ADL, SPLC, Track Sovereign Citizen Movement, Call it “Paper Terrorism”

WEST MEMPHIS, AR (WMC-TV) – “Paper terrorism” is a term used by the FBI, Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League to describe the use of fraudulent legal documents, frivolous lawsuits and the misuse of legitimate legal documents.  

Investigators say paper terrorism tactics are popular with anti-government groups like the Sovereign Citizens.

Investigators say West Memphis Police Officer Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans did not know what they were dealing with when they pulled over two Sovereign Citizens in May 2010.

Police dash cam video shows Jerry Kane handing the officers a bogus driver’s license.

“You can see the officers looking at these documents and trying to understand what they are saying,” said Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a research group that studies extremist organizations in the U.S.

Followers of the Sovereign Citizens don’t have legitimate government papers because they are anti-government and don’t believe government exists.

Researchers with the SPLC say Sovereign Citizens often fight back when their papers are tested by the law.

The May 2010 traffic stop involving Officers Paudert and Evans turned violent.

Both officers were shot dead by Kane’s son Joe.

“The reason we look at them is because of violence and specifically violence directed at police authorities,” said Potok.

Memphian Kerwin Lockett, who likes to quote the Bible, carries a sovereign license and has a sovereign plate on his car.

He says he does not condone violence.

“Some people are tired of being merchandised, ok? And every time you turn around, you make 5 dollars and they want 10. And with you becoming sovereign you are actually connecting yourself back to the spirit of God,” said Lockett.

Lockett described a recent traffic stop in West Memphis, where an officer pulled him over for a light that was out.   

“He looked at me and said well you know you have to have a license. I said ‘no sir’, that’s a privilege, I’m operating in my rights, my God given rights, ” said Lockett.

George Gordon of Isabella, Missouri teaches courses on “God-given rights”.

“We teach the law of Moses, the 10 Commandments, the Common Law that came from Moses,” said Gordon.  “I live without a bank account, I don’t have a social security card. I’m 70 years old and I don’t draw Social security.”

Gordon operates a law school in Isabella.

He says he is not a Sovereign Citizen, but the Anti Defamation League’s website lists him as a prominent individual in the organization.

Researchers with the ADL and SPLC say prisons are a big recruiting ground for the Sovereign Citizens movement, with inmates using paper terrorism tactics to retaliate against judges, prosecutors, even prison guards.

Investigators say the paper terrorism tactics used by more than 300,000 people in the U.S. typically do not result in violence, but the SPLC has joined other law enforcement agencies to warn officers things can turn dangerous.

“We have seen that kind of spark. It could happen at any moment, ” said Potok.

The Southern Poverty Law Center produced new police training videos to make sure cops know who they’re dealing with, in the rare case paper terrorism turns to real terrorism.


To read about the Anti-Defamation League’s research into the Sovereign Citizens movement and “Paper Terrorism,” click here.

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