One day in late October, one of the organizers of a dreamed-up prepper community called The Citadel took a moment to share part of his vision on the project’s blog.
“Something that I can’t predict, but am hoping for, is a greater level of social interaction,” the organizer, who blogs under the names Vernon and VJ, wrote. “Neighborhood barbeques, musical jam sessions and plays at the amphitheater or the Citadel Society club house, interest groups, clubs, organized and spontaneous activities of all sorts. I enjoy board games, myself, and used to go to a game club every Friday night. We’ll have some great pubs with local brews, walking and bicycle paths, a firing range you don’t have to drive a half hour or more to get to. Maybe a hill with a rope tow for sliding down on inner tubes in the winter time. Militia training will also have a unifying social aspect to it.”
Vernon’s is just one post picked from many, but it’s a good example of the wholesome-until-they’re-extremist ideas behind The Citadel. The project improbably received national notice last week, thanks in large part to The Drudge Report, which prominently linked to a story about The Citadel, with the headline “GROUP TO BUILD ARMED NEIGHBORHOOD FORTRESS” below a close-up photograph of President Obama making Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” face. It was a classic Drudge move, calling attention to the fringe at the height of an intense policy debate — this time, about gun control.
The Drudge-fueled attention apparently overwhelmed the small group of people behind The Citadel. People associated with the project did not give interviews last week. (TPM’s emails to several were not returned.) Members of the media who visited the project’s blog and clicked on the “media” page were encouraged to use information from the blog and the project’s stand-alone website “for any background you may desire.” A spokesperson for the group, it advised, “will be prepared to answer questions in 4-6 weeks.”
Luckily, for those who are curious, The Citadel has existed, until now, mostly online, and its short history can be traced through the blog posts, websites, and comment threads where the idea has been nurtured, changed, and grown over the last several months.
“Imagine living in a community where you know that residing in every single home in the neighborhood are people who think much as do you, respect most of the values as do you, and will not try to force any of their values on you or your children,” another post from October on The Citadel’s blog, this one written by someone with the pseudonym Just a III Guy, reads. “Imagine living in a neighborhood where you know every single neighbor on your street, in your neighborhood, and in the entire town, has qualified Riflemen inside, ready to come to your aid at a moments notice, whether to help you change a tire, fix a problem, or cover your back in a firefight with an Enemy of Liberty.”
The Citadel, as envisioned and advertised by its creators, is to be a walled community of 3,500 to 7,000 “patriotic American families” who are ready for when The Shit Hits The Fan (TSHTF), i.e. the myriad potential society-collapsing disasters, either natural or man made, anticipated by preppers, survivalists, along with other fringe and breakaway strands of -ers and -ists. The Citadel is to be a place for people who want to be “removed and protected from peril in order to preserve ourselves, our posterity, and Liberty in the event of a national economic implosion.” And in whatever time is to be had before grid-down, economic collapse, The Citadel will provide a place to live “a free/freer life in Idaho (or elsewhere in the American Redoubt) amongst the current strong, self-reliant and Liberty-loving residents of the region.”
Artist rendering / Click to enlarge / Credit: iiicitadel.com
According to the project’s blog, The Citadel, if completed, will feature the following: the III Arms Factory, a curtain wall and towers, a main gate, a town green named after the Battle of Lexington leader John Parker, a town hall, a community armory, a firearms museum, a farmers’ market, a medical center, a retirement facility, schools including a boarding school, a library, a tourist visitor center, a town center featuring retail and commercial spaces, houses, canals, a lake, ponds, firearms ranges, an archery range, sports fields, a hotel, a bank (III Bank), churches, a power plant, underground shelters, a post office, a fire house, a stockade/jail, a biomass plant, walking trails, orchards, gardens, parks, an outdoor pavilions, a large amphitheater, something called a “command and control center,” a media center, an airstrip, a helipad, a shuttle system, and a parking center. A bird’s-eye artist’s rendering of the project gives off a strong medieval vibe.
