In 2013, Mike Morris, a Marines veteran and IT manager from Colorado, cofounded a militia group called Three Percent United Patriots (3UP). This armed faction was an offshoot of the larger Three Percenter movement, which sprung up after the election of Barack Obama. The movement's members take their name from the belief that just three percent of American colonists were responsible for overthrowing the British in the Revolutionary War, and that it will take three percent of today's Americans to bring about the "restoration of the Founders' Republic." Today, 3UP is likely the largest militia in the country, with active branches in more than a dozen states. Morris says that membership "exploded" after the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. He boasts that the Colorado branch now has 3,400 members.
After months of training undercover with militias in California, earlier this year I traveled to southern Arizona to join 3UP's Operation Spring Break. At least twice a year, militia members from around the country set up a heavily armed base in the Arizona desert and patrol the US-Mexico border for people entering the country illegally. Morris, also known as Fifty Cal, runs the operations, planning daytime and nighttime missions from his Kodiak trailer in the "forward operating base." When I first met Morris, he only knew me as a low-ranking militia member. I later caught up with him, told him I was a journalist, and asked for an interview.
And this guy is a real piece of work.
Shane Bauer: How did you get involved in the militia movement and patriot movement?
Mike Morris: I got involved in the militia movement back in the late '90s. I was involved in state militias in Colorado and then got involved in a group called the Tyranny Response Team, which I was one of the original members of.
SB: What attracted you to the militia movement?
MM: I was always raised to be patriotic; to believe that protecting the nation is my duty. I went into the Marine Corps straight out of high school and when I got out of the Marines, joining a militia seemed like the way to continue serving my country. In 2013, Mitch Nerem and I formed the Three Percent United Patriots, which has become one of the largest national patriot organizations. We didn't plan for 3UP to be this big national organization. We really started by focusing on Colorado. Colorado is built up now to over 3,400 members. We have trainings every week.
SB: What is the goal of 3UP?
MM: The object for 3UP is to unite patriot groups across the United States and to build a patriot network of shared resources, education, and training. We set out to train people to be able to take care of themselves, protect their families. We are preparing for anything, from bad snowstorms to a blackout. I can tell you what we're not: We're not an organization trying to take over the government. That being said, we do have an interest in trying to preserve what we see as the founding principles of the nation as codified by the Bill of Rights. We're not out looking for some newfound revolution. But we are prepared, should the day come, to defend our nation, defend our neighbors, and defend our way of life. I don't think there's a lot of patriots out there that are looking to run from the fight, but it's not the patriots that are gonna bring the fight.
And this is what I don't get. This is like pretending to be citizen police just in case police can't do the job. It's a cop out, to expect tyranny and be "ready for it" but then saying you're not here to overthrow the government, and he gives away the game a bit further down.
SB: What do you think of the federal government?
MM: The federal government is becoming tyrannical. I think that they have broadly overreached in many aspects. We see it in the Second Amendment, but we see it in the First Amendment too. There's talk about what you can say, when you can say it. Loretta Lynch came out herself and said people who make disparaging comments against Muslims should be charged with hate crimes. We see the federal government getting involved in everything from school lunches to firearms to how you can talk. Twenty years ago we didn't need all these laws and rules. Things seemed to work just fine.
Make America Great Again. And it always comes back to "We don't like the federal government doing things we don't agree with, so we're willing to resort to non-legal and armed methods in order to deal with that."
Just call it what it is, armed insurrection, and be honest about your beliefs.