Twitter has banned the armed right-wing group Oath Keepers and its founder Stewart Rhodes for violating the website’s policy on violent extremist groups.
Rhodes recently used the Oath Keepers Twitter account to announce that “Civil war is here, right now” and “The first shot has been fired” after a right-wing demonstrator was killed during a clash in Portland. (The man suspected of shooting the demonstrator was himself killed by law enforcement a few days later.)
The group, which first made waves during the 2014 unrest in Ferguson, Missouri for their armed patrols from rooftops, claims thousands of members, many with law enforcement or military backgrounds.
Last year, Rhodes got a tour of the site of a GoFundMe-powered, privately constructed border wall outside of El Paso, Texas. The leadership of the project, We Build The Wall, now faces federal charges for conspiracy to commit fraud. A few months prior, Rhodes and other Oath Keepers claimed to have gotten access to the VIP section at a Trump rally in El Paso.
While Oath Keepers have long predicted various kind of civil unrest or armed conflict — and used the claims as recruiting tools — the recent declaration that a civil war had in fact begun was new territory, Sam Jackson, an assistant professor at the University of Albany and author of a new book about the group, told TPM.
“They’ve identified the start of a civil war over and over again,” Jackson said. “What’s different now is they’re pointing to a particular act of violence from the people that they’ve identified as the other side — the enemy combatants in the civil war.”
A request for comment to the group was not immediately returned Thursday. But last month Rhodes called the removal of Oath Keepers groups from Facebook “an ideological and political purge.”
“Oath Keepers does not engage in unlawful activities or advocate or incite violence. Quite the contrary,” he wrote. “We stand for law and order under the Constitution and defend people against unlawful violence. And that’s exactly why we are being purged.”