“He doesn’t have a driver’s license. He lives in Omaha and owns his vehicle. Paul Hansen doesn’t register it with Douglas County. If stopped for a traffic violation he’ll explain to the police officer that he “doesn’t use one.” His next step is to ask if the officer has “any evidence this land is owned by the United States of America. Do you understand that if you issue me a ticket you will be on the witness stand and you will have to produce that evidence?”” writes KVNO News in 2011 on Paul Hansen’s rising prominence in Christian nationalist and anti-tax circles. Hansen was indicted on federal mail fraud in 2014 linked to a Florida man convicted in 2006 of tax evasion and fraud by means of concealing wealth in churches.
Hansen owns multiple rundown rental properties in north Omaha that he refuses to make basic repairs on, or pay the applicable property taxes. In the last decade at least two of his properties were condemned and torn down by order of the city of Omaha. Residents point out water heaters with thick rust, non-working toilets, and doors without locks which were jammed shut with steak knives as the only means of security. One former tenant signed over their Social Security Insurance checks to cover rent, a predatory act in which Hansen was later sued for in federal court. Hansen is a slumlord and a right-wing ideologue exploiting low-income people for profit. Hansen isn’t an anomaly either. In Atlanta, a wealthy group of well-known white nationalists run a “gentrification gang” as Atlanta anti-fascists call them.
In Omaha, Hansen is a familiar figure in the Douglas County courthouse because he routinely ignores or challenges citations for building code violations on his rental properties. The Nebraska Supreme Court issued an injunction in 2014 for him to stop practicing unlicensed law, and he’s been spotted at the courthouse twice already in 2018, according to tips sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org email.
Broadly, Hansen calls himself a “free inhabitant” or a sovereign citizen, a far-right movement often found overlapping with white separatist militia movements and Christian doomsday cults.
More specifically, Paul Hansen personally does not believe most U.S. laws apply to him based on his religion and interpretations of constitutional law, and obscure 18th-century Ordinances. Cops and court officials come into contact with these people most commonly in forms of protesting vehicle registration laws, traffic and permit citations, or the filing of civil suits and property liens.
It was a series of property liens Hansen fraudulently filed that eventually got him 18 months in federal prison on two accounts of contempt of court; the larger federal mail fraud charges resulted in a hung jury and the retrial was dismissed without prejudice. Hansen filed the false lien claims in an attempt to prevent the federal seizure of property held by Kent Hovind, the convicted Florida preacher that operated an anti-evolution theme park/church called Dinosaur Adventure Land, “a place where dinosaurs and the Bible meet.” Hovind made Hansen a trustee of his church, Creation Science Evangelism, that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible which says Earth was made in seven days roughly 6000 years ago. The two of them exchanged letters while Hovind was incarcerated and conspired to obstruct the seizing of land by way of falsified document. The pair obviously did not understand jail mail is not confidential.
Hansen is not the first or only sovereign citizen in Nebraska. In fact, the 1980s were a boom time for the movement. Civic libertarian tax-protesters and heavily armed white separatist militias cropped up all over.
In Cairo, Nebraska in 1984, Arthur Kirk, a farmer with sympathies for a local sovereign militia was killed in a gun fight with SWAT after threatening county sheriffs trying to serve legal papers from a bank. He died behind a sandbag barricade with a modified fully automatic AR-15, wearing a gas mask, a steel helmet, and his face painted in night camouflage. The local bank alleged he made hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted livestock sales.
