Simply talking about secession and voicing unpopular political opinions apparently can be a crime in Texas.
Members of a group called the Republic of Texas learned that the hard way when heavily armed Texas Rangers, FBI agents and sheriff’s deputies raided their meeting at a Bryan, Texas, VFW hall.
Around 20 law enforcement officers raided the Valentine’s Day meeting to serve a misdemeanor warrant on the Republic’s “Congress,” The Houston Chronicle reported. The raid took place because the Republic had sent its own “legal summons” to a Kerr County Texas Judge and a bank employee demanding they appear in its court, which has no legal authority.
“We had no idea what was going on,” John Jarnecke of the Republic of Texas told the Chronicle. He is the Republic’s president. “We knew of nothing that would warrant such an action.”
The Republic’s members say they are a peaceful group and favor secession through non-violent means.
The Kerr County sheriff said the raid was warranted.
“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 said.
A show of force was necessary because of a 1997 standoff between Texas state troopers and a Republic leader, Hierholzer told The Chronicle.
People at the Valentine’s Day meeting say deputies took their phones and seized recording equipment. Officers also fingerprinted and searched everyone at the meeting, although no one was arrested.
What is the Republic of Texas?
“We’ve had years of bad press, but we’re not those people,” Jarnecke said. “But yes, we are still making every attempt to get independence for Texas and we’re doing it in a lawful international manner.”
The Republic’s members contend that Texas is an independent country because the Congress of the independent Republic of Texas — which existed from 1836 to 1846 — never voted to join the Union. Their contention is that the United States is violating international law by not recognizing Texas’s independence. Courts and scholars have long denied that argument.
“We don’t need to secede,” Republic member Bob Wilson told The Chronicle. “We never were part of the United States.”
Said Ray Cannon, chief justice of the Republic, “I wish we could stay in the Union, because the U.S. has become the greatest force for charity in history. But we can’t.”
The Republic’s members equate their struggle with opponents of colonialism, such as Mahatma Gandhi, the Founding Fathers and the anticommunists who broke up the Soviet Union. They also characterize their battle as one for smaller, simpler and less obtrusive government.
“This is the century for colonialist ambitions to be reversed,” Wilson said. “I’ve watched a lot of things happen, and the people of the world are fed up. The spirit of the world right now is: Make things smaller, move governments closer to home, take back self-rule.”
The Republic does have some support overseas. In 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus accused the US government of human violations by suppressing the Texas independence movement, The Chronicle reported.
“There’s simply nothing to those claims,” Randolph Campbell, the chief historian for the Texas State Historical Association, said of the Republic’s arguments. The US Supreme Court, he said, rejected the claim Texas was independent in an 1869 decision, White vs. Texas.
“The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States,” US Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase wrote at the time. “There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.”
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