MISSOULA — A group bound by the Second Amendment, patriotism and pride in “American exceptionalism” is looking to purchase several thousand acres of land in northern Idaho or western Montana to establish a gated community of like-minded residents.
According to the project description, The Citadel would house between 3,500 and 7,000 patriotic American families who believe in emergency preparedness, and who can show efficiency with the “American icon of liberty – the Rifle.”
Advertisements on the group’s website urge visitors to “Get an AR ... before it’s too late,” referring to the controversial AR-15 assault rifle.
The group says it’s looking to break ground on its community this year. It’s eyeing Benewah County, Idaho, outside of Coeur d’Alene, though it said Montana could be considered as well.
“While every effort and intention is to build in Benewah County, the Citadel Project reserves the right to select a final location with similar terrain in other Idaho counties or, if necessary, in Montana, Wyoming or elsewhere in the American Redoubt,” the website says.
The group describes itself as a nonprofit, liberty-driven group that believes in Thomas Jefferson’s Rightful Liberty. Marxists, socialists, liberals and establishment Republicans need not apply, the group says, as they would find life in the community “incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles.”
The group’s blog says its spokesman, who isn’t identified, is not yet willing to give interviews, and media requests were referred back to the group’s website, iiicitadel.com.
The Southern Poverty Law Center dismissed The Citidel concept as an “idle fantasy,” while the Montana Human Rights Network plans to keep tabs on the group’s progress.
“Their talking points fit into the general anti-government survivalist movement,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director Human Rights Network. “They’re more explicit on their requirements for guns than some groups have been in the past.”
Carroll Rivas said her group has seen greater political engagement over the past four years by groups on the far right, including those interested in the survivalist concept.
Frustrated by the outcome of recent elections, however, they’ve begun to withdraw from the political process due to a sense of defeat. The process follows trends in recent history, including that in the 1990s, which saw the rise of groups in Montana like the Freemen during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
“When you don’t get what you want, you pull away, and it’s not surprising that some people would go this route,” Carroll Rivas said. “History has shown there’s an interest in our region.”
To win residency to The Citadel, applicants would have to agree to a list of conditions, such as following the U.S. Constitution, and being able to shoot a man-sized steel target at various distances with a handgun and rifle.
Members must keep an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle handy, along with at least five magazines, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and other supplies. Stocking provisions for one year is also required.
“The responsibility for maintaining functional arms and ammunition levels for every member of the household shall fall to the head of household,” the application form reads. “Every able-bodied Patriot will be responsible for maintaining a Tactical Go Bag or Muster Kit to satisfy the Minuteman concept.”
The group says it won’t have a leader. There will be no home ownership fees, no “recycling police” and no ordinance enforcers from city hall. Homes would be poured of concrete, the website says, to achieve maximum strength.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he doubts the group is any bigger than one or two individuals looking to win a following. He called it nothing more than an idle fantasy.
“We don’t know who’s behind it, but the claim that there are several hundred people involved is patently ludicrous,” Potok said. “We’re likely talking about a man, a dog and his computer envisioning this whole imaginary city. We don’t take it that seriously.”
Carroll Rivas said the Human Rights Network and similar organizations across the region will continue to track The Citadel’s progress toward realizing its goals.
“They’re definitely new players, but we tend to see a lot of repeats,” Carroll Rivas said. “That western Montana region that borders Idaho has had some overlap with the anti-government survivalist groups.”