The location currently favored for the construction of The Citadel is Benewah County in northern Idaho. Though the project got rolling only last summer, project organizers claim to have already purchased 20 “mountaintop” acres of land in Idaho, and, if all goes well, they hope to purchase another 2,000 or 3,000, potentially nearby.
The writings associated with The Citadel project offer hints at some of the strands of thought that the organizers are taking up. In choosing Idaho, The Citadel project explicitly borrowed from the ideas of James Wesley, Rawles (yes, Rawles keeps a comma in his name), a survivalist author, religious separatist, and editor of survivalblog.com, who coined the term “American Redoubt” to describe a “conscious retrenchment into safe haven states.” Another idea central to The Citadel project is Rightful Liberty, a concept taken from the writings of Thomas Jefferson: “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” As such, the FAQ section of The Citadel’s website states, the community will have no racial or religious barriers.
Citadel members have also taken care to say they plan to follow all federal and state laws. Organizers hope that The Citadel will become a tourist attraction, and good PR is another big part of the project.
“Are you well versed in how it has come about? How about the requirements to live there? How about the WHY of it all? Can you honestly tell them, without sounding like a wacko?” Teresa Sue Hoke House, a.k.a. Miss Violet, a key Citadel organizer, wrote in a post in November. “It is going to take all of us, being ambassadors of the Citadel, to make sure we project the correct image. I don’t know about you, but, if I were to guess, I’m sure that you’re just like me, in that you don’t really want people whispering behind your back that you’re some militia separatist who wants to set up their own country up in Benewah county.”
However, as Just a III Guy’s above post suggests, not everyone will be welcome at The Citadel.
“Marxists, Socialists, Liberals and Establishment Republicans will likely find that life in our community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles,” the project’s website states.
Per the project’s Patriot Agreement, which every would-be resident of the community must agree with in writing, an armed citizenry and a trained militia will also be important parts of life at The Citadel. All residents over 13 must be proficient with both rifle and pistol, and each household will have to provide one “able-bodied Patriot” for once-a-month militia training and support. (In its branding and literature, The Citadel refers often to the idea of the three percent or “the III,” an allusion to the idea that only three percent of the Colonial population participated in the Revolutionary War, a statistic the Anti-Defamation League has called “not particularly accurate.”) Every “able-bodied Patriot of age” within the Citadel will also be required to maintain one AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, five magazines, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Those who agree to abide by the Patriot Agreement, and want to move to The Citadel, won’t be buying property. Instead, The Citadel will lease property to its residents (the website features a handy Citadel Housing Cost Calculator), with a range of lot sizes and customizable home exteriors available, and the option of living inside or outside the city walls.
“The model will be similar in many ways to that of Disneyland,” reads one section of The Citadel’s FAQ. “It is walled, gated, private property with controlled access. People pay to enter and agree to the rules because they see value in doing so. It is all based on a voluntary agreement between the owners of the property and those who want to come inside. Millions of people visit Disneyland and interact peacefully. It’s exceptionally rare to hear of any serious problems. The key is that those people want to be there and understand what is expected of them. Surprisingly similar to what we are doing.”
Applications are currently being accepted at The Citadel’s website. The application fee is $208, which will be refunded (minus a $33 administrative fee) if an application is not accepted. In early December, the person blogging under the name Just a III Guy claimed that 225 individuals and families had already reserved space.
Finally, there is perhaps the most creative aspects of the endeavor. The project and community will grow around, and be supported by, III Arms, a start-up firearms company founded by Citadel project members to help finance the operation. According to the company, all proceeds from III Arms will go to The Citadel project. The company, which is being run by a West Virginia man named Jim Miller, began taking orders on Nov. 6, 2012 — Election Day — for both AR-15 type rifles and 1911 pistols, both starting at the base price of $1550. (A note on the company website states that delivery timelines are currently subject to “great uncertainty due to the current political climate and parts availability.”) The initial 20 acres bought for the Citadel Project are supposed to be the site of the initial factory location of III Arms, and the company did in fact register with Idaho’s Secretary of State in early August. The Citadel is not only a “Patriot” project. It is also a capitalist one.
So who are the real people behind The Citadel? While many project participants use pseudonyms online, a few individuals can be pointed out.
