REEDSPORT — After a Saturday afternoon meeting in Reedsport, the Constitution has about 20 new sworn defenders.

At the invitation of the Reedsport Watchdogs, about 40 people packed Longwood House, the former Reedsport Coffeehouse, to hear speakers urge them to resist threats to their freedom.

Tom McKirgan of Coquille, leader of a local Oath Keepers group, asked how many of his audience had ever taken an oath to defend the Constitution, whether in the military, law enforcement or an organization.

About half the attendees indicated they had.

By the time his speech was over, most of the other half had raised their right hands and had taken the same oath.

Oath Keepers is a national organization founded in 2009 that urges elected officials and law enforcement personnel pledge to honor their oath to uphold the Constitution.

To Oath Keepers, that means refusing to enforce legislation they deem unconstitutional, such as gun control measures.

McKirgan, a retired police officer, said he joined Oath Keepers in August 2012 because he saw a trend of “things happening linked to the United Nations and other organizations that are liberal and left-wing.”

“We are living under a soft form of martial law,” he said.

He described the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2011, 2012 and 2013, parts of which ar e being challenged in court because they permit indefinite detention of citizens during an armed conflict. He mentioned Brandon Raub, a Virginia man detained in a mental hospital for a week in August 2012 after posting comments critical of the government on his Facebook page.

McKirgan said the government encourages people to inform on one another. He read from one of a series of handouts the FBI distributed to encourage business owners to report potential terrorist activity among their customers. “Is the person missing a finger? Are they buying sulfuric acid?”

In contrast, he urged people to support local law enforcement officers, “no matter how you feel about them,” because “they will follow their oath and soon they’ll be fighting on your side against federal tyranny.”

McKirgan hinted at another sign of tyranny that he left unexplained: “A woman I know said (during the Nazi era) she had to salute, ‘Heil Hitler,’ before walking into the classroom,” he said. “It’s like now.”

McKirgan emphasized that Oath Keepers is peaceful. “We don’t want a drop of blood shed,” he said. “We have worked within the system as much as possible.”

But at the end of his speech, McKirgan quoted the response of the Spartan king Leonidas when an envoy of the Persian invader Xerxes told him to lay down his arms.

“Regardless of what unconstitutional filth emanates from these oath breakers, our response will be ‘molon labe’ — come and get them,” McKirgan said.

During a comment period after his speech, McKirgan dismissed the president’s authority. “Obama is not a president,” McKirgan said. “He is nothing but a communist trying to usurp his power and bring us under the United Nations banner.”

That assessment was echoed by Connie Martin, a firearms instructor and gun-rights advocate who spoke after McKirgan.

Referring to Obama, she said, “This man does not like Americans. In fact, he loathes America. But what do you expect from someone who was raised by communists and studied that form of government?”

Martin urged people to defend their Second Amendment rights, not only to retain the means of protecting themselves against crime but also to retain leverage against the government. “All of us need to hold these despots accountable,” she said. “This is why the Founding Fathers created the Second Amendment.”

Concluding Saturday’s program, libertarian activist Rob Taylor of Bandon urged the audience to defend its rights not only at the gun safe but also at the ballot box, by running for school boards and port commissions.

For incidents like the Sandy Hook massacre, “Instead of blaming guns, blame the school,” he said. “The school system is dilapidated. They’ve taken morality out.”

“How many of you are running for the school board?” he demanded sharply. “B.S.! If you’re not willing to get involved, don’t bother talking to me.”

He described the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to expand Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge as an attempt to replace farms and businesses with “a mosquito ranch.” He predicted that he would lead the defeat of a proposed Bandon ordinance limiting light pollution, gaining “street cred” to resist other inroads on liberty.

He urged people to fight for the right “to live by the systems that nature, or nature’s God, has created for us.”

“Compromise is the death knell of people who have legitimate integrity,” he said. “You are the only ones who are the line between order and disorder.”

Reporter Gail Elber can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 234, at gail.elber@theworldlink.com, or on Twitter at @gailtheworld.

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