Suspected shooter Travis Reinking, nearly naked, wearing only a jacket and brandishing an assault rifle, charged a Waffle House in Southeastern Nashville on April 22 that left four dead and a number of injured victims – all were minorities: three African Americans and a Latino were among the deceased. Reinking is white.
During post-shooting interviews with friends, family and former co-workers, each said Reinking displayed the bizarre behavior of one suffering from mental illness. It was also discovered he had brandished a high powered assault weapon on a previous occasion.
During an interview with a close friend and former co-worker of Reinking, John Turley, said “Reinking also called himself a “sovereign citizen”. That was not the only time Reinking made such a claim.
The “sovereign citizen” extremist movement has been defined by the FBI: “Sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or “sovereign” from the United States. As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.”
The FBI considers sovereign-citizen extremists as comprising a domestic terrorist movement.
In the name of ideology the terrorist organization has committed crimes that are known to the FBI – committing murder and physical assault is one that the FBI says “puts them squarely” on their radar.
According to Conspiracy Theories in American History, An Encyclopedia by Peter Knight, Editor, the group’s ideology comes from the movement’s origins in the white-extremist group Posse Comitatus organization a loosely organized, far-right social movement starting in the late 1960s, whose members spread a conspiracy-minded, anti-government and anti-Semitic message in the name of white Christians to counter what they believe is an attack on their social and political rights.
A link to racism in the shootings has not yet been clearly proven, albeit, the ideology of a ‘sovereign citizen’ is closely tied to “so-called 14th Amendment citizens” who have the belief they are “organic citizens”. That facilitates their belief “that black people, who only became legal citizens when the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War, have far fewer rights than whites”, as noted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that tracks hate groups, in their Intelligence Report.
Such a concept within the framework of the sovereign citizen terrorist movement makes African Americans subjects of the government.
The SPLC noted “On July 7, 2017, Reinking appeared outside the White House and demanded to see President Trump, telling officers that he was a “sovereign citizen” and had the right to inspect the White House grounds, according to an arrest report from the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.”
SPLC continues: “Sovereign citizens do not recognize the authority of police and other law enforcement officers, often displaying fake driver’s licenses and license plates to police officers during traffic stops, occasionally ending in deadly shootouts.”
Such was the case in 2010 when Jerry and Joe Kane in West Memphis, Ark. killed two police officers during a traffic stop. The officers were killed with an AK-47 assault rifle; both Kanes’ claimed to be sovereign citizens.
The Guardian wrote in 2017, “Although the Trump administration is reportedly planning to restructure the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program to focus exclusively on radical Islam, a 2014 national survey of 175 law enforcement agencies ranked sovereign citizens, not Islamic terrorists, as the most pressing terrorist threat.”
The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin in 2011 predicated, “The sovereign-citizen threat likely will grow as the nationwide movement is fueled by the Internet.”
Such terrorist movements along with the rise of hate groups have been emboldened by an administration that propagates hate, publicly character-assassinates the country’s leading law enforcement agency, attempts to run roughshod on human rights, verbally assaults sitting judges, and has not been forthcoming on tax records; an administration with the behavior of habitual disregard for the rule of law.
by Layla Laville & Hajjah Anisa