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What is the Oath Keepers group?

A Maumee police sergeant's name appears on a leaked membership list for the far-right anti-government group accused of helping organize the Jan. 6 insurrection.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Editor's note: The video above originally aired with a related story on July 12.

Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 by Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, of Nevada.

Rhodes and like-minded supporters organized the group because they said they feared "imminent tyranny" in the form of federal authorities. Organizers said they believed the government had become a threat to its own citizens.

The group's name comes from the oath that elected leaders take to "support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." The group's foundational idea is that members must obey the U.S. Constitution as they interpret it, regardless of whether that interpretation is in line with law or court orders.

RELATED: Maumee police sergeant appears on Oath Keepers membership list

The FBI defines the Oath Keepers as a "large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights."

Rhodes increased the Oath Keepers' membership by recruiting current and former military members, police officers and other first responders, in particular. The group has said it recruits these members because of their expertise and training.

By 2014, the group claimed to have 35,000 dues-paying members organized in local units across the country. Experts, however, have doubted that number and said it was unlikely membership was that high.

The group became particularly animated after the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

Jan. 6 insurrection

Along with the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers played a role in organizing the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Authorities allege that the group planned their activities ahead of the events and coordinated with other far-right groups that day. 

Oath Keepers who went to the Capitol that day wore camouflaged combat attire and helmets. They joined large crowds of rioters who stormed past police barriers and smashed windows, injuring dozens of officers and sending lawmakers running.

Court documents show that Oath Keepers formed two teams, or “stacks,” a military term. The first stack split up inside the building to separately go after the House and Senate. The second stack confronted officers inside the Capitol Rotunda.

Seditious conspiracy charges

In January, 2022, Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers members and supporters were charged by federal authorities with charged with seditious conspiracy for their part in the Jan. 2, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol.

The first stage of jury selection for the Oath Keepers’ trial was scheduled to begin next week in Washington, D.C., with a jury questionnaire for an unusually large panel of 150 potential jurors. Opening arguments in the case were scheduled to begin Sept. 27.

On Wednesday, a federal judge denied Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes’ request to fire his legal team and delay the trial.


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