The Republic of Texas held one of its regularly scheduled congressional meetings on Feb. 15 at a rented Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Bryan, Texas.
Twenty minutes later, a menagerie of law enforcement agents, including the FBI, raided the building.
“We had no idea what was going on,” Republic of Texas president John Jarnecke told the Houston Chronicle. “We knew of nothing that would warrant such an action.”
As head of the group, Jarnecke leads what he and others consider a sovereign entity. The “Texians” mint their own coins, carry identification cards to prove their standing as representatives of a foreign nation, and send out letters attempting to convince others of their legitimacy, according to The New York Times.
The way they read history, Texas never officially joined the US.
The Republic of Texas caught the law’s attention after sending letters to a judge and a lawyer in Kerrville, Texas, which demanded the two appear in the group’s court the same day as the raid. There, the judge would have to present “proof of his authority” in the pending foreclosure of one of the members’ homes, the Times reported.
“You can’t just let people go around filing false documents to judges trying to make them appear in front of courts that aren’t even real courts,” Kerr County sheriff Rusty Hierholzer, who led the raid on Feb. 15, told the Chronicle.
Although no one was arrested in the raid, authorities detained dozens of the group’s members and supporters. Some were finger-printed, while mobile phones and briefcases were confiscated from others, the Times reported. Fearing extremists in the group could turn violent again, Hierholzer involved other agencies, including the FBI.
In 1997, the Republic’s then-leader Richard L. McLaren and his supporters abducted a Texas couple and held them hostage, leading to a weeklong stand-off with 100 law enforcements agents. The group had reportedly stashed 24 pipe bombs, 10 long rifles with at least 500 rounds of ammunition, and a few pistols. One member was shot and killed.
While today’s group says it has no ties to McLaren, the logic behind the movement remains the same: The US illegally annexed Texas in 1845, and thus, the state is an independent nation.
Texas won Independence from Mexico in 1836 with a victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.
At the time, the Mexican president signed a treaty after which Texas chose to become a constitutional republic and signed international treaties with numerous countries.
After gaining independence, however, Texas had voted in favour of joining the Union. The two governments just couldn’t agree on the terms of a treaty.
Eventually, Congress passed, with only a simple majority, a joint resolution to annex Texas to the US. Technically, ratification then required a two-thirds majority — one of the arguments for Texas’ sovereignty.
“A bunch of people got together in the early 2000s and said, ‘You know what, if the land is still ours, and there’s a perpetual treaty that says we’re still a nation, let’s just be a nation,'” Bob Wilson, a so-called senator of the Republic of Texas, explained in a 30-minute RT documentary.
After that, the group elected a president, a vice president, a secretary of state, and other typical government positions — although many are currently unfilled. Since then, the group has attempted a number of strange maneuvers, like reclaiming portions of Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas. The Republic of Texas’ website currently lists counties in some of those states as under its governance.
Another separatist vein of thinking state that only a treaty, not a joint resolution, can annex a sovereign nation like Texas, at the time.
“Their interpretation is singular and has been explicitly or implicitly rejected by everyone else who has considered the question, including the vast majority of Texans over the years,” H.W. Brands, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin told Business Insider. Advocates of annexation in both Texas and the US also suggested the joint resolution, he notes.
Regardless, Texas is no stranger to separatists. Another group, Texas Secede, wants the Long Star State to exit the Union in favour of creating an independent republic — one that the Republic of Texas believes already exists.
“We in the Republic do not need to secede,”President Jarnecke explained to the Times. “Because we never ceded it to [the US] to start with.”
The raid, however, hasn’t deterred the group’s beliefs. Paul Robert Andrus, one of the detainees, accused the county sheriff of a “trespass upon liberty” and demanded $US3 million in gold, according to the Times.
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