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3 Percenters

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3 Percenters
Official Three Percent Flag.svg
Formation2008; 11 years ago (2008)
TypeParamilitary group
Legal statusActive
PurposeGun rights advocacy
  • United States
LeaderMichael "Mike" Brian Vanderboegh

The Three Percenters (also styled 3%ers and III%ers) is an American far-right militia movement group[1][2] whose members pledge protest and armed resistance against attempts to curtail constitutional rights.[3] The organization's credo cautions against a potentially tyrannical US Federal Government, and has been characterized as being ideologically similar to the Oath Keepers.[4]

The group's name derives from an oft-repeated but erroneous claim that only three percent of the population of the Thirteen Colonies took up arms against the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolution.[4][5]

The Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes the 3 Percenters group as "anti-government" group.[6] Some Canadian experts consider the group the "most dangerous extremist group" in Canada.[7]

Foundation and aims

The movement was started in 2008 as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.[8] The movement was co-founded by Michael "Mike" Brian Vanderboegh [9] from Alabama, a member of the Oath Keepers, a group with whom the Three Percenters remain loosely allied and are often compared to.[10][11] 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.[12]


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's not a militia group, but rather a "national organization made up of patriotic citizens who love their country, their freedoms, and their liberty."[13][14]

Vanderboegh and his novel Absolved first received wider media attention in 2011, when four suspected militia members in Georgia were arrested for an alleged plan for a biological attack that had supposedly been inspired by the novel.[15][16] Vanderboegh distanced himself from the alleged plot.[17] 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".[18]

In April 2013, a group of Jersey City police officers were disciplined for wearing patches reading "ONE OF THE 3%".[19][20]

Following the 2015 Chattanooga shootings at a strip mall military recruitment center and a 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.[21] 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".[21]

On January 8, 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".[22] They left several hours later after being told their assistance was not needed.[23] Two days previously, Vanderboegh had described the occupiers as "a collection of fruits and nuts".[24] "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.[24] They have provided security for the Patriot Prayer rally, "Rally for Trump and Freedom".[25][26] Several III%ers were also present and providing security for the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in August 2017.[27] After the events at Charlottesville, the National Three Percenters Council issued a "stand down order" for 3 Percenters, asking members to temporarily refrain from participating in any marches or protests in light of the recent violence at Charlottesville. The statement also asked members to refrain from protesting against Black Lives Matter and Antifa events over concerns that the media would associate them with white nationalist groups.[28]

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.[29] During a meeting in 2017 with undercover FBI agents, Varnell identified with the "3 Percenters" movement, saying that he subscribed to "III% ideology" and intended "to start the next revolution."[8] In 2019, Varnell was convicted.[8]

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 3 Percenters offered support for the Republican senators, declaring they would be "doing whatever it takes to keep these senators safe".[30][31][32] 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".[33][34][35][36]


  1. ^ Thomas R. Mockaitis, Violent Extremists: Understanding the Domestic and International Terrorist Threat (ABC-CLIO, 2019), p. 80.
  2. ^ David Zucchino, A Militia Gets Battle Ready for a 'Gun-Grabbing' Clinton Presidency, New York Times (November 5, 2016).
  3. ^ "Patriot Groups Have Presence in Idaho". NBC KPVI News 6. Archived from the original on August 16, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2017. 'Our goal and our mission statement as an organization is to make sure that everybody's constitutional rights are being defended.' [Chris McIntire, 3 Percenters of Idaho]
  4. ^ a b Spencer Sunshine (January 5, 2016). "Profiles on the Right: Three Percenters". Political Research Associates. Archived from the original on November 5, 2017. Retrieved November 5, 2017. Like other Patriot groups, they depict the federal government as tyrannical.
  5. ^ "What does three percenter mean?".
  6. ^ Hafner, Josh (March 1, 2018). "Three Percenters: What is the gun-toting group? And what do its supporters want?". USA Today. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  7. ^ Hutter, Christy (May 10, 2018). "Three Percenters are Canada's 'most dangerous' extremist group, say some experts". CBC. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Jury convicted man in Oklahoma City federal bomb plot trial, Associated Press (February 25, 2019).
  9. ^ "Longtime militia and 'Patriot' leader Mike Vanderboegh dies at 64". August 10, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  10. ^ Avlon, John (March 31, 2010). "Anti-government hate militias on the rise". CNN. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  11. ^ Spencer Sunshine (January 5, 2016). "Profiles on the Right: Three Percenters". Political Research Associates. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 6, 2018. The Three Percenters (aka 3%ers, III%ers, or "Threepers") are a Patriot movement paramilitary group that pledges armed resistance against attempts to restrict private gun ownership. Adherents and supporters have been associated with threats and acts of violence.
  12. ^ Mencimer, Stephanie (December 14, 2011). "Meet the Former Militiaman Behind the Fast and Furious Scandal". Mother Jones. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  13. ^ "Here's what you need to know about the Three Percenters, the militia group protecting GOP lawmakers in Oregon". Insider. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  14. ^ Bill Morlin (May 16, 2013). "Michael Brian Vanderboegh". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  15. ^ Bluestein, Greg (February 11, 2011). "Georgia Militia Plot: Feds Arrest Four Suspected Group Members For Alleged Biological Attack Plan". The Huffington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  16. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (November 3, 2011). "'Online novel' allegedly inspired Georgia terrorism suspects". Los Angeles Times. Jacket Copy blog. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Morlin, Bill (May 16, 2013). "Behind the Walls". 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'.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Zeitlinger, Ron (April 29, 2013). "'Three Percenters' founder: Wrong to discipline Jersey City police officers". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  21. ^ a b Tritten, Travis (July 22, 2015). "Army to recruiters: Treat armed citizens as security threat". Stars & Stripes. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  22. ^ Hammill, Luke (January 8, 2016). "Oregon standoff: Idaho group arrives to 'secure perimeter, prevent Waco-style situation'". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  23. ^ "More armed men visit site of Oregon wildlife refuge standoff". San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. January 9, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  24. ^ a b Judy Thomas (January 6, 2016). "Experts: Oregon standoff may be small, but it's tip of militia iceberg". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  25. ^ Hawkass, Johnathan (April 4, 2017). "Clark County Trump rally disrupted by anarchists". The Reflector.
  26. ^ Brown, Doug (April 2, 2017). "Photos & Video: Protesters Arrested at a Donald Trump Rally in Vancouver". The Portland Mercury.
  27. ^ "How Militias Became the Private Police for White Supremacists". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  28. ^ "The Three Percenters - Original". The Three Percenters - Original. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  29. ^ Manny Fernandez, Bombing Plot in Oklahoma City Is Thwarted With Arrest, F.B.I. Says, New York Times (August 8, 2017).
  30. ^ Zimmerman, Sarah; Flaccus, Gillan (June 22, 2019). "Militia threat shuts down Oregon Statehouse amid walkout". Associated Press. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  31. ^ Radnovich, Connor (June 22, 2019). "Saturday Senate session canceled after potential threat of militia protest violence". Salem Statesman Journal. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  32. ^ Szekely, Peter (June 23, 2019). "Oregon Capitol building closed as precaution amid partisan dispute". Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  33. ^ Zimmerman, Sarah; Flaccus, Gillan (June 22, 2019). "Militia threat shuts down Oregon Statehouse amid walkout". Associated Press. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  34. ^ Radnovich, Connor (June 22, 2019). "Saturday Senate session canceled after potential threat of militia protest violence". Salem Statesman Journal. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  35. ^ Szekely, Peter (June 23, 2019). "Oregon Capitol building closed as precaution amid partisan dispute". Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  36. ^ 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.