In October 2008 — in the midst of the financial crisis, and as it appeared increasingly likely that Barack Obama would be elected president — a man with a balaclava over his face, dressed in combat fatigues and holding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, posted a video on YouTube. Using the alias Pale Horse and describing himself as a member of the Ohio Militia, the man warned: “Things are bad. Things are real bad, and it’s going to be a lot worse—our country is in peril,” before encouraging viewers to arm themselves. The video, billed as a “wake-up call” for America, was viewed more than 70,000 times before being removed last spring.
Today, Kristopher Sickles — aka “Pale Horse” — was one of the nine people charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with an alleged plot to kill law enforcement officers, and to “oppose by force the authority of the U.S. government,” as part of a Christian militia group known as the Hutaree, based primarily in Michigan.
The Hutaree see law enforcement as their enemy, and have been preparing to engage them in conflict, according to the indictment. The group also believes that they must prepare to battle the anti-Christ.
But Pale Horse already had made a name for himself in broader militia circles, and among those who monitor such groups. His October 2008 YouTube video was followed by one in April 2009, in which he called for a “peaceful” demonstration of at least one million armed militia men marching on Washington. “No shooting, no one gets hurt. Just a demonstration,” said Pale Horse. “The only difference from any typical demonstration is we will all be armed.”
Pale Horse’s alleged involvement with the Hutaree may point to an overlap between the Christian militia group and the broader militia movement — though it’s not clear how closely tied Sickles’s “Ohio Militia” was to the larger movement.* That broader movement appears since yesterday to have been trying to distance itself from the Hutaree, telling reporters that at least one Michigan Militia member, of Islamic descent, has been working with the Feds as they target the Hutaree.
It also is significant because both the timing and the script of the Pale Horse videos — “our country is in peril,” for instance, and the call for the march on Washington — suggest that Sickles may be motivated less by an “End Times” theology or a fear of the anti-Christ than by more immediate and political concerns.
Users of militia websites already have expressed alarm about Pale Horse’s arrest. Early on Sunday morning — before news reports had appeared — a commenter on one such site informed his fellow users that Pale Horse had been arrested, writing: “I’m sure some of you know pale horse from his now famous youtube videos, I just found out that he and some other people from the Ohio Militia have been arrested, anyone else heard of this, supposed to have taken place in sandusky and huron.”
But that posting was followed a few hours later by one from another user, attempting to draw a clear line between the Hutaree and the militia movement by declaring the latter “NOT a Constitutional based militia but rather a biblical based militant group”:
It’s not the Michigan Militia. Please convey to the fools that are propagating this dis-information that it is the Hutaree, an extreme right Christian group that has been targeted and members from Ohio………along with some people affiliated with the Hutaree. I can tell you that the Michigan Militia Corp Wolverines, SMVM, WMVM, WCMVM and any other affiliated units of ours have NOT been targeted and we have no knowledge of any Michigan Militia member being arrested. The Hutaree is NOT the Michigan Militia and they are NOT a Constitutional based militia but rather a biblical based militant group.
At the very least though, Sickles’s alleged involvement with the Hutaree suggests the two groups aren’t quite so easy to separate.
* This sentence has been edited from an earlier version.