Miller is the most public face of the project. His LinkedIn page gives his current job as a construction control representative with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Past jobs listed include positions as a facilities engineer at Lockheed Martin and an electrician at the Department of Defense. In an interview with a website called Guerrillamerica, Miller was asked why he was chosen to lead III Arms.
“Why me?” he responded. “They asked if I wanted the spot of gun boss, hand the idea over to me to run with. Who’s going to turn down a chance like that? Seriously? Finding your dream job, being able to help fellow Patriots AND building some quality tools to assist them should we ever need to march to our own Green? Pinch me!”
Another key organizer, who blogs under the name Bonnie Gadsden, is a Californian named Jake Marrujo. Marrujo’s name appears on the paperwork for a company called III Construction, which registered with the Idaho Secretary of State in August. A Jake Marrujo from the same California town as the Marrujo on the III Construction documents is listed on the website of an organization called the Southern California State Militia as one of the militia group’s members.
Finally, and not without some controversy in the survivalist world, there is Christian “Sam” Kerodin. Kerodin has a bit of a back story. In early 2004, Kerodin pleaded guilty to extortion and possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle in a bizarre case in which he was accused of demanding money from mall owners to avoid bad publicity. As the Associated Press reported at the time, Kerodin had portrayed himself as a counterterrorism expert and published several reports in 2003 addressing supposed security issues at malls in the Washington D.C. area. Before publishing the reports, Kerodin approached mall executives, and told them he would not publish negative information about their malls if they hired him to do security assessments.
Kerodin has tried to explain away what happened on one of his websites, but even Miller has acknowledged publicly that his association with The Citadel project could raise problems.
“Mr. Kerodin had the idea and helped get things pointed in the right direction. He’s also stepping away, even from public relations aspects of III Arms… He knows his role is simply to help get things started then walk away,” Miller said in a speech at a small event last fall, which has been posted on YouTube. “He also knows he’s a bit too controversial to be anywhere close to III Arms, except perhaps as a cheerleader on the sidelines. That said, I am the president of III Arms company. Mrs. [Holly] Kerodin will help run the business side because of her qualifications within the business side. I will run the gun side, but it is me running things.”
And in fact, Kerodin’s role has drawn criticism from some bloggers, including Rawles, the American Redoubt coiner, who has warned his readers to “Beware of III Citadel!” One blogger in particular, Mike Vanderboegh, irked Kerodin enough for him to take to his blog during this week.
“Sad Mike Vanderboegh began his political life as a self-identified Communist,” Kerodin wrote. “He’s spent years (decades?) in his life condemning Government while suckling from Entitlement programs, begging for charity and refusing legitimate work. No wonder whenever poor Mikey happens to see Free Enterprise in action he mistakes it for a ‘scam.'”
Kerodin aside, the Citadel’s members have stayed relatively quiet since the sudden attention began. Last Monday Vernon wrote on the project’s blog, calling for calm.
“Breathe,” Vernon exhorted readers new to the project. “Many of you are new to the Citadel Project, and have a million questions. We ask you first read our FAQ’s. Read about us, digest the information, sleep on it. Don’t rush into this, take your time to fully understand what we are about and what it is you want. This is a life changing decision, don’t take it lightly. Take a step back and think for a while. If we don’t answer your questions right away, it’s ok, relax, breathe, we’ll get to it in due time.”
This Monday, Just a III Guy, blogging on behalf of “The Citadel Staff,” offered a little more information.
“The last week found the Citadel swamped with overwhelming support and interest from across America and beyond!” he wrote. “We’ve added many new applicants/reservations, accepted hundreds of email enquiries, and worked very hard to provide as many answers as possible. Even now we still have emails that remain unanswered, but we promise to get to each and every one for you.”
Just a III Guy promised several soon-to-come announcements regarding “corporate officers, near-future plans, and other developments.” And a certain excitement crept through.
“Our sincere thanks to everyone who has shown such outstanding support and patience,” Just a III Guy wrote. “We all look forward to a brilliant and productive 2013… Look for important announcements, soon!”