|Dissolved||February 21, 2021(as national organization, local groups continue)|
|Leader||Michael "Mike" Brian Vanderboegh|
|Part of a series on|
The group advocates gun ownership rights and resistance to the U.S. federal government. The group's name derives from the erroneous claim that "the active forces in the field against the King's tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists" during the American Revolution.
The group is based in the U.S. with a presence in Canada. One Canadian expert, Maxime Fiset, a former neo-Nazi who works with the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, considers the group the "most dangerous" extremist group in Canada.
On February 21, 2021, their leadership dissolved the American national group in response to the 2021 United States Capitol attack, condemning the violence. Other Three Percenters remain as independent local groups. In June 2021, six men associated with the group were indicted for conspiracy, and Canada declared the group a terrorist entity.
Foundation and membership
The movement has been characterized as part of the broader patriot movement. Founded in 2008, it was given impetus by the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. Members believed that Obama's presidency would lead to increased government interference in the lives of individuals, and particularly stricter gun-control laws. Many members are former or current members of the military, police and other law-enforcement agencies, as well as anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers.
The movement was co-founded by Michael "Mike" Brian Vanderboegh from Alabama, a member of the Oath Keepers, a group with whom the Three Percenters remain loosely allied and are often compared. Vanderboegh claims to have formerly been a member of Students for a Democratic Society and the Socialist Workers Party, but abandoned left-wing politics and politics in general in 1977 after being introduced to libertarianism. Vanderboegh says the book The Road to Serfdom pushed him to the right. He became a Second Amendment activist and by the 1990s was involved with the militia movement.
The ADL reports that in the mid-1990s, Vanderboegh claimed to be commander of an Alabama militia group, the First Alabama Cavalry Regiment, though he appeared to be its sole member. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Vanderboegh became better known for popularizing anti-government conspiracy theories.
The group's website states that it does not discriminate against anyone; however, in response to Black Lives Matter protests following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Three Percenters' Facebook page featured numerous racist comments made by its supporters. In response to events at the 2017 Unite the Right rally, the group issued a statement that they "strongly reject and denounce anyone who calls themselves a patriot or a Three Percenter that has attended or is planning on attending any type of protest or counter protest related to these white supremacist and Nazi groups".
The group's website states it is "not a militia" and "not anti-government". According to the ADL, Three Percenters constitute a major part of the broader anti-government militia movement, whose ideology they share. Three Percenters believe that ordinary citizens must take a stand against perceived abuses by the U.S. federal government, which they characterize as overstepping its Constitutional limits. Its stated goals include protecting the right to keep and bear arms, and to "push back against tyranny". The group opposes federal involvement in what they consider local affairs, and states in its bylaws that county sheriffs are "the supreme law of the land".
Like other American militia movements, Three Percenters believe in the ability of citizen volunteers with ordinary weapons to successfully resist the United States military. They support this belief by claiming that only around 3% of American colonists fought the British during the American Revolution, a claim which underestimates the number of people who resisted British rule, and which does not take into account the concentration of British forces in coastal cities, the similarity of weapons used by American and British forces, and French support for the colonists.
Organization and activities
The group's local chapters are structured hierarchically according to its National Bylaws. As well as political activism, chapters also engage in paramilitary activities such as marksmanship training. Membership requires voting and opposing laws the group sees as unconstitutional. Members take an oath similar to that of the U.S. armed forces. Three Percenters who are also active military members are asked to swear an additional oath promising to disobey certain official orders, such as orders to disarm U.S. citizens. The group's Facebook page mostly features posts supporting gun rights.
Vanderboegh self-published a serial novel online, Absolved, in 2008, which he called "a cautionary tale for the out-of-control gun cops of the ATF". On its website, the movement claims that it is not a militia group, but rather a "national organization made up of patriotic citizens who love their country, their freedoms, and their liberty."
