- Category: World News
- Published Friday, December 11, 2015
- CTV News
DALLAS -- They are known as "Three Percenters," followers of a movement that has rallied against gun control efforts nationwide, patrolled the U.S.
Followers describe themselves as armed "patriots." But some of their leaders have been blamed for threats and vandalism against lawmakers, police and Muslims. One prominent member from Phoenix prompted an FBI alert in November after posting an expletive-filled Facebook video saying he was headed to New York state with guns to challenge a Muslim group.
In suburban Dallas, a protest at a mosque by armed, masked men, led by a Three Per cent member, highlighted tension with the Muslim community. It plans a similar protest Saturday.
"We will interfere with every move they (Muslims) make towards taking over our country," Dallas protest organizer David Wright said in response to questions The Associated Press sent to his Facebook page. "We are ready to fight back if they come at us violently."
Wright hasn't advertised the "Three Percenters" name in his activities, but he claimed membership in comments on Facebook and told the AP he was a leader in a Texas chapter.
The Three Percenters movement began in 2008, galvanized by President Barack Obama's election, followers and researchers say. The name comes from the disputed percentage of colonials who armed themselves and fought the British during the American Revolution.
The number of Three Percenters is unclear partly because anyone can ascribe to the movement. The man credited as the founder has claimed 3 million on his blog. One national Three Percenters' Facebook group has about 12,000 members.
Followers appear to consist mainly of white, male, conservative gun owners who believe that some in the government aim to disarm them, strip their constitutional rights and take their property, according to groups that track anti-government movements.
The Three Percenters' founder, a former militia member named Michael B. "Mike" Vanderboegh, stresses what he calls "armed civil disobedience."
Vanderboegh, 63, a one-time nurse's aide who lives in Alabama, looks like an elderly professor. He blends references to God and fist-banging disdain for "predatory government."
A 2009 Anti-Defamation League report called Rage Grows in America featured Vanderboegh and the Three Percenters as a growing "anti-government" movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled him an extremist.
Wright borrowed from Vanderboegh's tactics last month, posting the names and home addresses of Muslim residents and other "Muslim sympathizers" who spoke against a city of Irving resolution they called discriminatory. Vanderboegh once shared similar information on Connecticut state senators who supported gun control measures after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 26, mostly children.
Some Three Percenters, such as Kaleb Hill, say they don't share Vanderboegh's "extreme ideology."
"We are more concerned about exposing corruption and preserving the Constitution and our God-given freedoms," said Hill, who runs a Three Percenter group and Facebook pages from Mississippi.
In response to AP questions, Vanderboegh did not specifically address characterizations of him as an extremist. He said, generally speaking, that not "all folks claiming to be 'Three Percenters' are."
Little is known about Wright's past. He has posted pictures of himself armed and talks tough about jihadists on Facebook. In July, Wright wrote: "We should be setting traps for them and exterminating them."
Wright's group promises a "peaceful" event Saturday, Richardson police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Perlich said. The group staged a demonstration there in October with less than 10 people.
"We have never hurt anyone," Wright said. "We are careful to work within the law at all times as we prepare to defend our homes and communities from any offensive forces."