.

They meet once a month in Willamena.

III% logo with USA in the center instead of the usual represented state

The Southern Oregon Constitutional Guard (SOCG)

The SOCG is a smaller and less-involved CG in Oregon. It’s unclear who leads it, but the contact for the militia is the same as the press contact for the Pacific Patriots Network. If nothing else, this indicates the intertwined nature of the militias of PPN.

The SOCG is another III%-modeled militia, with its own Oregon flavor. It’s technically a militia separate from the ORIII, but member profiles contain similar symbology.

Members of COCG in 2015.

Central Oregon Consitutional Guard (COCG)

The Central Oregon Constitutional Guard has weekly firearms training exercises and is comprised of about 30 men.The group takes care of a section of highway in central Oregon, and their name is printed on the sign.

Bj Soper is the leader of COCG.

Oregon Bearded Bastards (OBB)

The OBB are mentioned in every PPN announcement and lumped in as a group represented at all occupations. However, the group has been integrated into other groups or has disbanded official operations. It’s unclear who was in charge, but Chino Ruiz was at one point (his absence from involvement in PPN work could explain the group’s inactivity).

The Oregon Bearded Bastards were headquartered in Madras, Oregon.

Heirs of Patrick Henry, Northwest

The Heirs of Patrick Henry are a national patriot organization. The division that is part of PPN is the northwest chapter of HPH, which covers the Pacific Northwest. This militia is minor and exists mostly on Facebook.

Rapolla, Rice, Curtiss, and a 3%IDer (Parker)

Leadership

Curtiss at the occupation buffer zone

Brandon Curtiss

Brandon Curtiss was the head of the 3%ID, and instrumental in the PPN’s operations in January 2015. He spoke to the press endlessly, confronted armed federal police directly, and continuously stated that he opposed violence over the occupation.

Curtiss was removed from 3%ID after he stole a bunch of money from a 3%er fund intended to be used to free arrested members of the militia. This prompted the resignation of 36 members and former members of 3%, who wrote that Curtiss “excessively, inappropriately, or negligently used [funds] for food, fuel, and miscellaneous unnecessary expenditures including, but not limited to, iTunes and auto accessories”.

Soper speaking at a small rally

Bj Soper

Soper considers himself to be a voice of moderation among the hotheads of the anti-Fed militia movement. He started COCG a bit over two-and-a-half years ago and was radicalized to action by the events of Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas.

He values a “simpler life” and seems nostalgic for the images of 1950s America. He’s also no stranger to conspiracy theories: he believes that the UN has a plan to reduce the global population to below 1 billion people, that the government has found a cure for cancer, and that the US government was behind 9/11.

Rice in military garb

Joseph Rice

Joseph Rice was also a founding member of the PPN, hailing from the Josephine County Oathkeepers. He spoke at the occupation buffer, and runs JoCo a bit differently than national Oathkeepers, making the militia ultra-local. However, that didn’t stop JoCo from showing up to the PPN’s buffer.

Rapolla at an event

Brandon Rapolla

Rapolla was the only founding member of PPN not to head a militia group at the time of PPN formation. However, he works closely with nearly every militia group represented in PPN, donning their symbology at each of their events. He runs a tactical training organization in Oregon and is extremely active, even today.

Silhouette of Ruiz at the shore

Chino Ruiz

Chino Ruiz was a founding member of the PPN. At that time, he was in charge of the Oregon Bearded Bastards. He’s kept a low profile and therefore gathering any information on him is difficult, especially since he appears to have terminated his activities with the militia movements.

Hill with an American flag

David Samuel Hill

David Samuel Hill is in charge of ORIII. He is a welder by trade, a veteran, and runs ORIII out of Carlton, OR. He wasn’t a founding member of PPN, but his militia was represented in the group. He was not at the January 2016 standoff, though members of his militia were.

Patriot Supply Railroad

The Patriot Supply Railroad (PSR) was relatively unknown until this occupation but indicates a level of informal coordination between militias and the militia-sympathetic that was previously not indicated in a more meaningful real-world way.

A militiamember or leader would put in a request for gear, food, or other supplies through YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook. In turn, some member from elsewhere would state that they could supply this need and would then declare the date at which they could arrive. These responses ranged from those local to the area of the BLM occupation to those coming from across the country. For example, if the Bundy gang requested Tylenol, Doritos, and plywood, a truck driver from Mississippi would reply to say he could have the plywood at their occupation within four days because it was along his driving route.

The PSR grew in complexity as requests diversified. Many times, gear would stop between several transporters before arriving. Currently, with no active engagement or coalescing event for support, members of the PSR will post what goods they need to get where or offer their own trunks for shipping goods across the country. A member may have two dozen spare rolls of toilet paper they wish to make it to a militia boot camp, but no means to deliver nor knowledge of where to send it. Through the PSR, militias and drivers are then able to accept the donation and receive it.

Since the occupation, the PSR worked in a lot of ways similar to how a corporate shipping company might work — many stops along the way between point of origin and delivery location. What is so remarkable is that beyond what is posted online there is no clearly documented chain of delivery as UPS or FedEx may record and report. These requests aren’t tough to find, but the capacity for the informal delivery network to ship anything from ammunition to water is substantial and as secret as users wish it to be.

The PSR has slowed in public chatter since the summer of 2016, but was used to supply militiamembers appearing at the Dakota Access Pipeline camp.

“The meeting that never happened”

LaVoy Finicum’s death and subsequent exultation as a martyr of the anti-Fed struggle happened following the occupation that this brief covers. He was shot on the 27th of January 2016, a day before a planned meeting over the dispute he and his colleagues were party to at the center of the BLM occupation.

Sample advert of a 28th January meeting event

The 28th of January is likely to now be solidified as another militia holiday, as there are events planned in Finicum’s honor this year, including a meeting with an attached fundraiser on Finicum’s family’s behalf.

The future of American militias is currently in flux as there seems to be a pretty significant shift in feelings towards the federal government since Donald Trump was elected in November. There may be fractions between anti-state absolutism and a relationship of convenient ease between former resistance militias and the government headed by Trump.

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