North Dakota sheriff says he is not member of Oath Keepers, denounces group
Bowman County Sheriff Frank Erberle, who was named in an article published this week for being a member of the Oath Keepers according to a leaked membership roster, speaks out.
BOWMAN COUNTY, N.D. — A North Dakota county sheriff linked to the controversial Oath Keepers group says he is no longer a member of the group.
Bowman County Sheriff Frank Eberle was among 81 North Dakotans, 514 Minnesotans and 167 South Dakotans included in a leaked membership roster of the Oath Keepers, labeled an extremist group associated with the militia movement by the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in collaboration with Distributed Denial of Secrets, leaked the roster on Sept. 6.
Eberle acknowledged his past membership, but said he hasn’t been a member of the organization for years — including most of his tenure as sheriff.
“On its face it looked like a good deal, the Oath Keepers, because that's all we have is the law of the land, the Constitution and such," Eberle told the Dickinson Press on Monday, Sept. 19. "But after they pulled that stupid s--- on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C, I wanted nothing to do with them. I denounced them at that point."
The Oath Keepers came under scrutiny for its involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Anti-Defamation League said.
Explaining his position on the election protests that occurred at the Capitol leading into the inauguration of President Biden, Eberle said that he denounced the actions that resulted in millions of dollars of vandalism damage to federal property, several Capitol Police officers being injured and one protester being killed by law enforcement after attempting to breach a barrier.
The FBI has described the Oath Keepers as being a “large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”
The Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 by U.S. Army veteran Stewart Rhodes, who has been disbarred as a lawyer in Montana. Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy for participating in the violent protests and Eberle agrees they should be.
“That's not the way anybody should have acted. That was definitely a criminal act, what those people did,” Eberle said. “I’ve never had any activity, correspondence or verbal talk with anyone from the organization, Stewart Rhodes or anybody like that. I wouldn’t know him if he walked up right now.”
He added that he quit paying affiliation dues as a member of the group at some point in 2018 or 2019 because he no longer felt it was beneficial to him in serving and protecting the people of Bowman County.
“I just kind of lost interest in it because it wasn’t helping me locally,” he said.
Eberle argued that conflating everyone included on an organization’s membership database as conspiracy mongering subversives is a cynical way to approach conveying information to the public.
He added that he believes most Oath Keepers are “red blooded Americans who love this country” who should not be maligned as a whole simply because “some other idiots had done some stuff.”
In his tenure, Eberle has drawn criticism and sparked controversy.
In late January , he responded to the Biden administration’s 30-by-30 initiative, a worldwide initiative for governments to designate 30% of Earth's land and ocean area as protected areas by 2030, with choice words. He denounced it as a sinister land grab that ignored due process, and said he would deputize citizens to prevent federal agents from enacting it.
“Without due process, I would use the law to my fullest advantage to protect private property. I’d deputize as many people as necessary to prevent the federal government from taking it away from somebody,” he said at the time.