According to the Idaho Spokesman-Review, two members of the so-called "sovereign citizen" movement provoked a little SWAT incident August 8. The cause? Dodgy-looking plates.
So says the Los Angeles Times:
the "sovereign citizen" movement, a group that has attracted little national media attention but which the FBI classifies as an "extremist antigovernment group." So-called sovereign citizens argue that they are not subject to local, state or federal laws, and some refuse to recognize the authority of courts or police.
Since 2000, members of the movement have killed six police officers, and clashes with law enforcement are on the rise, according to the FBI. The deadliest incident came in 2010, when a shootout with a member left four people dead, including two police officers, during what began as a routine traffic stop in West Memphis, Ark.
The two men in Idaho consented to be pulled over for cops who thought that their plates looked invalid. They did not, however, consent to exit their truck even after "surrendering." Considering that truck was also covered in stickers that specified "noncommercial private vehicle" and "no trespassing," authorities assumed that the men were sovereign citizens and were therefore most likely armed. A two-hour standoff resulted, with the two men eventually being cut out of their seat belts.
Sovereign citizens are, according to the FBI, an extremist group. According to the the Anti-Defamation League they consist of "anti-government ideology, with some white supremacist elements." According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, they do "favor paper over guns" but they are conspiratorial and irrationally anti-government. All of this might very well be true, though all three of the aforementioned organizations are knee-deep in vested interests in portraying all anti-government types as nutty and dangerous.
Certainly they have some nonsensical views on secrets of how the government works, which go frustratingly often with anti-government spirits that a libertarian could dig. And as Brian Doherty described in December, it was a family of so-called sovereigns back in June 2011 who were the recipients of the first use of a drone to capture a suspect done by domestic law enforcement. Doherty also noted the existence of these folk in March 2009 when an accused drunk driver argued in court that he was a sovereign citizen and therefore the law did not apply to him.
Apparently many sovereigns, even if they have a reputation for clashing with cops, do recognize sheriffs as the "highest authority" so the SWAT team sent to deal with the Idaho men included one. He noted, "They were, thank goodness, nonviolent and it ended very well."
I know nothing about these mens' views, but it seems like they're not the feared picture of sovereigns who use exactly this sort of banal traffic stop to murder cops. So, when they're this non-violent it's awfully hard to disapprove of total non-compliance with police over a charge like wonky license plants. Maybe we could all learn a thing or two, if not go full conspiracy wacko, from these sovereign citizens. And their idea to choke bureaucracy to death on its own paperwork is a compelling one.