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"Republic of Texas" resurfaces

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  • Greg Cannon
    In Small Town, the Fight Continues for Texas Sovereignty Michael Stravato for The New York Times The Republic of Texas settled in Overton in 2003 after
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 13, 2005
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      In Small Town, the Fight Continues for Texas
      Sovereignty

      Michael Stravato for The New York Times

      The Republic of Texas settled in Overton in 2003 after
      acquiring an old hospital to serve as a capitol.

      By SIMON ROMERO

      Published: February 13, 2005

      Michael Stravato for The New York Times

      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 nightfall."

      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 it.

      "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
      officials.

      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 slavery.

      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 Texas."
    • Ram Lau
      I m all for the secession of Texas from the Union. No readmission allowed this time. Ram
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 13, 2005
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        I'm all for the secession of Texas from the Union. No readmission
        allowed this time.

        Ram
      • greg
        I ve been discussing that topic with friends of mine here in Texas, and we agree that if that happened we hope our town, El Paso, would secede from Texas and
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 15, 2005
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          I've been discussing that topic with friends of mine here in Texas,
          and we agree that if that happened we hope our town, El Paso, would
          secede from Texas and join either New Mexico or Chihuahua.
          --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, "Ram Lau" <ramlau@y...> wrote:
          >
          > I'm all for the secession of Texas from the Union. No readmission
          > allowed this time.
          >
          > Ram
        • Ram Lau
          Sounds like a plan. But is it possible for a city to secede from a state? Ram
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 15, 2005
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            Sounds like a plan. But is it possible for a city to secede from a state?

            Ram
          • greg
            I don t really know. In the unlikely event that Texas secedes, I think all the rules would be up in the air. If it happened though, I would likely lobby my
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 16, 2005
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              I don't really know. In the unlikely event that Texas secedes, I think
              all the rules would be up in the air. If it happened though, I would
              likely lobby my local officials to have El Paso secede from Texas. I'm
              often not fond of what the U.S. federal government does, but I fear
              what we might Texans might dream up if left to our own devices.

              And of course those Republic of Texas people aren't just imagining an
              independent Texas with the borders Texas has today. They want to
              include parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and I forgot what else.
              --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, "Ram Lau" <ramlau@y...> wrote:
              >
              > Sounds like a plan. But is it possible for a city to secede from a
              state?
              >
              > Ram
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