Far-Right Group Organized to Protest COVID Restrictions Gains 11K Members in 1 Year: Report

People's Rights, a far-right group founded by Ammon Bundy has reportedly gained 11,000 members in one year, although Bundy says the group has grown radically larger.

Last week's report by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights said that the organization has grown by 53 percent in the last year, having a total of more than 33,000 members across the country and Canada, the Associated Press reported.

"The IREHR report is drastically inaccurate. Not sure where they pulled their info from." Bundy says People's Rights now has 62,337 members as of Saturday, Bundy wrote in an email, the Associated Press reported.

"Who would you call right now if you needed help defending your rights against a government agency?" the People's Rights website asked readers. The website also said regulations such as vaccine mandates might be the "call to action" for the group to speak up against the government.

Chuck Tanner, IREHR research director said People's Rights political ideology is focused on "pre-Civil War interpretation of the U.S. Constitution" and Christian nationalism.

"What People's Rights does is spread really radical ideas about overturning civil rights in the United States. This is a broad-based, anti-Democratic and bigoted social movement," Tanner said.

Bundy defended his group in a phone interview with the AP on Friday, saying that People's Rights doesn't profess any ideology other than principles given in the Declaration of Independence. Bundy said the group is not anti-government but is a group of individuals who want secured liberties, and that he and other members would be ready to take action against the government if need be.

"If it's government trying to take the rights, we will have to unite against them. It happens. We don't need to get all emotional about it. We just need to appear and unite together so we can all get through it," Bundy said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

People's Rights, Right Group Leader Ammon Bundy
People’s Rights, a far-right group founded by Ammon Bundy, is reported to have gained 11,000 members in one year, although Bundy says the group has grown radically larger. April 3, 2021, Ammon Bundy speaks to a crowd of about 50 followers in front of the Ada County Courthouse in downtown Boise. Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Associated Press

"I'm glad they under reported so the FBI does not think we are too much of a threat to 'democracy,'" Bundy wrote. "If we keep growing the way we are the FBI may get jealous and throw me in jail for no reason again."

Bundy—who started People's Rights amid a wave of backlash against public health measures taken at the start of the coronavirus pandemic—is best known for leading a group of armed activists in the occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016. But Bundy was acquitted of all federal charges in that case by an Oregon jury. In 2014, Bundy, several brothers and his father led an armed standoff in Nevada with Bureau of Land Management agents who attempted to confiscate his father's cattle for grazing on public land without a permit. The Nevada criminal case against Bundy ended in a mistrial, but he spent nearly two years behind bars awaiting the resolution of the two court cases.

"It's a network of individuals that are looking for a way to secure their liberty, but other than giving them tools of how to do that, each area is completely on their own to be able to do whatever they decide to communicate, even whatever they decide to do," Bundy said. "There's very few restrictions that we have placed upon them."

According to the People's Rights website, the network seems akin to an emergency militia service, with members agreeing to help defend each other against "government criminals."

The network is divided into regions, where leaders sometimes hold training sessions on HAM radios, firearms or emergency first aid. At times members in certain regions are asked to attend protests or take other actions to "defend your rights." Much of the networks' activity in the past year has been focused on opposing public health measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. In Idaho, People's Rights members have used the network to spread misinformation about coronavirus, advised each other on how to obtain medications that aren't approved for treating COVID-19, and staged protests outside of government officials' homes.