The rural northeastern corner of Washington state has an ongoing extremist problem going back decades. And it’s about to get worse. Police in Spokane recently revealed that they are investigating yet another neo-Nazi militia group planning to run a training camp at property its members recently purchased in Stevens County. The group, which calls itself “The Base,” specializes in training recruits in violent “lone wolf” terrorism techniques, including assassination and bomb building—and it’s planning to host a session in paramilitary exercises and training at its new encampment.
This is not actually anything new for this corner of the state. In the 1980s, it was home to Robert Mathews and his band of neo-Nazi assassins and robbers, The Order, which is most infamous for the murder of radio talk-show host Alan Berg in Denver. The gang operated out of Mathews’ Metaline Falls home before they were brought to ground by the FBI in 1984.
In more recent years, it has become the home of a far-right Christian community in the tiny town of Marble, not far from the Canadian border, led by a cultish pastor named Barry Byrd who preaches for a Christian nation ruled by his peculiar interpretations of biblical law. Marble is best known as the center of the “constitutionalist” organizing led by Republican Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane Valley, who has been a regular at the community for over a decade. Shea’s “Christian nation” advocacy, derived from Byrd’s teachings, has included creating a plan for “biblical war” that features the execution of nonbelievers and the creation of a 51st state called “Liberty.”
It’s also featured Shea’s participation in online chats with other “constitutionalists” in which the conversation turned to violent retribution against their critics and the people protesting them.
Shea’s involvement with the Marble church was the focus of a Rolling Stone piece by journalist Leah Sottile, as well as Sottile’s recent work with the Oregon Public Broadcasting/Longreads podcast “Bundyville.”
“Their whole thing is, ‘The world is evil and the government is evil’,” a longtime Marble resident told her. “[They want] to get back to Puritan America.”
She described how Shea led workshops for young campers: “An exercise in field skills for youth, including (but not limited to): field strip and reassemble assigned weapon; orienteering, field dressing wounds, following orders, PT, shooting skill, etc.” He titled his after-dinner session “Going Underground.”
The Guardian reporter Jason Wilson recently explored how these preparations for “biblical warfare” with young recruits operate, and the ideology that infuses them, including an overwhelming Islamophobia. The founder of the group of trainees, Patrick Caughran, explained: “There will be scenarios where every participant will have to fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country, Muslims terrorists (sic)”.
Caughran also described their training regimen: “There will be biblical teaching (some taken from pastor John Weaver’s works) on biblical warfare, the responsibilities, regulations, principles and mindset. So that our young men will be better prepared to fight against physical enemies, and to do so, God’s way and with His blessing.”
Weaver is a well-known figure in the racist Christian Identity movement, which preaches that white people are the “true” Children of Israel and that Jews are descended from Satan while nonwhites are soulless “mud people.” As the SPLC has detailed, Weaver’s sermons frequently praise the Confederacy, and he has published tracts claiming slavery is not inherently unbiblical—indeed, some slaves “blessed the Lord” for their enslavement because it saved them from Africa. Interracial marriage, he says, is “a form of adultery.”
"If God had desired that we intermarry and amalgamate and become one, why would he have begun the other races to begin with?" Weaver asked in one sermon.
The Base, which began life primarily as an online radicalization operation, appears to have the support of elements of the “American Redoubt” movement that seeks to attract like-minded “Patriots” to their secessionist plans to carve out a “Christian state” called Liberty, comprised variously of eastern Washington as well as parts of northern Idaho and western Montana.
However, it is a much more radical and potentially violent outfit, as Vice reported in a 2018 exposé. It features much of the same neo-Nazi ideology (as well as some crossover members) shared with the extremist AtomWaffen SS organization. As ProPublica explored in its exposé of the lethal group in 2018, it also has members in Washington state.
Its “hate camp” plans for northeastern Washington, first exposed by Eugene Antifa, revolve around training sessions about the use of weapons.
Their private chats indicate they are gearing up for what they hope will be a civil war or a “race war”: “[I] approve of wht [sic] McVeigh did. Killing innocent children only makes the wound deeper and more real for all involved,” wrote one online chat participant. “They don’t deserve to be spared in guerilla [sic] attacks.”
However, as Justin Ward observes, “the main purpose of The Base is to facilitate real-life meet-ups of ‘action-oriented’ white nationalists to build interpersonal ties as the basis for future organized armed struggle. The network holds regional ‘activity contests’ where members are encouraged to go out in the woods and practice survival skills or engage in arms training.”
Most of these activities are in fact training sessions intended to enable participants to engage in aggressive military tactics against their fellow citizens in the event their much-anticipated and oft-hoped-for “civil war.” It’s not without reason that even a conservative law-enforcement body like the Spokane Sheriff’s Office is concerned.