Sheriffs Helped Lead This Insurrection

Sheriffs play a key role in right-wing white suprema­cist movements.
By JESSICA PISHKO JAN 15, 20212:40 P

On Jan. 6, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb made a promise. Delivering a speech in Phoenix dur­ing the ongo­ing mob attack on the nation’s Capitol, Lamb accused for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hillary Clinton of unnamed crimes and repeat­ed President Donald Trump’s false claims about elec­tion fraud. “Now I’m lim­it­ed to what I can do as the sher­iff, but if you live in Pinal County, I assure you I can fight for your free­dom,” he said before exhort­ing his fol­low­ers to “be vig­i­lant” and to “fight for the Constitution, free­dom, and the American way of life.” (The video has since been delet­ed from social media.)

Donald Trump shakes Mark Lamb’s hand.

President Donald Trump greets Sheriff Mark Lamb of Pinal County, Arizona, while vis­it­ing the U.S.-Mexico bor­der in Calexico, California, on April 5, 2019. Kevin Lamarque/​Reuters

In the past week, it’s become clear that many mem­bers of law enforce­ment from across the coun­try par­tic­i­pat­ed in the siege on the Capitol. That includes for­mer and cur­rent sher­iffs and their deputies. Ex – Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway was at the Trump ral­ly but said he didn’t march to the Capitol. He described the crowd as “a cross between tail­gat­ing at a foot­ball game and a NASCAR race — fam­i­lies, dogs, chil­dren. Everyone being nice. I mean, it was like a fam­i­ly reunion with­out some of the hate­ful­ness you can find at fam­i­ly reunions. It was a very good crowd.”At least one cur­rent sher­iff admits he was at the riot: Sheriff Chris West of Canadian County, Oklahoma, says he marched toward the Capitol build­ing but did not enter. But long before Jan. 6, sher­iffs have been help­ing to lay the ground­work for vio­lence by the far-right move­ment. As polit­i­cal lead­ers in their com­mu­ni­ties, they have been sow­ing dis­sent at home, encour­ag­ing their own armed mili­tias to pre­pare them­selves to take back the gov­ern­ment, just as Lamb suggested.

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