Secessionists fighting for Texas
State considers group a growing threat
January 11, 1997
From Correspondent Charles Zewe
DALLAS (CNN) -- In the remote mountains of West Texas, a secessionist group has declared itself a nation and is spoiling for a fight.
"We're out of the union; we're a captive nation of war," Richard McLaren, chief ambassador and consul general of the so-called Republic of Texas, says from an old firehouse the group has claimed as their official "embassy."
Equipped with computers, fax machines and guns, McLaren and 16 followers have exiled themselves at a vacation resort that's home to about 70 full-time residents. They've renounced their U.S. citizenship and laid claim to trillions of dollars in state assets.
The group claims the 1845 annexation of Texas by the United States was illegal and the state remains an independent nation. Despite this belief, McLaren claims his group is not against the government itself.
"We're not anti-government, we're anti-unlawful government," he says.
The Republic's means of protesting has been to wage a "paper war" against the state of Texas, filing liens on $93 trillion worth of state property.
Last July, while the state tried unsuccessfully to stop McLaren from filing bogus liens and millions of dollars in fictitious arrest warrants, the Republic attempted to take possession of the state capitol. Such problems have lead the state to now consider McLaren and his followers a threat.
"They could resort to violence (and have) to be taken seriously," said Texas Deputy Attorney General Peter Haskall.
Officials say the group has attracted militia types and may have been responsible for bomb threats against state offices.
While the state tries to deal with the paper war, Davis Mountain residents Joe and M.A. Rowe think a standoff is inevitable.
"The natives are getting restless," Joe Rowe says. "It's a tense situation."
Residents claim the Republic is intimidating neighbors with security patrols and weapons.
"I don't feel free to go down the roads anymore without being watched," M.A. Rowe said.
McLaren, meanwhile, is openly defying a federal arrest warrant and is facing a state burglary charge.
He says he and members of the Republic of Texas are peaceful people, He also says he will not be taken without a fight.
"I don't think they're prepared to start an all-out war with this situation over a civil complaint," he said, adding he expects thousands of militia sympathizers will rush to his aid.
David Johnson, leader of a dissident Republic of Texas faction, however, thinks McLaren's militia support will vanish over time.
"They're not going to die for anyone except their wives, their families and themselves," Johnson said.
Residents aren't so sure.
"If he can't recreate the Republic of Texas, I think his second best is to recreate the Alamo right down here," Joe Rowe said.
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