There are a number of important issues I wanted to comment on this week. But, I could not let the following observation go unnoticed because the role of sheriff is too important and the 2022 election is too near, so any areas of possible concern regarding our local sheriffs should not be allowed to slide by without at least bringing it to you for consideration.
Last week, the community watched as Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, who is running for re-election even after admitting he was a former member of the insurrectionist organization the Oath Keepers and stressing he was not ashamed of that relationship, joined with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva who is also running for re-election while not only seeking to turn away from allegations of gangs within his department but also using his power and authority to purportedly intimidate a local reporter for having the audacity to expose an alleged cover-up within his department. Both these sheriffs and candidates joined San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus who is seeking election after being hand-selected for the office and who is also under criticism after the Justice Department agreed to return $1.1 million in “legal” marijuana proceeds seized by San Bernardino deputies to the company they took it from.
So, three men came together for a meet and greet at the taxpayers’ expense. It was disappointing, but not surprising, to find the trio seemed somewhat impervious to how some in the public might perceive the event as a campaign rally and that they were perhaps even more impervious to a III%’s flag on display at the official event—leaving the three of them vulnerable to even more criticism.
Yet, that is exactly what happened at the Chino Airport when these three Southern California sheriffs joined forces for the first ever Tri County Sheriffs’ event last week when someone noticed and recorded what appeared to be a III% flag on display as attendees entered the cavernous airport hangar where the sheriffs spoke. Was the flag merely an unfortunate similarity? Possibly.
The standard Three Percenter’s flag features 13 stars surrounding III, the Roman numerals for three.
“I’m at Chino Airport for the first ever ‘Tri County Sheriffs Forum,’” Vishal P. Singh posted to twitter on April 23. “A iii%ers flag waves at the entrance as Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus, and Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco . . . speak.”
Who are the III%’s
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes the III%’s as an anti-government movement militia group and noting how its members, “believe a small force of armed individuals can overthrow a tyrannical government, and many Three Percenters engage in paramilitary training and organizing to do so.”
SPLC further states, “Their perceptions of tyranny emanate from the radical conspiracy theories and paranoia rooted in the decades-old anti government extremist movement and have repeatedly led to violence against America’s law enforcement, citizens and residents.”
It is not surprising that reports indicate members of anti-government groups, including the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Three Percenters, were charged with conspiracy for allegedly planning their attacks on the US Capitol.
According to SPLC, groups affiliated with this ideology use “III%” or sometimes “3%” in their names. They also show their affiliation with the movement by displaying tattoos, clothing and stickers with Three Percent symbols on them.
One of the COVID-19 strategies boasted by the organization includes this statement by Gene McDole, leader of Union of Three Percenter American Patriots discussing the virus in March 2020. “Do NOT discuss this virus in ANY WAY other than to discuss HARD FACTS about comparing this virus to the common yearly flue [sic] which also has and probably always will kill far more people every year than this ridiculous hoax ever will.”
This certainly was the theme spouted by several sheriffs across Southern California in 2020 including both Bianco and Villanueva.
While there are many disparate groups aligned with the Three Percenters, supporters claim not all are anti government or racists. However, in addition to their alleged role in the January insurrection the Southern Poverty Law Center reminds us that members of some Three Percenter factions associate with extremist racist groups and participated in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
As the 2020 election rapidly approaches we must consider the unmitigated power wielded by county sheriffs and the threats we continue to face against democracy in general. With these thoughts in mind, it is more important than ever that we examine who these men are and how they have conducted themselves as sheriffs while also keeping in mind at least three tried and true adages. First, that people judge you by the company you keep. Second, birds of a feather flock together. And finally, water seeks its own level.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.