April 19: Observed Since 18th Century

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Sometimes called Militia Day by modern militia groups, April 19 marks the Oklahoma City bombing, the federal raid at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the fire at the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas.

But the term Militia Day has its roots in April 19, 1775, when colonial militia fired shots at the British, sparking the Revolutionary War. It is known as Patriots Day and it is a legal holiday in Maine and Massachusetts commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord.

The militia movement, once relatively quiet, came to the forefront with the arrest in April 1995 of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh, clad in a T-shirt sympathetic to the movement.

McVeigh was never linked directly to militia movements, but embraced many of the beliefs, especially anti-government sentiment.

Active Patriot Groups
The Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project identified 435 "Patriot" groups that were active in 1998. Of these groups, 171 were militias. Below is a list of the number of Patriot Groups the SPLC has found in each state:

Alabama: 10
Alaska: 2
Arizona: 12
Arkansas: 6
California: 47
Colorado: 8
Connecticut: 1
Delaware: 1
Washington, D.C.: 1
Florida: 18
Georgia: 10
Hawaii: 3
Idaho: 10
Illinois: 11
Indiana: 10
Iowa: 1
Kansas: 6
Kentucky: 6
Louisiana: 4
Maine: 5
Maryland: 2
Massachusetts: 1
Michigan: 49
Minnesota: 8
Mississippi: 5
Missouri: 10
Montana: 5
Nebraska: 1
Nevada: 2
New Hampshire: 2
New Jersey: 3
New Mexico: 11
New York: 6
North Carolina: 8
North Dakota: 2
Ohio: 22
Oklahoma: 5
Oregon: 9
Pennsylvania: 7
Rhode Island: 1
South Carolina: 14
South Dakota: 1
Tennessee: 17
Texas: 52
Utah: 3
Vermont: 1
Virginia: 4
Washington: 6
West Virginia: 1
Wisconsin: 5
Wyoming: 1
With the approach of the fifth anniversary of the bombing and the dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, law enforcement officials say they expect no trouble, but cast a wary eye toward militia, patriot and anti-government styled groups.

“The 19th is important to people foa variety of reasons,” says David Cid, assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism for the FBI's Oklahoma City field office. “On significant dates like this, we often do special things that are security-related and we make the law enforcement community aware of them.”

Annual warnings are issued by Justice Department security officials to raise the level of security awareness. The FBI sends a similar alert to federal, state and local law enforcement around the country each year at this time.

Cid says the FBI will be putting its resources in a “forward leaning posture” for the dedication of the memorial and for the Anti-Terrorism Symposium going on that week.

While most of the militia and patriot groups are law-abiding, there is concern about the more radical fringe of the groups. “What you find when you look at groups calling themselves militia is the entire spectrum from legitimate political advocacy to almost irrational behavior,” says Cid.

Capt. Billy Pratt, chief of the criminal intelligence unit of the Oklahoma City Police Department, says the department is concerned about the possibility of activity on April 19.

“We've been keeping our ears to the ground, so to speak,” says Pratt. “We have not found any of what we'd consider serious threats at this time ... which actually surprises me.”

Ross Hullett, leader of the Oklahoma Citizens Militia, based in rural McIntosh County, says Patriots won't be at the dedication of the national memorial on April 19.

“If anybody comes up there to harass Bill Clinton and the others, it certainly won't be the Patriots,” says Hullett.

Hullett says the Patriots will be in Waco on April 19, dedicating a new church.

Hullett says members of his group are Christians who would not hurt anybody. But he says they will defend encroachment against their Constitutional freedoms.

“We're not going to have any more Wacos,” says Hullett.

The Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala., group that tracks militia and other anti-government groups, estimated the number of patriot groups at 435 in 1998, with 171 designated as militias. Five of those are listed in Oklahoma.


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