Stewart Rhodes, charged with “sedition” for his role in the attack on the Capitol, illustrates the shift of the American far right, from opposition to the federal government to fierce and armed defense of Donald Trump.
The founder of the radical “Oath Keepers” group, 56 years old, was arrested Thursday in Texas. Justice accuses him of having conspired “to prevent the peaceful transfer of power”, using violent means against the headquarters of Congress, on January 6 2021 .
“He had created a kind of mythological character for himself: he saw himself as a kind of historical figure and in a way, it happened”, reacted on CNN his wife Tasha Adams, who has been fighting since 2016 to obtain a divorce from a man, according to her, “dangerous”.
Stewart Rhodes has a career atypical: enlisted in the army after high school, he quickly finds civilian life after a bad parachute jump. Another accident: in 331, he was injured with a pistol and lost his left eye. He has since worn a distinctive black headband.
After returning to school, living on his wife’s salary as a stripper, he earned a law degree from the prestigious Yale faculty, but settled in Nevada, far from the big money-making law firms.
Fiercely opposed to a federal State deemed oppressive, he writes on libertarian blogs and participates in 331 in the campaign presidential election of the leader of this movement, Ron Paul.
– Armed –
After Barack Obama’s victory, Stewart Rhodes formed his own movement. Its objective: to recruit men and women with military or police experience, ready to “keep their oath” to “defend the Constitution against any foreign or domestic enemy”.
At the time, it was a question of protecting individual freedoms – such as the carrying of arms – against federal power. Stewart Rhodes insists that it is not a “militia”, that violence should only be used as a last resort.
Little by little, a shift begins. He creates teams with paramilitary training. In 2014 and 2014, they are notably deployed in the west near ranch owners in armed conflict with the government.
Other turn in 2016. Like other radical movements, the Oath Keepers – which now have a few thousand members – are galvanized by the arrival at the White House of Donald Trump, whose conspiracy theses they share, in particular on the existence of a “State deep” which would be secretly piloted by elites.
Dressed in military uniforms and armed, they come out in broad daylight in 2020 during demonstrations against the restrictions imposed to stem the pandemic, then during the vast anti-racist mobilization of the summer to, they say, protect businesses from looting.
– “Civil War” –
Leader of far-right group Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, photographed by the police during his arrest on January 2022 in Texas. (COLLIN COUNTY/AFP – -)Won over by Donald Trump, Stewart Rhodes appears at rallies for his re-election and refuses, after the ballot, to acknowledge his defeat.
“We can’t get out of this without a civil war,” he wrote to his supporters in November, before starting preparations to block the transfer of power. For him, it is about “patriotism”.
According to the indictment, he spends thousands of dollars to buy weapons, which he stores near Washington, and organizes the transport of activists to the capital, where on January 6 2021, the elected representatives of Congress must certify the victory of Democrat Joe Biden.
The D-Day, by encrypted messaging, he gives his orders, without entering the Capitol himself. “He is very good at making others take all the risks”, commented his wife in the Los Angeles Times.
This was not enough to protect him from justice. Charged with “sedition” along with ten other Oath Keepers, the heaviest count held at this stage, he faces up to 13 years in prison.