Vanderboegh and his novel Absolved first received wider media attention in 2011, when four suspected militia members in Georgia were arrested for a plan for a biological attack that had supposedly been inspired by the novel. Vanderboegh distanced himself from the alleged plot. In 2013, Christian Allen Kerodin and associates were working on construction of a walled compound in Benewah County, Idaho, "for Three Percenters", designed to house 7,000 people following a major disaster, an initiative which local law enforcement has described as a "scam".
Following the 2015 Chattanooga shootings at a strip mall, a military recruitment center and a United States Navy Operational Support Center in Tennessee, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, and other militia groups began organizing armed gatherings outside of recruiting centers in several states, with the stated objective of providing protection to service members, who were barred from carrying weapons while on duty in civilian recruitment centers. In response, the Army Command Operations Center Security Division issued a letter ordering soldiers not to interact with or acknowledge armed civilians outside of recruitment centers, and that "If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens, be polite, professional and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement", noting that the issuing officer is "sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior".
In 2016, the "3 Percenters of Idaho" group announced it was sending some of its members in support of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, allegedly in order to "secure the perimeter" and to prevent a "Waco-style situation". They left several hours later after being told their assistance was not needed. Two days previously, Vanderboegh had described the occupiers as "a collection of fruits and nuts". "What Bundy and this collection of fruits and nuts has done is give the feds the perfect opportunity to advance their agenda to discredit us", he said.
The group provided security for a 2017 event held by Patriot Prayer called "Rally for Trump and Freedom". Several Three Percenters were also present and providing security for the Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017; along with members of the Redneck Revolt, a left-leaning militia group. After the events at Charlottesville, the group's "National Council" issued a "stand down order", stating, "we will not align ourselves with any type of racist group".
In 2017, a 23-year-old Oklahoma man, Jerry Drake Varnell, was arrested on federal charges of plotting a vehicle bomb attack on a bank in downtown Oklahoma City, modeled after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. During a meeting in 2017 with undercover FBI agents, Varnell identified with the Three Percenters movement, saying that he subscribed to "III% ideology" and intended "to start the next revolution." In March 2020, Varnell was sentenced to 25 years in prison, for the crimes of conspiracy to use an explosive device to damage a building used in interstate commerce, and to plan to use a weapon of mass destruction against property used in interstate commerce.
In 2018, three men were arrested in connection with the bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. The bombing was non-lethal. One of men involved, former sheriff's deputy Michael B. Hari, had connections to the group.
In June 2019, Oregon Governor Kate Brown sent the Oregon State Police to bring 11 absent Republican state senators back to the Oregon State Capitol. The Republican state senators had gone into hiding to prevent a vote on a cap-and-trade proposal with a goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in order to combat climate change. The Three Percenters offered support for the Republican senators, declaring they would be "doing whatever it takes to keep these senators safe". On June 22, 2019, a session of the Oregon Senate was cancelled when the Oregon State Capitol was closed due to a warning from the state police of a "possible militia threat".
In May 2020, during a Second Amendment rally on Memorial Day weekend in Frankfort, Kentucky, Three Percenters and other protesters breached several off-limit barriers to access the front porch of the Governor's Mansion, Governor Andy Beshear's primary residence, and began heckling the Mansion's occupants in response to the Governor's restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon afterward, members of the group moved several hundred yards away and raised an effigy bearing the Governor's face and a sign reading sic semper tyrannis ("thus always to tyrants") from a tree. The event drew condemnation from Beshear and from across the political spectrum. Some state officials had joined the Three Percenters at earlier events, including Kentucky State Representatives Savannah Maddox and Stan Lee, and Kentucky State Senator John Schickel. Beshear labeled the group as "radical", that their actions were "aimed at creating fear and terror", and declared that officials who appeared at previous Three Percenter events "cannot fan the flames and then condemn the fire."
During the investigation of a kidnapping plot targeting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, one of the suspects arrested was identified as the second-in-command of the Wisconsin branch of the Three Percenters.
