Drew Nate |
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco has acknowledged that he once belonged to the extremist Oath Keepers militia after emails from the group were leaked and surfaced online.
Bianco, who paid for a year-long membership with the Oath Keepers in 2014, was elected as Riverside County Sheriff in 2018 after having served with the department since 1993.
He was among more than 200 law enforcement officials included on a list of past Oath Keepers’ members made available to journalists by the whistleblower group, Distributed Denial of Secrets. The leak garnered wide-spread attention after a tweet from J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.
Bianco was not available for an interview but in a statement to the IE Voice and Black Voice News and said,
“In 2014, I briefly joined Oath Keepers with a year membership. Like many other law enforcement officers and veterans who were members, I learned the group did not offer me anything and so I did not continue membership. I am not currently a member and have not been a member since 2014. My oath is to the Constitution and laws of the land and to the people of Riverside County, who I am sworn to protect.”
However, in a recent interview, Sheriff Chad Bianco looked to downplay his past affiliation with the organization, “I don’t even remember joining,” Bianco, told member station KPCC in excerpts from an interview published on the LAist website.
He also went as far as to defend the group by saying, “[That’s] not really what they stand for.” regarding the group’s reputation for extremist ideology. Bianco added, “They certainly don’t promote violence and government overthrow. They stand for protecting the Constitution.”
Judging by their actions
Members of the Oath Keepers were indicted for their roles in the insurrection that took place on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol and the militia group– that is anti-government–has members who have been involved in other armed standoffs with the federal government.
The group was founded by U.S. Army veteran and Yale Law School graduate Stewart Rhodes after the presidential election of Barack Obama in 2009.
The Oath Keepers go against the authority of the federal government as its members follow a declaration of orders they will refuse to abide by, beginning with, “We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people,” includes “any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext,” and concludes, “We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to . . .”
Riverside County Supervisor weighs in on the controversy
Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington in an interview with the IE Voice and Black Voice News shared his thoughts after being asked if he was disappointed upon hearing the news of Bianco’s membership with the Oath Keepers.
“It was disappointing to have our law enforcement connected albeit he says he is not now, but I would be disappointed in any of our law enforcement being connected to that organization.”
Supervisor Washington stressed the importance of letting the “voters decide” on whether or not they want to keep Bianco in his position of power.
Bianco, a history of controvery
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bianco has been vocal about how he feels regarding California’s health mandates which has put the County of Riverside at risk of losing state and federal funding.
Bianco has fought against California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 protocols and has also openly questioned the efficacy of the vaccine. He stated during a podcast in September that he would not enforce vaccine mandates.
A Call for Bianco’s resignation
Many have questioned if Bianco’s personal beliefs are negatively impacting his duties as the County Sheriff. Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege has called for his resignation on Twitter.
Holstege believes, “The sheriff’s association with this group is offensive to all those who believe in American democracy. He should resign immediately. The people of Riverside County deserve better.”