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gnPhoto Credit: News Now Patrick via YouTube

YouTubers Wearing MAGA Hats, Carrying Guns Spur Terrorism Experts to Issue Warnings

There’s a growing group of activists across the country calling themselves the First Amendment auditor movement. So far, it has involved individuals filming themselves going government buildings and posting footage of their confrontations with the people working there.

They say their goal is to hold public employees accountable for respecting constitutional rights. Terrorism experts, however, worry that the movement is rapidly becoming a vehicle for so-called sovereign citizens to provoke law enforcement into confrontations — confrontations which have the potential to become violent.

While on the surface, the First Amendment auditors movement sounds like it may be a new tactic being employed by civil rights activists, the actual interactions send a rather different message.

Patrick Roth is an emerging star among the movement, having established a name for himself through his YouTube channel News Now Patrick. He has hundreds of videos of his various “audits” in states including Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, with the most popular video having been viewed 1 million times. In some cases, he is accompanied by other popular “auditors,” including Tim Harper and James Freeman.

Some have accused these “auditors” of being affiliated with the right-wing sovereign citizen movement — which gained national attention after both the Bundy ranch standoff in 2014 and the takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016 — considered a serious domestic terrorism threat by the FBI.

Some, like Roth, are adamant that the First Amendment auditing movement has no connection to sovereign citizen groups.

Harper and Freeman, however, are known for their participation in sovereign citizen activities. In many cases, both men openly carry firearms during their “audits” while wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats.

Roth insists he and other “auditors’” “intent is never to scare anybody,” insisting that he is “not radical” and “not crazy.” Accounts from those he and other “auditors” have encountered paint a different picture.

In many videos of these so-called “audits,” public workers are aggressively confronted and called out by name while the “auditors” refuse to identify themselves. In some cases, “auditors” stream live and call on their followers to harass the institution and its workers by making phone calls or taking to social media.

Experts have expressed concern that it is only a matter of time before “auditors” successfully provoke a violent confrontation — either by overstepping their constitutional rights or encouraging followers of the movement to participate in more dangerous behavior.

Ironically, for a movement supposedly trying to expose civil rights violations, they may very well be encouraging greater restrictions on the rights they purport to champion, be it the ability to film law enforcement or to open carry firearms in a courthouse.

However, civil rights advocacy is just a prop for these people — they are a manifestation of an increasingly frustrated group of white men who see threats and aggression against their “traditional values” which kept them firmly at the top of society’s power chain. Groups like sovereign citizens and these First Amendment auditors are an expression of frustration over these changes. These “audits” are them flexing their muscles and trying to prove to themselves and others like them that, at least for now, they still are on top.

Not convinced? Try, if you can, to imagine if there was a similar group consisting of black men or Muslim, turban-wearing men, doing what Roth and Harper are doing. They wouldn’t, knowing full well that they wouldn’t be walking away unscathed.

Originally published at Care2.com on Jan. 21, 2019.

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