The Posse Comitatus was a right-wing extremist group started by a neo-Nazi in Portland, Oregon with over two dozen chapters in the U.S., one being an 80-acre armed compound near Rulo, Nebraska that housed a doomsday prepper death-cult led by Michael Ryan. The Posse Comitatus supported Arthur Kirk’s fight against the tyranny of the banks and police. Posse Comitatus claimed the true intent of the country’s founders was to establish a Christian republic where the individual was sovereign, and that the Republic’s first duty was to promote, safeguard, and protect the Christian faith. They saw farmers as the victims of a Jewish-led, communist-supported conspiracy that had infiltrated the government. They thought the conspiracy would rob the farmer of his land through manipulation of land values, grain prices and credit. Once they controlled the land, Posse Comitatus thought it would control the food supply too. In Rulo, Michael Ryan proceeded over polygamist weddings, thefts of farm equipment, and carried out ritual torture, bestiality, and murder. He died in 2015 of natural causes while serving a commuted death row sentence for the grisly murders of a 5-year-old boy and 26-year-old man living on the farm. Michael Ryan was an embodiment of the white Sharia meme thirty years early.
In 2015, Donna Marie Kozak, a sovereign citizen living in the Omaha suburb of La Vista, Nebraska was convicted in federal court of tax evasion, tax fraud, and filing false liens on properties owned by a federal judge, U.S. district attorneys, IRS investigators, and for sending harassing messages to IRS agents. Kozak was essentially trolling federal agents in retaliation for her initial tax evasion arrest.
To authorities, this form of trolling protest –filing fraudulent tax returns or falsifying documents to obstruct the collection of property taxes or property seizure, or filing civil lawsuits for petty reasons– is called “paper terrorism” to add extra weight on what is otherwise just the gaming of a bureaucracy for fun and profit.
Sovereigns have manufactured their own license plates and identification cards indicating they are citizens of a self-proclaimed “republic,” and have even created otherwise fictional Native American tribes, or claimed non-existent enrollment with real tribes. One high profile example is the former Pussycat Dolls singer Kaya Jones, as she claimed generational Apache enrollment. The blonde Canadian pop singer claimed the “Indigenous” seat on the privately-funded National Diversity Coalition for Trump. These claims all fall apart under minimal scrutiny, but to the traffic cop’s first glance, the counterfeit plates and documents often appear legitimate.
The feds and the ADL consider the Sovereign Citizen movement as a potential source of “domestic terrorism.” The ADL lists sovereigns as an extremist group willing to use vigilante courts to “wage war against the government using ‘paper terrorism’ to intimidate government officials.”
Hansen says to KVNO News, “my view is there are no written laws in place to govern free inhabitants. There’s the jury of twelve and there’s God’s word,” he explained.
The ‘jury of twelve’ often referred to is a commonlaw jury convened by ‘free citizens’ rather than by a court system put in place by federal and state law.
Since the day before Hansen’s sentencing in 2015, and up to and beyond their release from prison, Hansen and Hovind have discussed on Youtube and on t heir respective blogs about convening such a court to hold their perceived enemies in the IRS responsible for putting them in jail. They want to exact revenge. By the power of whatever bizarre bureaucratic oversight god, Hansen and Hovind actually shared a cell for three months when their sentences overlapped.
Whenever he can get away with it, Hansen does not pay federal income or local property taxes. Sales taxes are trickier, since they are added to the cost of a purchase, but Hansen says he has convinced some retailers he qualifies as being exempt for paying them on some big ticket items.
Every one of his challenges to local, state and federal law rise from a set of complex political beliefs built on a complex interpretation of the Ordinance of the Northwest Territory of 1787 and the Articles of Confederation ratified by the original thirteen colonies in 1781.
“Article four in the Articles of the Confederation gives you two choices,” he explained during a lengthy conversation. “You can live your life as a free inhabitant or as a citizen. Now the word citizen means subject. So the moment I step on US land I become a US citizen, a US subject. The moment you step on my land you become my subject.” Hansen goes into much greater detail on his website. Hansen also consults and sells his self-developed legal philosophies, in spite of that Supreme Court injunction meant to stop him from doing so.
Sovereign citizens are the Boomer antecedent to Reddit “anarcho” capitalists. They take anarchist ideas against authority and add a self-excluding addendum that allows them to be exclusionary, coercive, abusive, patriarchal, violent, selfish children. “No gods, no masters” becomes “My way or the toll highway.”