Saddle Up: Firebrand Sheriff Standing By His Call For ‘Pitchforks And Torches’

Ricky Bassman

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke “meant it” when he shared a photo of an angry mob on Twitter with a caption reading “pitchforks and torches time.”

Firing back Monday at the “Leftist Big Media” for drawing attention to his tweet, which many social media users and journalists said could be interpreted as inciting violence, Clarke sent another tweet saying he would not allow his detractors to “intimidate and harass” him into dropping the inflammatory phrase.

In a blog post on Patheos and an interview on Fox News, Clarke insisted he was speaking rhetorically and not calling for an actual armed takeover of the U.S. government.

“I’m suggesting the same thing the Founding Fathers did in the 1770s, when they drew up the Declaration of Independence,” the Milwaukee County sheriff and Donald Trump supporter said on “Fox and Friends." “Go back and read your Declaration of Independence. It's right there. Were they inciting violence? No, what they wanted was self-rule, they wanted a government controlled by the people and not the bureaucrats in Washington.”

Though Clarke tried to make the case that his call to arms was comparable to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) referring to his tidal wave of support in the primaries as a progressive “revolution,” the goals of his “pitchforks and torches” campaign are quite distinct.

“It’s time to run those corrupt politicians out of Washington DC and back to whatever crevices they crawled from,” Clarke wrote in his Patheos blog post defending the tweets. “It’s time to put Mrs. Bill Clinton behind bars, where she belongs. And it’s time that the DOJ learns what the “J” stands for in their name.”

Clarke's Twitter feed is full of posts calling on the American people to "rise up" and claiming that the U.S. justice system "ceased to be legitimate" with its investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.

These comments echo Trump’s own calls to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton and his ominous warnings that the presidential election will be rigged if he loses.

Though Clarke lashed out at the “weepy” media for interpreting a photo of a screaming mob bearing torches as a call to violence, his comments come amid a series of deeply unsettling incidents.

Three militia members were arrested in Kansas on Friday for plotting to bomb a apartment complex home to Somali immigrants the day after the election, and authorities said a local North Carolina Republican party office was firebombed on Sunday.

Numerous Trump supporters interviewed at campaign events also have vowed to monitor the polls on Nov. 8, and some have even threatened to "take out” Clinton if she is elected to the White House. A growing number of political observers are concerned that the Republican nominee might not accept the election results, and that Trump’s claims that the Democratic nominee should be “locked up” will delegitimize a potential Clinton administration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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