In a sea of establishment Republican types, I have to admit I was shocked to see libertarian activist Adam Kokesh at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Kokesh was released from prison on November 6th, after putting a video online of himself loading a shotgun in D.C.’s Freedom Plaza. D.C. gun laws are some of the strictest in the U.S.–just being in the District with a loaded firearm, even if it is legally registered, is a violation of the law. On July 9, not even a week after producing and uploading his video, Kokesh’s home was raided by a SWAT team. He spent over 120 days in jail with no bond, no bail, and no trial. 57 of those days were spent in solitary confinement.
Now Kokesh has his freedom back… Temporarily, at least. Earlier this year, he received a 20 month suspended sentence plus two years of subsequent probation. He was also banned from Washington, D.C.
Kokesh, who is surprisingly kind and gracious for a guy who’s spent 57 days in solitary confinement, sat down with me at CPAC and filled me in on his situation.
Honestly, your’re one of the last people I would expect to see at CPAC. What made you want to come here?
Well there are certainly a lot of people here who represent the establishment. And I don’t just mean the American Conservative Union that is behind this event. But also the politicians, the special interest representatives, and the various Super PAC people. But I bet the ACU would tell you that this is the grass roots. There are people here who have the exact same ideological perspective that I do. I mean, anarcho-capitalism; pure libertarianism.
I know there are a lot of conservatives who are fans of my gun activism. And there are a lot of liberals who are fans of my prohibition activism. I think it’s great that people can be fans of someone’s specific work and not necessarily judge them as a whole. I love that. I love my fans who disagree with me–they’re the best ones. They say, “I’m not on board, I don’t get your philosophy, but I love your work.” I support people who are doing things who aren’t in my ideology.
There seem to be a lot of libertarians here. Have lots of fans been approaching you?
I mean, if I stand in the main entrance, I have people coming up to me saying “hi” and telling me that they love my work.
It’s kind of funny. CPAC is going to have to give me a speaking slot next year if I have more fans than some of the guys who are currently on the speaking schedule. It’s a fun environment because there are a lot of people who are passionate about what they believe in here. Sure, there are plenty of bad ideas but most of the people here are activists or they’re really eager to learn. And I think that’s great.
So how’s life been since you were released from jail? What are you up to these days?
When I got out of jail, I had to really lay low and be careful not to give the prosecutor any excuse to say, “He hasn’t learned his lesson! So you need to send him back to jail, because we need to correct him!”
I’m finishing a book that I started writing in jail, it’s coming along really well. We sent a draft of it to people internationally to make sure it’s square with their experiences in other governments. It’s global in scope. I’ve also been working on rebuilding my organization and getting my live show set back up. I definitely learned my lesson–before going to jail, I hired a lot of people I shouldn’t have who stole from me while I was locked up. All of my legal defense funds were stolen and my entire operation was sabotaged. When I came out, I didn’t come home to a mess–I was homeless because I had been evicted while I was in jail. The one thing they didn’t do with the stolen money was pay the rent. They were trying to keep me in jail so they could keep living off my business. And that’s really sick and disturbing. When you’re in jail you feel kind of helpless in a lot of ways. My communications were limited, so it was hard to find out from other people what was going on.
Are you going to continue doing activist stunts and protests, or are you more hesitant now?
This has not slowed me down. I’m absolutely going forward with activism. The thing that it has limited for the next two years is civil disobedience, given the suspended sentence that I received. So if I get arrested for something else right now, I could go straight back to jail for another 16 months in D.C. It’s kind of ironic: if they bring me back to D.C., then I’m allowed there.
If you could go back in time, would you make that infamous video again?
I think so. I can say that I should have been better prepared. I don’t like to look back and say, “Would I or would I have not?” I can say that I’ve made some mistakes as an activist. But then again, there’s no such thing as perfect activism.