On Tuesday, the Department of House and Urban Development issued a warning to its employees and contractors concerning scams and confrontations with anti-government “sovereign citizens” who are reportedly illegally occupying federal housing.
The District Sentinel wrote:
“The alert, which came from HUD’s Office of Inspector General, alleged that sovereign citizens are increasingly taking advantage of state laws that aim to redistribute department-owned properties.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and HUD OIG have noticed a resurgence of sovereign citizen fraud in HUD programs,” the IG said, stating that over the last four years, HUD has tallied 20 prosecutions and convictions related to sovereign citizens scams, recovering more than $17 million.”
Essentially, the report claims that “sovereign citizens” are illegally deeding themselves HUD real estate, installing alarms, and locking out the authorities. The report goes on to state that individuals might be involved in subsidized Section 8 housing programs and foreclosure rescue schemes.
The report states that “unlike other ‘squatters,’ sovereign citizens may retaliate if you confront them.” The report also warns employees that engaging in verbal arguments “could spiral into a violent confrontation.”
One issue with these types of reports is that this “movement” of so-called “Sovereign Citizens” is not a movement at all, but rather a loose group of individuals who have similar but often conflicting beliefs.
The bulletin gives this description of “Sovereign Citizens”:
[quote_box_center]”Sovereign citizen groups are loose associations of antigovernment extremists who do not recognize the Federal Government. They believe they are separate or sovereign from the United States and are exempt from Federal, State, and local laws and tax systems. They believe the county sheriff is the supreme law enforcement officer in the land and county clerks or registrars are the only legitimate elected officials. They subscribe to a belief in “common law” and their right to arrest or sue employees of the “illegitimate government.” They are known for filing nuisance lawsuits or liens against individuals who try to stop their schemes, which have involved in lender, credit card, tax, and loan frauds. They make their own driver’s licenses and license plates and sometimes attempt to form their own parallel institutions of government. Sovereign citizen encounters with law enforcement and government personnel frequently become confrontational and sometimes turn violent.”[/quote_box_center]
The FBI’s bulletin, “Sovereign Citizens: An Introduction for Law Enforcement”, elaborates upon the description:
“Sovereign citizens believe the USG (U.S. government) is illegitimate and has drifted away from the true intent of the Constitution. As a result, the USG is not perceived to be acting in the interest of the American people. These groups generally do not adhere to federal, state, or local laws.
They believe the US Federal Reverse System, the Treasury Department, and banking systems are illegitimate.”
According to the bulletin, many users of this website might be considered a “sovereign citizen” for believing that the Federal Reserve is illegitimate or for refusing to support the federal government. However, the FBI bulletin does note “these activities may also be indicative of lawful, innocent conduct”, including rights protected by the United States Constitution, and thus “these indicators should be considered in the context of other suspicious behavior and the totality of the circumstances in which they are observed or reported.”
Still, even with that caveat there is a dangerous trend for the U.S. government to demonize legal behavior while tying it to extremist viewpoints, such as those who identify as “sovereigns” or “Freemen” and choose to commit violence. Of course, this comparison completely ignores the millions of liberty lovers who believe similar ideas, yet never speak of violence.
The HUD bulletin goes on to offer indicators of a possible “sovereign citizen”. These include:
- names spelled in all capital letters
- Personal seals, stamps, or thumb prints in red ink
- references to the Bible, and the Constitution of the United States
Also, included in the bulletin is an example of a fraudulent claim filed by a so-called “sovereign citizen” which highlights the use of silver dollars.
Similar to the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) report and other Department of Homeland Security documents, this latest bulletin may have many Americans asking why constitutionally protected behavior and thought is being targeted.
The report includes images of flags that are claimed to be associated with “sovereign citizens” including a “Title 4 Flag”, and the flag known as the “Gadsden flag” which is often associated with the American Revolution. However, this Gadsden flag has a ribbon above it that reads “The New Minute Men”.
A quick search for the Title 4 Flag does indeed lead to a website which professes the rhetoric discussed by the government, but there are no obvious calls for violence. A search for “the new minute men gadsden flag” leads to this website where a man claims ownership of the flag. He described the flag as one “that I created by combining the best attributes of the Culpeper and the Gadsden Flags.” The Culpeper Minutemen are well known for fighting in the American Revolution.
Once again, a search of the website does not reveal any calls for violence or even a mention of “sovereign citizens”. The site is apparently owned by a retired firefighter who will likely be surprised to find that his flag is included in a government warning about extremist violence.
UPDATE: TruthInMedia spoke with the creator of the “New Minute Men Gadsden” flag, Charles Manetta, a 62 year old retired firefighter and 9/11 first responder.
Manetta says, “This flag was made on my computer and was just to see if I could do it. It was creative art and nothing more. I am 100% behind our government and I love The United States. I would never take up arms against our Military or our Police. I love and have the utmost respect for all of them. In fact, three of my children are US Marines and have a few good friends that are Police Officers and they have all seen this image and see no threat from my creation.”
These type of reports are part of a dangerous trend where the U.S. government discourages, or even criminalizes legally protected behavior. While this new bulletin from the HUD may be of some value, it also creates a state of paranoia where police and government agents are constantly on the lookout for individuals who dare express their concerns with, or outright opposition to, government.