Participation in the 2021 Capitol attack
|2021 United States|
|Timeline of events|
Supporters of the Three Percenters, among others, were reportedly present and wore emblematic gear or symbols during the protests and storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. After breaching or being let through multiple police perimeters, these groups occupied, vandalized, and ransacked parts of the building for several hours. At least one man tied to the Three Percenter movement was arrested and charged with involvement of the attack; the man was also reportedly tied to two other extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. At the time of the January 6 protests, a truck owned by Illinois State Rep. Chris Miller (the husband of U.S. Representative Mary Miller) was in a restricted area next to the Capitol and bore a Three Percenters decal logo. On March 18, 2021, the Illinois House voted to censure Miller for attending the January 6 “Save America” rally that preceded the insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
In June 2021, four men who identified as members of the Three Percenters, and two other men associated with them, were indicted by a grand jury for "conspiring to obstruct congressional proceedings." The indictment alleges that they coordinated travel to Washington D.C. with intent for disruption; some were also alleged to be wearing tactical gear and at least one carried a knife, although they had discussed bringing firearms as well. One of those indicted is a former police chief of La Habra, California. He and another indicted man were seen with Trump associate Roger Stone at a demonstration outside the Supreme Court the day before the Capitol attack. Prosecutors alleged another member wore body armor and carried a handgun and plastic handcuffs on the Capitol grounds with the intent to remove House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell from the premises. He was found guilty of the five associated charges he faced.
- Balleck, Barry J. (2019). Hate Groups and Extremist Organizations in America: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 315. ISBN 978-1-4408-5751-5.
- Spencer Sunshine (January 5, 2016). "Profile on the Right: Three Percenters". Political Research Associates.
- Miller-Still, Ray (October 15, 2019). "Black Diamond council member identified as a 'Three Percenter.' What does that mean?". Courier-Herald. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
- Giglio, Mike. "A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and Veterans". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
- "Three Percenters". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
- Hutter, Christy (May 10, 2018). "Three Percenters are Canada's 'most dangerous' extremist group, say some experts". CBC News. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- Crothers, Lane (2019). Rage on the Right: The American Militia Movement from Ruby Ridge to the Trump Presidency (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 136–37. ISBN 978-1-5381-1573-2.
- "Three Percenters". Anti-Defamation League. August 23, 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
- Tures, John A. (July 3, 2017). "More Americans Fought in the American Revolution Than We Thought". Observer. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
- "The Three Percenters: Who We Are". The Three Percenters. Archived from the original on August 14, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
- "TTPO's Final Statement - The Three Percenters - Original". thethreepercenters.org. March 10, 2021. Archived from the original on March 10, 2021. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
- Owen, Tess (February 26, 2021). "This Three Percenter Militia Group Just Cancelled Itself Because of the Capitol Riots". VICE. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
- "Canada puts U.S. Three Percenters militia on terror list, cites risk of violent extremism". Reuters. June 25, 2021.
- "Jury convicted man in Oklahoma City federal bomb plot trial". Associated Press. February 25, 2019.
- Thomas, Judy L. (August 10, 2016). "Longtime militia and 'Patriot' leader Mike Vanderboegh dies at 64". Kansas City Star. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
- Avlon, John (March 31, 2010). "Anti-government hate militias on the rise". CNN. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
- Mencimer, Stephanie (December 14, 2011). "Meet the Former Militiaman Behind the Fast and Furious Scandal". Mother Jones. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
- Avlon, John P. (2014). Wingnuts : extremism in the age of Obama (2nd ed.). New York. pp. 222–223. ISBN 9780991247608.
- Mockaitis, Thomas R. (2019). Violent Extremists: Understanding the Domestic and International Terrorist Threat. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Publishing. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-1-4408-5949-6.
- Hafner, Josh Hafner and Josh. "Three Percenters: What is the gun-toting group? And what do its supporters want?". USA Today. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
- Council, National (August 13, 2017). "The Three Percenters Official Statement Regarding the Violent Protests in Charlottesville". the-three-percenters. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
- Hafner, Josh (March 1, 2018). "Three Percenters: What is the gun-toting group? And what do its supporters want?". USA Today.
