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Sovereign citizens ranks rising

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March 31, 2012

TRINIDAD, Texas, March 30 (UPI) -- The number of so-called sovereign citizens -- those who reject government authority in any form -- is growing in the United States, a watchdog group says.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, estimates there are 100,000 hard-core believers in the freedom from government rule with another 200,000 sympathizers, USA Today reported Friday. The center cites the struggling economy, the financial crisis, government bailouts, the flood of foreclosures and the election of U.S. President Barack Obama as factors contributing the rising tide of those angry with government.

An FBI bulletin to state and local law enforcement officials in January noted the growth in the numbers of sovereign citizens in the past three years, though the agency doesn't track numbers itself, the newspaper said.

One of the most notable sovereigns may be John Joe Gray, a Trinidad, Texas, man who allegedly kept authorities from arresting him on felony charges in a 1999 assault on a state trooper with a threat of violence.

Gary Thomas, a justice of the peace who was a criminal investigator at the time, said he received a letter from Gray in 2000 warning authorities to stay away from his compound.

"What he said was this: 'If y'all come to get me, bring body bags,'" Thomas told USA Today.

Since jumping bail, Gray has lived the past decade on his 50-acre property in eastern Texas while a string of sheriffs have shied away from bring him in. What may be the United States' longest-running stalemate between law enforcement and a criminal suspect whose whereabouts is known shows no sign of ending.

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