The Three Percenters, a loosely organized group of far-right militants, appear to have established a significant presence in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield, one of the most productive oilfields in the nation. “There is a lot of membership in the oil and gas industry up there,” says Matt Marshall, a Three Percenter running for state legislature in Washington. “The fact that you have a lot of Three Percenters working in the oilfields of North Dakota is not surprising.”
The Three Percenters are so named for the dubious historical claim that only three percent of American colonists took up arms in the Revolutionary War. Their adherents have frequently been involved with incidents of armed protests, hate speech, and threatening behavior across the U.S., and the group’s members have shown up prominently at recent protests related to both pandemic response measures and police brutality.
In April, Marshall, wearing a colonial tricorn hat with bullets strapped to the side, and a Hawaiian shirt, helped lead a coronavirus stay-home order protest at his state’s capitol in Olympia, Washington. Hawaiian shirts are described by the Anti-Defamation League as a coded reference to coming civil war, although Marshall denies the link.
He says he is aware of Three Percenters who are working in oilfields in Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Alaska. And also according to Marshall, top officials with two North Dakota chapters, the North Dakota United Patriots Three Percenters and North Dakota Three Percenter Originals, work in the oil and gas industry.
“We are mostly blue-collar workers who want to put in a hard day’s labor, support our family, pay a limited amount of taxes to get the services we require and at the end of the day be left alone,” says Marshall. “I don’t think there is any concern about having a bunch of threepers working in that industry,” referring to an alternate name for the group.
But points of significant concern emerged in a multi-month DeSmog investigation that involved interviews with former Department of Homeland Security and FBI officials, and local residents of North Dakota, who live in a state still pumping out more than a million barrels of oil a day.
According to a whistleblower who contacted DeSmog, Three Percenters have established a prominent presence at a Bakken oil and gas facility regarded as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security. Militia-related patches, flags, and artwork have popped up across the Bakken oil patch, and a thriving gun culture among its workers has led to a Mad Max-mentality of chaos plaguing residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
While federal security agencies and their partners have prioritized focus on the energy industry and produced a raft of reports in the past two decades on other risks to the nation’s critical infrastructure, such as cyber security, natural disasters, and environmental activism, right-wing militia groups appear to be escaping close scrutiny.