[Paleopsych] NYT: Overton Journal: In Small Town, the Fight Continues for Texas Sovereignty

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Tue Mar 29 20:47:35 UTC 2005

The New York Times > National > Overton Journal: In Small Town,
the Fight Continues for Texas Sovereignty


    OVERTON, Tex. - The road to the capitol winds through a landscape of
    pine trees, rusting pump jacks and a few tidy churches in this East
    Texas town. Literature in the lobby describes how citizens can apply
    for passports or enlist in the interim defense forces.

    The building is the headquarters of the Republic of Texas, a sometimes
    militant organization whose members repudiate the authority of Austin
    and Washington and believe Texas should be a sovereign nation. The
    group gained notoriety eight years ago when some members took a couple
    hostage in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, and endured a weeklong
    siege by more than 100 police officers, after which a follower who
    fled into the mountains was killed. The leader of the faction involved
    in the standoff is still in prison.

    But after several years of infighting and the expulsion of renegade
    splinter cells, the group has resurfaced here in Overton under a new
    leader, Daniel Miller. Mr. Miller, recently interviewed in Houston,
    said he wanted to distance the organization from its violent past and
    from its image as a white-supremacy movement. He said his new platform
    advocates Texas sovereignty without the use of guns or explosives.

    "We are not extremists," said Mr. Miller, 31, dressed in a tailored
    suit and cowboy boots. "We simply believe we were illegally occupied
    by the United States in the 1800's."

    When he is not handling republic affairs, Mr. Miller helps operate a
    business that sells touch-screen ordering equipment for restaurants.

    Some people in this town of 2,100 are concerned about the group. Among
    them is Edward J. Williams, Overton's chief of police. In an interview
    in his office, he described an incident in late January at the
    capitol, which was once a hospital.

    A member of the group, Scott William Taylor of Dallas, said in a
    statement to Chief Williams that he had given another member, Dale
    Strictland of Overton, about $1,000 to buy an AR-15 semiautomatic
    rifle. A melee erupted after Mr. Strictland failed to deliver the
    weapon, Chief Williams said, with at least one man suffering severe
    injuries to his head after being hit with a beer bottle.

    "I normally wouldn't be alarmed by a few boys getting into a
    fisticuffs thing," Chief Williams said. "But this is a group with a
    violent past in parts of Texas. However ludicrous their beliefs might
    sound to you and me, we can't forget that Jim Jones got a bunch of
    folks to drink Kool-Aid with him down in Guyana. You could shave one
    side of your head and have a loyal following around here by

    Yet Overton does not appear to be a fertile recruiting center even for
    a kinder, gentler Republic of Texas. Residents seem to have accepted
    the organization's presence, but only a few openly voice support for

    "No one really approves of them," said Diana Sieber, who owns a hair
    salon down the street from the capitol. "They're not the best kind of
    publicity for our community."

    Brenda Tompkins, a waitress at Granny's restaurant, said, "One of them
    came in here and gave me one of their silver coins with a star on it,"
    referring to the alternative currency the group has minted. "They're
    low-profile mostly."

    The organization re-established itself here in 2003 with the
    acquisition of the building that would become the capitol, the first
    time the group has had an official base. Chief Williams said that
    since then, there have been a number of confrontations with local

    He said his officers have fined or issued arrest warrants for group
    members. Violations included carrying Republic of Texas passports
    instead of a driver's license; driving unregistered vehicles; and
    redesigning license plates to show a Texas that includes significant
    chunks of territory in New Mexico and narrow strips of land in
    Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming. Group members say those areas are part
    of Texas, wrongly wrested away by Washington.

    Republic of Texas members have responded, the chief said, by marching
    into the local district attorney's office and threatening to fire him,
    and claiming in lengthy letters to county officials that jurisdiction
    over such matters lies with their own government, which includes a
    president, Mr. Miller; cabinet secretaries; and militia-style
    sheriffs, deputies and rangers.

    Much of the group's ideology is associated with nostalgia for the nine
    years when Texas was an independent country after seceding from Mexico
    in 1836. The blue Burnet flag from that time, with a large gold star
    in its center, flies over the capitol.

    Group members believe that Texas's referendum in 1845 in favor of
    joining the United States was illegal, as were the settlements of land
    claims that Texas then had against neighboring Mexican and American
    territories in the West. They also advocate the creation of an
    alternative monetary system using minted silver and gold coins. One
    coin made of one gram of silver has a large Texas star in its center
    and the word "Overton" emblazoned around it.

    The organization's beliefs are spelled out in the book "Texans Arise,"
    written by Mr. Miller and Lauren Savage, the vice president.

    "We believe independence is an achievable goal," Mr. Miller said in
    the interview.

    Mr. Miller was vague about how to accomplish this, but he said that
    establishing a parallel government and performing government functions
    like issuing passports were essential.

    "People feel disenfranchised," he said. "In Overton we've found a
    quiet area to forward our views."

    Mr. Miller acknowledged that the group was still almost entirely
    Anglo, although he said he was encouraging factions to look for a
    broader range of members. He also said he was discouraging activities
    like armed patrols of the Mexican border to limit immigration. And he
    said his administration, unlike some splinter cells, did not base its
    political philosophy on Old Testament beliefs, did not oppose women's
    suffrage and did not support a return to a legal system permitting

    But some who know the group's history in Texas are not convinced that
    the group's changes are more than superficial.

    "It only behooves some extremist groups to attempt to appeal to a
    broader audience in order to recruit new members," said Dena Marks,
    associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's office in Houston,
    which tracks the Republic of Texas and other militia-style groups in
    the state. "The core beliefs of Republic of Texas, which include
    establishing Texas as a sovereign entity, have not changed."

    Mr. Miller said the republic has thousands of so-called citizens, but
    declined to give a specific number.

    The headquarters here, its walls covered with maps of Greater Texas
    and oil paintings of 19th-century battle scenes, is mostly quiet
    during the week. On weekends, members from throughout Texas flow into
    the building for meetings. Nathan Harvey, a caretaker at the
    headquarters who is not a member, said he remained skeptical about the
    ideas put forward by group members, but that by meeting them, he had
    at least gained a better understanding of the Alamo siege of 1836.

    "I always thought it was a battle for American independence," Mr.
    Harvey said. "Now I understand it was a battle for the independence of

More information about the paleopsych mailing list