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Sovereign citizen

The sovereign citizen movement claims that a person has the right under common law (or at least their bizarre sham definition thereof) to declare him/herself as essentially a nation unto themselves, and therefore may not be subject to the law of the land where they live. It is closely associated, among other things, with such extreme right wing causes as the tax protester movement and the militia movement in the United States. The term freeman on the land is a pseudolegal term assumed as a title by some would-be sovereigns, deriving from a complex and not-easily-explained conspiracy theory involving admiralty law and the Uniform Commercial Code.

Though a few stateless people exist in the world (most in permanent diplomatic limbo due to lack of any citizenship), and in the United States a few have somewhat arcane legal status allowing them to be citizens of their place of residence (currently recognized only in American Samoa and Swains Island) but not the U.S. at large, the idea that one can renounce one's citizenship in order to evade the laws of the land is not a right recognized in most countries. (U.S. courts generally consider this argument frivolous.)


This claim is also associated with a few bizarre "debt elimination" scams which hold that if somebody files all the right paperwork with the government declaring themselves a sovereign citizen, they then have access to unlimited funds from the U.S. Treasury to pay off all their mortgages and other debts, similar to the theories of the redemption movement. The gist of the argument is that the Social Security Act established accounts at the U.S. Treasury for every American citizen and that declaring oneself a "sovereign citizen" gives one the legal right to issue "sight drafts" or "bills of exchange" which draw on your personal U.S. Treasury Account to pay off debts. This is not true, and those who have fallen for this scam have found the only person who gained access to any funds as a result was the scammer who charged them money to learn about this bizarre debt elimination method at his seminar.

An indication of the intellectual limitations for many members of the movement is indicated by the response of a Texas motorist to a December 4, 2008 traffic stop. "I am Texas Republican sovereignty. I do not recognize this as a legal traffic stop." He has been reported to have said this.

Political sociology

The sovereign citizen movement appears to be a direct descendant of the Posse Comitatus movement. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center the movement may have as many as 300,000 members.

Although populist antistatism is associated with rural and small town whites in the American West, it has also appeared among urban African American squatters in the American South. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has described them as "paper terrorists" for having the effrontery to squat in empty luxury homes in south Dekalb County. DeKalb Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin expressed class outrage when he commented that, "It's amazing that these groups of citizens who like to proclaim they're Robin Hood only choose million-dollar homes. Shocking." Presumably they should do their squatting in mobile homes or hovels.

Given the willingness to act on, rather than merely propound, their ideas, together with the selection of valuable properties for squatting, makes the movement resemble the "social banditry" that erupted in the past in predominantly peasant societies presenting extreme income inequality. This is egalitarian redistribution of wealth tricked up in the familiar, traditional language that politically legitimizes action. That it is occurring in an advanced industrial society, in the alienating suburbs of Atlanta, is novel.