One of the anti-government activists who have been occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon has a history of organizing anti-Muslim protests in Arizona and New York — and has reportedly been the subject of at least one FBI warning to local law enforcement.
Jon Ritzheimer first came to national prominence in May of 2015, when he organized an armed demonstration outside a mosque in Phoenix. The event, which was billed as a "draw Mohammed" contest, drew hundreds of people and came just weeks after two gunmen opened fired at a similar demonstration in Garland, Texas.
Ritzheimer runs a popular YouTube channel where he posts videos in which he often insults Muslims and other minority groups. In late 2014, he posted a video in which he threatened to travel to a Muslim community in upstate New York. In the video, Ritzheimer explains that he intended to stop at every mosque along the way.
He also displays a handgun and says he’s “fucking ready” for “Muslim fucks.”
After he posted that video, the FBI office in Albany issued an alert to local law enforcement agencies warning them to keep an eye out for the activist, Reuters reported. (A spokesperson for the FBI's Albany office did not immediately return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News).
Before traveling to Oregon to participate in the occupation of the Malheur Refuge, Ritzheimer took to YouTube to post an emotional farewell video to his family. The video seems to imply that Ritzheimer expects to die a violent death at the hands of federal agents.
"I want to die a free man," Ritzheimer can be heard saying in the video. "If you've sworn that oath, it's not just to protect and defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic, it's not just to defend it when it's convenient to you, or when death is not involved."
In another video, this one uploaded to Facebook, Ritzheimer can be seen at the Malheur Refuge.
"I’m armed with the Constitution and a camera," Ritzheimer can be heard saying in the video. "If they try and come in here fully armed and create another Ruby Ridge or Waco event, we can be right there to put the truth out and hold them accountable."
"But we do not want it to come to that — nobody wants it to come to that," Ritzheimer went on. "And I don’t think they want it to come to that on the other side, either. We all want to go home to our families. We need to keep this peaceful. We will not fire unless fired upon."
Ritzheimer did not respond to several requests for comment, but told a BuzzFeed News reporter at the Malheur Refuge that he had been sleeping in his car.
"We came well prepared," he said.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Nicolás Medina Mora at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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