- "Three Percenters". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
- "Here's what you need to know about the Three Percenters, the militia group protecting GOP lawmakers in Oregon". Insider. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
- Morlin, Bill (May 16, 2013). "Michael Brian Vanderboegh". splcenter.org. Montgomery, Alabama: Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Bluestein, Greg (February 11, 2011). "Georgia Militia Plot: Feds Arrest Four Suspected Group Members For Alleged Biological Attack Plan". The Huffington Post. New York City: Huffington Post Media Group. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (November 3, 2011). "'Online novel' allegedly inspired Georgia terrorism suspects". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Gertz, Matt (November 2, 2011). "Fox "Authority" Vanderboegh On His Book Allegedly Inspiring Terrorism: "Did I Mention It Is Fiction?"". Media Matters for America. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
Absolved is fiction. I hope it is a 'useful dire warning.' However, I am as much to blame for the Georgia Geriatric Terrorist Gang as Tom Clancy is for Nine Eleven.
- Morlin, Bill (May 16, 2013). "Behind the Walls". Montgomery, Alabama: Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
But there's no sign that the latest fantastic plans from antigovernment extremists will ever come to much. Dave Resser, the sheriff of sparsely populated Benewah County, calls the whole thing a 'scam'.
- Conte, Michaelangelo (April 29, 2013). "Jersey City police brass identify a pro-militia clique in the department and say they've been stopped". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Zeitlinger, Ron (April 29, 2013). "'Three Percenters' founder: Wrong to discipline Jersey City police officers". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Tritten, Travis (July 22, 2015). "Army to recruiters: Treat armed citizens as security threat". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
- Hammill, Luke (January 8, 2016). "Oregon standoff: Idaho group arrives to 'secure perimeter, prevent Waco-style situation'". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
- "More armed men visit site of Oregon wildlife refuge standoff". San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. January 9, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
- Thomas, Judy (January 6, 2016). "Experts: Oregon standoff may be small, but it's tip of militia iceberg". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
- Hawkass, Johnathan (April 4, 2017). "Clark County Trump rally disrupted by anarchists". The Reflector.
- Brown, Doug (April 2, 2017). "Photos & Video: Protesters Arrested at a Donald Trump Rally in Vancouver". The Portland Mercury.
- Michel, Casey (August 17, 2017). "How Militias Became the Private Police for White Supremacists". Politico. Arlington, Virginia: Capitol News Company.
- MCKENZIE, BRYAN. "Militia member speaks about group's role at rally". The Daily Progress. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
- Fernandez, Manny (August 8, 2017). "Bombing Plot in Oklahoma City Is Thwarted With Arrest, F.B.I. Says". The New York Times.
- "Jerry Drake Varnell sentenced in OKC bomb plot case". The Oklahoman. March 24, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
- "Man Who Attempted to Bomb Downtown Oklahoma City Bank Sentenced to 25 Years". U.S. Attorney’s Office-Western District of Oklahoma. March 23, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
- Sankin, Aaron; Carless, Will (March 16, 2018). "Who are the Three Percenters?". Reveal News. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
- Zimmerman, Sarah; Flaccus, Gillan (June 22, 2019). "Militia threat shuts down Oregon Statehouse amid walkout". Associated Press. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
- Radnovich, Connor (June 22, 2019). "Saturday Senate session canceled after potential threat of militia protest violence". Salem Statesman Journal. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
- Szekely, Peter (June 23, 2019). "Oregon Capitol building closed as precaution amid partisan dispute". Reuters. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
- Lubben, Alex (June 25, 2019). "Let's Check In on Those Oregon Republicans Who Fled the Capital, Shall We?". Vice News. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
- Brammer, Jack; Desrochers, Daniel (May 26, 2020). "'I will not be bullied ... I will not back down.' Beshear responds to effigy at Capitol". kentucky.com.
- Silverman, Hollie (May 25, 2020). "An effigy of Kentucky Gov. Beshear was hung from a tree at the end of a Second Amendment rally". CNN.
