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Leaked anti-government militia membership list includes Illinois mayor, law enforcement officials

Oath Keepers Extremist Group
Paul Sancya/AP
FILE - A man wearing an Oath Keepers shirt stands outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, Nov. 19, 2021 in Kenosha, Wis. A new report says that the names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that's accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists to find more than 370 people it believes are currently working in law enforcement agencies. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Nearly 900 Illinoisans have signed up at one time or another with the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia group. That includes elected officials, law enforcement, and other first responders.

That's according to the Anti-Defamation League's analysis of Oath Keepers membership list data leaked in September 2021. The anti-hate organization identified 883 people in Illinois who have signed up with the group — including 21 members of law enforcement, 10 first responders, two military service members, and three elected officials.

The elected officials identified include Lewistown Mayor Doug Lafary, a former lieutenant with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office. Lafary didn't respond to numerous inquires made by a WCBU reporter.

In a video uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 15, Lafary states he didn't respond to any media organizations because he doesn't "work for them," but he did offer a response to citizens.

"I was introduced to Oath Keepers at a political event, and signed up to receive information to learn more about them. On its face, it seemed to fit my values," he said.

In the video, Lafary then recites his public service record and the oath of office, and criticizes the media for using "division-based scare tactics."

A northeastern Illinois sheriff, and a northern Illinois county board member who touted his military and law enforcement training also are included on the list. Both of those officials are Republicans.

Not all of the people cited on the Oath Keepers membership list are current members. Many of those listed may have signed up years ago, before the group gained its current notoriety. It's unclear what current membership status Lafary holds.

"The main thing that differentiates the Oath Keepers from most other groups and the militia movement, is that the avowed goal of the Oath Keepers is to recruit from and propagandize to current or former military, first responders or police officers," said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the ADL Center on Extremism. "And those three groups, obviously, are very sensitive groups in positions of great responsibility."

Pitcavage said the Oath Keepers believe infiltrating law enforcement and the military both protects them from repercussions and gets them closer to their goals.

"Over the years, they've been involved with a variety of activities from protests or counter protests to members who have been involved with criminal or violent activities," he said. "Most notoriously, and relatively recently, quite a few Oath Keepers were arrested, and a number of them charged with sedition or other serious crimes with regards to leading roles in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 last year."

Pitcavage said the Oath Keepers' involvement in Jan. 6 is a good illustration of the wider threats posed to democracy in the United States.

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Updated: September 21, 2022 at 4:23 PM CDT
This story was updated following WCBU's receipt of a video with Lewistown mayor Doug Lafary's comments on the Oath Keepers.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.