Armed & Dangerous: North Carolina

North Carolina’s militia movement has been fueled by an alarmist vision of a U.S. government bent on the destruction of American liberties.

A Monroe-based group called Citizens for the Reinstatement of Constitutional Government has coalesced around Albert Esposito. He denies that he is preaching revolution, but his rhetoric includes clear overtones of preparation for battle with the imagined enemy. He urges the group to amass caches of the “Four B’s”: Bibles, bullets, beans and bandages. Many members own semiautomatic weapons, including AR-15’s and AK-47s.

The group’s program is a mixture of anti-government, religious and conspiratorial ideas. It aims to “make the Holy Bible and the United States Constitution the law of the land.” and it vows to “resist the coming New World Order (one world government).” To accomplish its goals, it promises to “Remove treasonous politicians and corrupt judges from positions of authority, and return authority to the people.” (Precisely how these malefactors are to be removed from office is not slated.)

Citizens for the Reinstatement of Constitutional Government meets twice a month, alternating between Monroe, in Union County, and Matthews, in neighboring Mecklenburg County. At one meeting, Esposito, a 43-year-old contractor, reportedly repeated G. Gordon Liddy’s alleged statement about the new crime law’s assault weapons ban: “He said. If they pass it, don’t obey it. And if they come after you, meet force with force.”

The group has distributed application forms for the “National Free and Sovereign Civilian Militia, North Carolina state Division.” The forms ask applicants whether they are proficient in the operation of handguns and rifles. “reloading ammo,” and a variety of survivalist skills.

Esposito has espoused his views on guns at Union County commissioners’ meetings. He also railed against federal encroachment in announcing his support for a nonbinding resolution passed by the commission in support of school prayer. Holding a copy of the Constitution in the air, he declared: “We control the county. Not Washington.”

Consistent with such anti-federal government views, Esposito says he has refused to file federal income tax returns for three years running because he regards the tax as unconstitutional.

The group he leads split off from a tax-protest group in Charlotte called the Carolina Patriots, three of whose leaders were convicted in October 1994 of conspiracy to help people avoid their tax obligations. Esposito’s group has attempted to distance itself from the Carolina Patriots.

In addition to their views on guns and taxes, members of the Monroe group have expressed ideas and conspiracy theories that are characteristic of some other militias around the country. These include charges that the Federal Reserve system has enriched a tiny elite (the group’s literature advocates the abolition of the Federal Reserve), and that some government employees have been implanted with computer chips in order to monitor the citizenry. Another claim made at one of the group’s meetings, that the government cannot require private citizens to obtain a driver’s license, echoes the stand of an earlier extremist group, the Posse Comitatus.

A separate North Carolina militia group has been formed in Greenville, in the eastern part of the state. Led by Scott Brown, the unit is part of the Idaho-based United States Militia Association. Brown reportedly has said his group worries that government representatives “don’t really understand what the Constitution means and stands for, and they’re voting away our unalienable rights.” It is not known whether the Greenville unit is engaging in any more incendiary rhetoric or activity. But this fear — which is apparently spreading and growing — that the government is a threat to the rights of the people, is a central theme that militia groups are feverishly trying to exploit.

A computer bulletin board in Alamance County, called “The Spirit of ’76.” has served as an area recruiting point for the militia led by Linda Thompson, the Indianapolis woman who is a leading figure in the militia movement nationwide. Another bulletin board system that made Thompson’s computerized materials available has referred individuals interested in joining the militia to The Spirit of ’76. For its part, The Spirit of ’76 has declared itself off limits to police and other government authorities by posting a warning that states: “This BBS [bulletin board system] is a PRIVATE system. Only private citizens who are NOT involved in government or law enforcement activities are authorized to use it.”