The United Constitutional Patriots is a private militia group which has been operating in New Mexico. The group has been patrolling the US-Mexico border and detaining would-be migrants at gunpoint, holding them captive until the authorities arrive. The group posts videos of its detentions on YouTube and also maintains its own online radio station. Members of the group say they’re just carrying out “citizen arrests.” But some human rights groups and law enforcement officials say the group is going too far.
Here’s what you need to know about United Constitutional Patriots:
1. The Group Is Led by a 69 Year Old Who Uses the Name of Country Music Legend Johnny Horton
United Constitutional Patriots is headed by a man named Larry Mitchell Hopkins. But on social media and on his YouTube videos, Hopkins uses the name Johnny Horton Jr. It’s a reference to country music legend Johnny Horton, who died in a car crash in 1960. Hopkins describes himself as an “entertainer” and also performs music. Horton says he first met Donald Trump and Ivana Trump when he was performing his music in Las Vegas.
United Constitutional Patriots also has a fundraising campaign, which appears to be run by a man named Mark Cheney. According to Cheney’s Facebook page, Cheney is a disabled vet who lives in Flora Vista, New Mexico. Cheney — who uses a picture of Captain America as his Facebook profile — says he went to high school in Carson City, Nevada and is originally from Yakima, Washington. Cheney is divorced.
2. They Say They’ve Detained Over 3,500 People at the Border Over the Past Month, Most of Them Children
Johnny Horton Jr, the self-declared leader of United Constitutional Patriots, says that his militia has detained over 3,500 would-be migrants in the past month. Horton wrote on his Facebook page that most of the detainees were children whom, he said, were being trafficked by adults. In a Facebook post on April 1, Horton wrote:
“i am off of the border untill after the 11th , people need to see the truth of whats going on on our boder please go to the united constitutional patriots new mexico boreder ops page on face book , live streamed videos of what we are up against and why we need your support, in the last month our group of patriots have stopped over 3500, mostly kids being trafficked by adults , plus alot of young men that are wanted criminals, i will be going back to the border soon we need help, GOD BLESS YOU ALL.”
Horton’s Facebook page includes photos and videos of heavily armed members of his militia standing beside American flags. Many of the men are wearing camouflage; others have bandannas tied around their faces. Th
3. The Group’s Leader Says They Get Information from the “Very Top” of the Government
The self-declared leader of United Constitutional Patriots, Johnny Horton Jr, has repeatedly said that he has sources in the US government that pass along information to him. He told the Southern Poverty Law Center that he was getting tips “from the very top” of the government. He said he didn’t want to tell the SPLC where exactly he was getting his information.
But later, in a radio interview posted by The Renegade Network, Horton said that he had a long-standing relationship with President Trump and that he and the president were in close touch. He said that the president listened to his radio show and that they were exchanging information about the US border — Horton said President Trump was especially interested in the northern border. Explaining where he first met the president, Horton said, “When I was doing music, I met Trump and his first wife when he had the casino in Las Vegas, and I played there numerous times. OK?” Hopkins said. “That’s how I knew him. And Trump and I have kept in touch ever since.”
In a Facebook post on February 12, Horton put up a signed picture of President Trump. The photo bears the words “Trump Action News — Very proud of all your great work! Keep it up.” Horton captioned the post, “HOW COOL IS THIS FROM THE PRESIDENT.”
4. They Say the American Flag Is in ‘A Lot of Danger’ & They Are Going to Defend It
Horton regularly posts photos and videos of members of his group holding guns and standing at the US border with Mexico. In many of the video, the men are wearing camouflage fatigues and are posing in front of American flags, with their guns at the ready.
“This country was built on three things: God, guns and guts. That American flag has to keep flying,” Horton told ABC News, “It’s in danger, a lot of danger right now.”
Horton also wrote in a Facebook post, “if you cant stand for America and you cant stand of our Flag, and if you dont stand with Trump unfriend me because you dont stand for God as well, and i dont need you on my friend list and your not my friend, you are a traitor to our country.”
5. The Group Has Raised $5,000 in Donations in Recent Months
Horton’s Facebook page contains links to a Paypal account and contains many requests for funds to help the militia do its work at the border. In one post, Horton wrote, “PLEASE DONATE WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW THAT OUR GOVERNOR SAID WE HAVE NO SAY IN NEW MEXICO AS CITIZENS,NOW SHE HAS FORCED THE HANDS OF NEW MEXICO CITIZENS TO DEFEND OUR RIGHTS AS CITIZENS, WE ARE THE ONLY DEFENCE AND OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT TO PROTECT YOU TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY.”
Think Progress reports that over the last six months, the United Constitutional Patriots have raised about $5,000 in donations. Think Progress reports that the group’s donations have increased over the past few days.