- @McConnellPress (May 24, 2020). "As a strong defender of the First Amendment, I believe Americans have the right to peacefully protest. However, today's action toward Governor Beshear is unacceptable. There is no place for hate in Kentucky" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- @KYGOP (May 24, 2020). "What occurred at today's rally was unacceptable and has no place in Kentucky's political discourse. The Republican Party of Kentucky strongly condemns the violent imagery against the Governor in today's protest" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Mills, Kylen (May 26, 2020). "Gov. Beshear hanged in effigy as protesters gathered outside governor's mansion". LEX18.com.
- "Rep. Maddox responds to Beshear, KY Democratic Party". LEX18.com. May 26, 2020.
- Ladd, Sarah (May 27, 2020). "Beshear on effigy: 'I will not be afraid. I will not be bullied. And I will not back down'". courier-journal.com.
- Porter, Sam (May 26, 2020). "'I will not be afraid': Gov. Beshear responds to effigy hanging". LEX18.com.
- "Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy wasn't the first anti-government plot with Wisconsin ties". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
- ""Three Percenter" hosted Wisconsin training by Michigan men charged in plot to kidnap governor". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
- Broadwater, Luke; Rosenberg, Matthew (January 29, 2021). "Republican Ties to Extremist Groups Are Under Scrutiny". The New York Times.
- "Trump supporters storm Capitol; DC National Guard activated; woman fatally shot". The Washington Post. January 7, 2021.
- Thomas Pallini (January 7, 2021). "Photos show the aftermath of an unprecedented and destructive siege on the US Capitol that left 4 rioters dead". Business Insider.
- Daly, Matthew; Balsamo, Michael (January 8, 2021). "Deadly siege focuses attention on Capitol Police". Associated Press. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
- Devlin Barrett & Spencer S. Hsu, FBI probes possible connections between extremist groups at heart of Capitol violence Archived February 11, 2021, at the Wayback Machine, Washington Post (January 17, 2021).
- Jaclyn Peiser, Texas man at Capitol riot allegedly threatened to kill his kids if they turned him in: 'Traitors get shot', Washington Post (January 19, 2021).
- Kucinich, Adam Rawnsley, Kelly Weill, Jackie (February 26, 2021). "Three Percenter Truck at Capitol on Jan. 6 Belongs to Hitler-Quoting Rep's Husband". The Daily Beast. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- Mansur, Sarah. "Democrats push resolution 'condemning' Illinois GOP lawmaker for attendance at Jan. 6 rally". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
- "Illinois House Censures State Representative For Attending 'Save America' Rally". WBEZ Chicago. March 19, 2021. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- Hymes, Clare McDonald, Cassidy (June 10, 2021). "Alleged "Three Percenters" militia members indicted in new Capitol riot conspiracy case". CBS News. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
- "Three Percenters militia members charged in U.S. Capitol attack". Reuters. June 10, 2021.
- "Former O.C. police chief, five others indicted on Capitol riot conspiracy charges". Los Angeles Times. June 10, 2021.
- "Six California Men, Four of Whom Self-Identify as Members of "Three-Percenter" Militias, Indicted on Conspiracy Charges Related to Jan. 6 Capitol Breach". Justice Department. June 10, 2021.
- Holmes Lybrand; Hannah Rabinowitz (December 3, 2021). "US Capitol rioter 'sought to physically remove' Pelosi and McConnell, prosecutors say". CNN.
- Feuer, Alan (March 8, 2022). "Texas Man Convicted in First Jan. 6 Trial". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
- Tunney, Catharine (June 25, 2021). "Three Percenters, neo-Nazi group added to Canada's terrorist list". CBC.
- Canada, Public Safety (December 21, 2018). "Currently listed entities". www.publicsafety.gc.ca. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
- Sankin, Aaron; Carless, Will (March 16, 2018). "The Hate Report: Get to know the Three Percenters". Reveal. Emeryville, California: Center for Investigative Reporting.