When QAnon conspiracy theorists descended on a Dallas event hall in late May for their convention, they were met at the door by members of 1st Amendment Praetorian, a tough-talking new volunteer group devoted to running security at MAGA events, assembling “intelligence” dossiers on perceived Trumpist foes, and foiling threats from “antifa” protesters, real or imagined.
Decked out in black shirts bearing their group’s Roman-helmet logo, the self-proclaimed Praetorian members soon found that Dallas was light on antifa. Instead, they helped to bounce a few reporters, including one from The Daily Beast.
The QAnon conference marked a new high-profile stage for the group. Its co-founder, former Green Beret Robert Patrick Lewis, tweeted a photo of himself unfurling a Pine Tree flag—a Revolutionary War-era emblem appropriated by the far right—with disgraced former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and then-Texas GOP Chairman Allen West.
Lewis has worked security for prominent pro-Trump figures before, including Flynn. Tracy “Beanz” Diaz, a right-wing conspiracy theorist and early QAnon evangelist, has called the Praetorians “absolutely life saving.” But Lewis isn’t just a bodyguard. Through his group, Lewis has become a rising right-wing pundit with an apocalyptic vision about antifa “Tet Offensives” and suburban massacres palling around with QAnon promoters convinced top Democrats will soon be arrested. In memos, Lewis has imagined a continent-wide “syndicate” of liberals collaborating with Chinese special forces units to bring down America.
And when that happens, Lewis promises, 1st Amendment Praetorian—named for the elite cadre of centurions charged with guarding the Roman emperor and purporting to consist entirely of veterans of the military, law enforcement, and the intelligence community—will be ready. “There’s a shadow underbelly to all of our society,” Lewis warned in a May video to his fans, adding: “We can’t allow things to continue as they are.” [Continue reading…]