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Report: Sovereign Citizens, a growing anti-government movement | ADL

Read the full comprehensive report, The Lawless Ones:  The Resurgence of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, 2012 Edition (PDF).

Since 2009, the anti-government extremist "sovereign citizen" movement has experienced a tremendous resurgence, growing in numbers and activity--including violent activity--across the United States.

This resurgence is causing a number of problems:

  • Significant Growth.Although the sovereign citizen's sister movement, the militia movement, has garnered more publicity, the sovereign citizen movement is also growing, is larger than the militia movement, and engages in a much greater amount of criminal activity.
  • Potential for Violence.Sovereign citizen criminal activity includes violent acts, exemplified recently by the brutal murder of two West Memphis police officers at the hands of a father and son pair of sovereign citizens in May 2010. Spontaneous sovereign citizen violence, especially during traffic stops and visits to residences, poses a significant risk to law enforcement officers and public officials.
  • Harassing Liens a Major Problem. More widespread than violence is a set of tactics known as "paper terrorism," in which sovereign citizens use legal filings to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against public officials, law enforcement officers, and others. Most common is the filing of bogus liens on the property of perceived enemies. Though a number of laws were passed in the 1990s to deal with this problem, sovereign citizens remain undeterred and continue to file such harassing liens in large numbers.
  • Exploiting the Mortgage/Foreclosure Crisis.Self-appointed "gurus" in the sovereign citizen movement have actively been exploiting the foreclosure crisis, crisscrossing the country promoting schemes and scams to desperate homeowners, while falsely claiming that such schemes can save people's homes. Other sovereign citizens are even brazenly seizing homes left empty because of foreclosures and claiming the homes for their own.
  • Infecting Prisons.As a result of imprisoned sovereign citizens continuing to recruit and teach their ideology while behind bars, a growing number of federal and state prisoners are becoming sovereign citizens or using the "paper terrorism" tactics of the movement to retaliate against judges, prosecutors and others involved in their case. Prison officials seem to have had little luck in stemming the growth of this movement in prisons.
  • Growing "Moorish" Movement. Though the sovereign citizen movement is still largely white (and contains some white supremacist members), in recent years a growing African-American offshoot of the sovereign citizen movement, often called the "Moorish" movement, has been gaining strength, teaching sovereign citizen ideas and tactics to a new pool of potential recruits.
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Spontaneous sovereign citizen violence, especially during traffic stops and visits to residences, poses a significant risk to law enforcement officers and public officials.

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