Republican lawmakers in Oregon have reportedly fled the state to protest a proposed climate bill ― and just as law enforcement received a green light to pursue and retrieve them, a paramilitary group has vowed to step in and block officers from intervening.
Members of the Three Percenters ― a group sometimes styled as “III%” that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as part of a pro-gun, anti-government extremist movement with chapters all over the country ― wrote on Facebook Thursday they would do “whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe.”
Their announcement came just hours after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) authorized state troopers to pursue the missing GOP lawmakers, who walked out of the Capitol on Thursday, denying Democrats the necessary quorum to vote on an expansive greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill.
If taken to a vote, the bill is all but guaranteed to pass through the Democratic-majority state Senate.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building,” Brown said in a statement. “They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
The Three Percenters, whose name references the discredited claim that only 3% of colonial Americans fought against the British, describe themselves as armed defenders of constitutional rights. They often show up wherever the far right gathers to rally, especially when they can come with guns.
During the month-long occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016, which led to a standoff with the federal government, they stood alongside other heavily armed right-wingers, according to the Guardian. Nationally, they’ve acted as self-appointed armed guards at various rallies, including the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where they were armed with semi-automatic rifles and tactical gear.
As the Three Percenters promised to bring their guns and do “whatever it takes” to defend the senators, one lawmaker didn’t mince words. Sen. Brian Boquist (R) indicated that he would use deadly force to resist law enforcement efforts to return him to the Capitol.
“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
None of the Republican state senators immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment. It is unclear whether they have accepted the Three Percenters’ help.
Nearly all of the senators are now hiding in Idaho, the Three Percenters claim, where another state chapter of the group has promised its support. The Idaho chapter praised Boquist’s warning and posted a number of threatening memes on Facebook, including one that labeled Brown a fascist and compared her to the Nazi party.
“This is what the start of a civil war looks like,” the group wrote of the situation.