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20/42/897

Republic of Texas leaders warn of possible siege

By STEVE RAY and ANNA M. TINSLEY

Harte-Hanks Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - Republic of Texas leaders warn that federal and state officials could use a kidnapping by breakaway dissidents to stage another siege similar to the Davidian compound in Waco.

For weeks, the Internet website of the Republic of Texas Embassy in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, has predicted an "Orange 1 Alert" - a signal that FBI agents and Texas law enforcement officers were moving in on the compound.

On Sunday, that prediction came true - but only after members of the group seized two critics of the organization from neighboring property, calling them spies.

The siege came as members of three separate factions of the Republic of Texas group planned a May 4 summit to reunite the movement. Organizers of that effort say it may still take place, but doubt that any of McLaren's supporters will attend.

The Republic split into different groups last year after a feud over money and how to pursue independence.

Republic of Texas members contend that the state was unlawfully annexed as a state by Congress in 1845. Because of that, they refuse to acknowledge state or federal laws and claim Texas is a free and sovereign nation.

McLaren warned of state and federal efforts against his followers in an interview with Harte-Hanks Newspapers, today just minutes before his phone was disconnected, apparently by law enforcement officials.

But he said the Davis Mountains were strategically different than the compound in Waco and said he had followers all across the mountainous area surrounding the so-called embassy.

Acting Republic of Texas President Steven Crear, who is associated with McLaren's breakoff group, sounded the same alarm earlier this month.

He said the government was planning an attack on the Jeff Davis County compound to divert attention away from the prosecution of Anthony McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing case.

"The U.S. government has many problems and many things to answer for," Crear said. "They will do anything, even shed innocent blood, to get out the negative spotlight. Will the people of an enlightened age turn their heads again while a desperate government lashes out against a peaceful people?"

State lawmakers have expressed concern about tactics used by the Republic of Texas on numerous occasions.

"Republic of Texas members have their minds made up that the government in Texas is illegal and they can make and enforce their own laws," said state Rep. Allen Hightower, D-Huntsville, who has authored a bill to crack down on paper terrorism. "I really feel sorry for the hostages and for the Attorney General's office and law enforcement agencies because they are going to have to deal with it."

Attorney General Dan Morales has charged that Republic of Texas members have filed dozens of phony liens against public officials and state employees.

Last year, a state district judge ordered the Republic group to stop filing such documents, but group leaders said they don't recognize the judge's actions.

Hightower's bill would make filing fake liens be punishable by up to two years in state jail and a $10,000 fine. It also would make it a Class A misdemeanor to issue a false court complaint, judgment or summons. State Sen. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

The bill, approved by the House and Senate, is pending before a conference committee. It is directed at any paper terrorism, Hightower said.

"The Republic of Texas has been one of the big users of paper terrorism," Hightower said. "In Texas, most of us who don't consider ourselves wealthy have most of our money tied up in land - farms, ranches or real estate. Having that tied up for two years in the courts creates a hardship."

Republic of Texas members contacted Sunday from the two factions not associated with McLaren said they did not support McLaren but some indicated concern that the situation could escalate into a more serious situation.

Wesley Walker Burnett, publisher of the <I>Republic of Texas<I> magazine, which is independently owned and operated, said many of the group's leaders probably fear the Fort Davis situation could escalate into a Waco situation.

"It is sad to see such a brilliant man going off the deep end," Burnett said. "It could be that being isolated like that ... he has lost touch with reality."

David Johnson of Odessa, a leader in a third faction of the Republic of Texas, said McLaren is a lawbreaker and unstable.

And he predicted that the militia forces - called bodyguards - that surround McLaren will desert him in case of trouble.

"The militia forces he has spoken about have indicated to me they are not coming to his aid," said Johnson, whose faction is being investigated for four possible banking law violations for selling about 60 unauthorized banking charters for $2,000 each.

On Sunday, members of the Republic of Texas stressed that they were not part of McLaren's group - and did not support his actions.

"I think he's gone off the deep end," said Robert William Kesterson of Mesquite, who says he is the secretary of state for the Republic of Texas. "The one time we got through to him on the phone, he hung up on us.

"We've offered to help however we can, but so far I don't think that's going to work," he said. "We've got nothing to do with what's happening. But I wish he'd calm down and act like a normal person."

There are now several groups that claim to be the one true group of the Republic of Texas. Each group thinks they are the true Republic of Texas.

Kesterson said the Republic of Texas has between 20,000 and 30,000 known members.

(Harte-Hanks staff writer Ben Tinsley contributed to this report.) Send a Letter to the Editor about This Story | Start or Join A Discussion about This Story
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