PHOENIX — Extremism is on the rise in America. As we have reported, Arizona is one of the top states in the country when it comes to seeking out disinformation, conspiracy theorists, and extremist violence.
One of the most prominent far-right groups is the Oath Keepers.
Oath Keepers "are a large but loosely organized collection of anti‐government extremists" that is anti-government and "explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military members, police officers and firefighters," according to the ADL.
The FBI recently arrested three Oath Keepers for their role in the January 6 Capitol riots. According to the indictment, the three defendants communicated for months about "logistics, including lodging options, coordinating calls to discuss the plan, and joining forces with other Oath Keeper chapters."
Arizona has a visible Oath Keeper presence. Members were seen wearing patches outside the state capitol on January 6. They also counter-protested a Black Lives Matter protest in Prescott in September.
Jim Arroyo was at that event and runs the Oath Keepers of Yavapai County. He has hours of lectures on the Prescott eNews' YouTube page. A lot of time is spent on prepping.
"You are going to need food, water, medical supplies, and ammunition...for at least 60-90 days," says Arroyo on one video titled 'The Coming Civil War? Part 2.'
Stockpiling food or gear, though, does not concern extremism experts. The rationale behind it does.
"There’s nothing that makes walking around looking like a failed Seal Team Six commando illegal. Nothing wrong with that," said Micah Clark, who studies online extremism with tech company Moonshot CVE.
Federal law enforcement and experts say the threat of the Oath Keepers comes from their anti-government conspiracies, armed presence at rallies, and belief that they are the last line of defense.
"You are creating an environment in which dangerous things can start happening, and people can get carried away," said Clark. "Law enforcement is presented with some pretty difficult choices. We saw that at the Capitol... massively overwhelmed and under-equipped law-enforcement going against guys who at least spent enough time buying things on Amazon to look like they know what they are doing."
Arroyo spends many minutes talking about a central Oath Keepers theme, "a complete collapse - at this point law enforcement has collapsed or stood down."
Even though he lives in rural, very red Yavapai County, Arroyo is obsessed with Antifa and the perceived, exaggerated threat they pose.
"You don’t want to be out there slugging it out with Antifa, because you’re going to get stabbed, shot, run over by a vehicle," he says in one video.
"Antifa likes to throw Molotov cocktails and set things on fire - including themselves," he alleges in another.
"They are threatening to come in and kill families, burn houses down, kill your pets. All of this is documented," he says, fear-mongering with zero evidence to back-up the absurd claims.
In a series of videos from late November, Arroyo talks repeatedly about Civil War and even World War III involving China. He mentions an Arizona lawmaker as holding similar, militia-like views.
"We had Congressman Paul Gosar come to a meeting, he is the elected representative here in Northern Arizona," says Arroyo. "And we asked him, flat out - Do you think we are headed towards a Civil War? And he said, 'We are in a Civil War, we just haven’t started shooting yet'... So that is about to change."
Arroyo says in the videos that his group is stockpiling guns and try to get ammo. He also claims they are branching out and recruiting in Maricopa County.
Retired Mesa PD detective Matt Browning says the military or law enforcement training that is so frequently discussed in Oath Keepers meet-ups should not be for everyone.
"They pass it along to people who haven’t been vetted, who haven’t been checked for convictions... and they pass along that training and expertise that they have in firearms, entry tactics, building searches," said Browning, who spent years focused on extremism.
The group likes to appear friendly with law enforcement, but already the Army Special Ops school is banning any association with the 'extremist' group.
"Law-enforcement needs to police this group," said Browning. "Because it’s their own people."
ABC15 reached out to Representative Gosar for comment asking if he knowingly attended the Oath Keepers meeting, if he reciprocates their support, and if he still believes we are in a Civil War. We will update this story if we hear back.