Members of the North Carolina Oath Keepers have broken with the national organization of the same name, after members of the umbrella organization were alleged to have entered the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6.
“We were horrified,” said Doug Smith, the Whiteville resident who leads the state group formerly known as the N.C. Oath Keepers. “We went to Washington to support President Trump. When we saw what was going on, we left.
“Our group is composed of law-abiding, conservative Christian men and women,’ Smith said. “We support law and order. We do not condone or tolerate criminal activity or racism in any form.”
In a letter to the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association earlier this week, Smith reiterated that members of the former NCOK were not involved in the incident at the Capitol.
“I can promise you that no North Carolina Oath Keepers were involved with what happened at the Capitol building that day. North Carolina Oath Keepers were in Washington to hear President Trump after he put out the invitation to his supporters.”
Around 25 members of Smith’s group attended, sharing a charter bus with another group. None of those on the bus were involved in the attack on the Congressional complex. The first that they knew something was happening was when they saw smoke and saw people climbing the steps of the Capitol building.
“We left the President’s speech and headed to the Capitol to hear what we thought was going to be more speeches from members of the Congress.
“When the North Carolina Oath Keepers got to Third Avenue, which is at least 500 to 600 yards from the Capitol, we could see the mayhem and wanted no part of it.”
The North Carolina contingent returned to their bus by 4 p.m. and headed home to North Carolina, Smith said, arriving in the early morning hours of Jan. 7.
“The men of North Carolina believe that the National leadership (of Oath Keepers) could have stopped this and did nothing.
“The men and myself included can no longer be affiliated with Oath Keepers after this sad event in our nation’s history.”
Smith said his group, which includes a chapter in Columbus County, trains to be able to assist law enforcement in times of civil disorder or natural disaster. Most are former military, law enforcement or first responders.
“The number one reason our men train is to support law enforcement in North Carolina,” Smith said. ”The actions of a few others has shamed each man from our state, and they fear their reputations as law-abiding citizens has been sullied in our law enforcement brethren’s eyes.”
Members of the former NCOK still stand ready to help their communities, Smith said.
“We are rebranding ourselves, and our mission is and will remain the same,” he said.