- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2019

A private association is putting out a call for volunteers, armed or unarmed, to provide outdoor security for Trump supporters traveling to the president’s campaign rally Friday night in Tupelo, Mississippi.

The group “Oath Keepers,” which calls itself nonpartisan, said in a notice on its website that it needs help “keeping the rally attendees safe” after a recent Trump rally in Minneapolis at which some of the president’s supporters were harassed and assaulted on their way to and from the arena.

“We generally use both armed and unarmed volunteers in our security operations, so if you have a CCW [carrying a concealed weapon permit] valid in Mississippi, that may be very useful,” the group’s statement says. “If you don’t, please volunteer anyway since we will also have a role for unarmed volunteers.”

Local and state law enforcement agencies, and the Secret Service, coordinate in providing heavy security at presidential campaign rallies.

Oath Keepers said it is not affiliated with the Trump campaign but has protected rally-goers at three other Trump events this year in New Mexico, Minneapolis and Dallas. The association has former police and ex-military personnel among its membership, and says it’s needed to protect citizens from street violence by antifa and other leftist groups.

“Leftists have a right to protest, but they don’t have a right to shut down the free speech and assembly of other people,” the Oath Keepers’ website states. “Nor do they have a right to assault people because they don’t like their politics. And yet that is the obvious, well-established pattern of behavior at nearly every Trump event, especially in major cities. We have a duty to protect our fellow Americans against such terrorism (and that’s exactly what it is), and we will. No American, of whatever political party, should have to worry about being violently assaulted as they attend a public political rally by thugs intent on suppressing their free speech and assembly.”

A Trump campaign official said the campaign isn’t affiliated with Oath Keepers in any way.

“They are acting on their own without our coordination or oversight,” the campaign official said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Elmer Stewart Rhodes, “a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group that improbably claims more than 30,000 law enforcement officers, soldiers and military veterans as members.”

Oath Keepers said it communicates and coordinates with local and federal law enforcement agencies at events to “so we do not get in their way while still doing our critical work of protecting rally attendees as they go to and from the venue.”

“This will be an independent volunteer security operation, not formally associated with either the Trump campaign or with any law enforcement agency, but our Oath Keepers police officers will closely liaison with all relevant [law enforcement officials] so they know who we are, why we are there, where we will be, who our leaders are and how to contact them,” the group said. “We have done this dozens of times as we have protected people from Antifa violence all over the nation, from Inauguration Day in DC, on.”

The association said it also works closely “with other awesome patriot or biker groups” such as Bikers for Trump and Sons of Liberty Riders.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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