Deltona City Commissioner Loren King on Florida Oath Keeper List

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DELTONA – An elected city commissioner has said he is no longer a member of the Oath Keepers – a group called “anti-government extremists” by the Anti-Defamation League.

Loren King, who has served as the City of Deltona’s commissioner since 2018, confirmed on Monday that he was a member of the Oath Keepers for “maybe two years at most.” He estimated he joined about four years ago.

“I’m a veteran (of the navy). I think we should be prepared for anything that could happen… whether it’s a natural disaster, whether it’s taking care of ourselves or taking care of ourselves. defend ourselves from the outside or from the inside, ”King said. . “I think it’s important to be prepared for this stuff so I joined.”

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King’s name was among more than 130 people in Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns counties on a hacked Oath Keepers list that was provided to the Daytona Beach News-Journal and USA TODAY Network by the whistleblower group Distributed Denial of Secrets .

The data includes the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of nearly 40,000 Oath Keepers members across the United States, including approximately 2,700 members in Florida.

A search of this list revealed more than 200 people who identified themselves as active or retired law enforcement officers when they signed up. Last week, USA TODAY confirmed that 21 of them were still in service, while 23 others have retired since joining the Oath Keepers.

Names on the list for Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns counties include a former law enforcement officer, a Vietnam veteran, a retired financial administrator, a Cadillac salesman, a mechanic and a truck driver. Many were reluctant to speak about their involvement with the Oath Keepers, and some of those who answered questions in the News-Journal requested that their names not be used.

King is the only local elected official who has so far been identified as an Oath Keeper by The News-Journal.

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What are oath keepers?

Founded in 2009, the year Barack Obama became President, Oath Keepers invoice itself as a group of current and former military, police, fire and emergency medics and their supporters who have taken an oath to defend the Constitution against “orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches or to detain Americans as “enemy combatants” ‘in violation of their old right to a jury trial. “

Oath Keepers participated in the 2014 armed clash between Nevada breeder Cliven Bundy and the United States Bureau of Land Management. They also stood guard during the Ferguson, Missouri, protests in 2014 and 2015 following the police murder of black teenager Michael Brown, and participated in other similar confrontations, as documented by Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Armed Oath Keepers provided “vigilant-style ‘security’ for local communities and businesses during the Black Lives Matter protests that spilled over in the wake of the murder of black man George Floyd in 2020, and put in guard against a possible takeover by the ‘Marxist left’ in the 2020 elections “, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Southern Poverty Law Center states, “The entire Oath Keepers organization is based on a baseless set of conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy American freedoms.

Members of the Oath Keepers were also charged in connection with the planning and attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, backed false claims that President Joe Biden was “not duly elected” during an appearance. on Infowars’ Alex Jones show in January.

“I think we now have to declare (the election) illegitimate and refuse to comply with anything that comes out of his mouth, anything he signs, anything that is passed as so-called legislation. . The fathers did it, ”Rhodes said.

Alex Friedfeld, investigative researcher for the ADL, said the national chaperone of Oath Keepers is in trouble, with at least 21 members being indicted in the Jan.6 attack and 18 of them facing conspiracy charges.

“There are still a lot of legal reviews on Stewart Rhodes,” Friedfeld said. “But if you listen to him talk, it’s clear he wasn’t intimidated. He always talks about revolution.… And while the national chapter of Oath Keepers struggles, there are always local chapters.… They are still active and they are pursuing their own agenda. ”

The king refuses the request, resigns

King, the 71-year-old Deltona District 1 commissioner, is a retired senior line specialist from Florida Power & Light. He served in the Navy from 1970 to 1977, as a member of the Underwater Demolition / SEAL Team. His training included small arms and explosive demolition, scuba diving, airborne jumping, survivalism and guerrilla warfare.

He is a professor of Bible studies at the Baptist Church in Deltona Lakes. His pastor, Volusia County Councilor Fred Lowry, donated to King’s campaign.

King has made no secret of his involvement in Oath Keepers; he listed it in his biography on the City of Deltona website, along with some of his other activities: the Christian Motorcyclists Association, the Republican Club of Deltona, and the National Rifle Association.

He told the News-Journal that the Oath Keepers organization he was a part of did not look like anti-government right-wing extremists.

“The people I know locally who have something to do with preparedness are law-abiding citizens who want to do one thing: make sure people are safe in their communities, whether it’s against a natural disaster, an invasion something like that, ”King said.

“No one I know is there to do anything illegal,” he said. “We’re not here to overthrow the government, or anything like that.”

He said he didn’t know anything about the Oath Keepers’ involvement in the Jan.6 Capitol breach, which followed a rally in which outgoing President Donald Trump said: “If you don’t fight like a heck, you won’t have a country anymore. “

King said, “I don’t even want to go into that because I don’t know who was there and who wasn’t. I don’t know anyone who was there and so I won’t comment on what’s going on with the people I don’t know anything about. “

King said his decision to leave the Oath Keepers followed a request that he and other Florida Oath Keepers “mount a shotgun” and secure the trucks delivering supplies for the hurricane.

“They were asked to do certain things during hurricane season several years ago and myself and many, many, many, many other Oath Keepers in Florida pulled out and didn’t pay dues and haven’t been in that group since then, ”he said. noted.

“We had supplies that were being transported across the state to go down to somewhere in Miami and Oath Keepers wanted us to put shotguns on all those trucks that were going down there. And we said no, we weren’t going. do it because it’s already been taken care of by our governor, who… because the governor has already declared a disaster, ”King said.“ Once you have a disaster, it’s already out of our control . We would be interfering with our local government because once it declared a disaster, it would be our National Guard that would take care of all of this if necessary, and so we said we weren’t going to do it. ”

The News-Journal contacted two other area residents who are on the Oath Keepers list, but both declined to comment for the record if their names were used.

Preparation or political extremism?

ADL’s Friedfeld says former Oath Keepers like King can’t just be off the hook by saying they thought it was a preparation organization.

By the time King joined King, the Oath Keepers were widely recognized for their role in the Bundy Ranch standoff and other activities, Friedfeld said.

“What’s important to remember is what these members were preparing for,” he said. “Yes, there are natural causes, but a lot of it is prepared for a showdown with the government.… You can’t separate the prepper side of the Oath Keepers from the political side.”

Deana Rohlinger, research director at Florida State University Institute on Politics, said political extremism has always existed, but the election of Donald Trump in 2016 provided extremist groups “an invitation to be in the mainstream.” .

Rohlinger, who is also a professor of sociology and associate dean, said social media algorithms are designed to feed people with content that keeps people engaged “whether or not it is useful to our democratic process”, in order to maximize the benefits. profits.

“One of the interesting things about (Oath Keepers) is that they are a militia army, but very constitutionalist, shrouded in all kinds of American ideals like freedom and individual rights,” she said. declared. “They can become those generic terms under which more extreme ideas can take refuge.”

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