The Posse Comitatus (Latin, "force of the county") was a loosely organized, far-right populist social movement in the United States starting in the late 1960s, whose members spread a conspiracy-minded, anti-government and anti-Semitic message in the name of white Christians to counter what they believe is an attack on their social and political rights.
Many Posse members practice survivalism and played a role in the formation of the armed citizens' militias in the 1990s. The Posse Comitatus pioneered the use of false liens and other types of "paper terrorism" to harass opponents with frivolous legal actions.
Developing strong ties to the white supremacist Christian Identity movement, they believe themselves to be the true Israelites, chosen by God, and they state that the Jews seek to help Satan destroy civilization, and undermine white citizens' rights by means of the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service.
Posse charters were issued in 1969 in Portland, Oregon, by Henry Lamont Beach, "a retired dry cleaner and a one-time member of the Silver Shirts, a Nazi-inspired organization that was established in America after Adolf Hitler took power in Germany". William Potter Gale has been described by one expert as the founder of the movement.
Posse members believe that there is no legitimate form of government above that of the county level and no higher law authority than the county sheriff.
Members of the Posse Comitatus frequently refuse to pay taxes, to obtain driver's licenses, or otherwise to comply with regulatory authorities. They deny the validity of United States fiat money as not backed by gold, which they claim the Constitution requires.
They have unusual legal documents drawn up and attempt to record them, declaring independence from the United States, or claiming to file "common law" liens against perceived enemies like Internal Revenue Service employees or judges. They are often involved in various tax protests, and have invoked arguments popularized by tax protesters
The Posse Comitatus made national news when, on February 13, 1983, former Posse member Gordon Kahl killed two federal marshals who had come to arrest him in North Dakota and became a fugitive. Another shootout ensued on June 3, 1983, in which Kahl and Lawrence County, Arkansas, Sheriff Gene Matthews were killed. Other members of the group have also been convicted of crimes ranging from tax evasion and counterfeiting to threatening the lives of IRS agents and judges.
The organization also demonstrated to support its members over other issues. On September 2, 1975, Francis Earl Gillings, the founder of a San Joaquin County Posse group, led a group of armed Posse members to prevent United Farm Workers union organizers from attempting to organize non-union tomato pickers. As sheriff's deputies attempted to arrest Gillings on a traffic warrant, one got into a scuffle with Gillings and a shot was fired, injuring a deputy's ear.
On August 15, 2012, five suspects were arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of two sheriff's deputies and wounding two others in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Terry Smith, 44; Brian Smith, 24; Derrick Smith, 22; Teniecha Bright, 21; and Kyle David Joekel, 28, were identified, with Brian Smith and Joekel identified as the shooters in the incident. The men are rumored to be affiliated with a Posse Comitatus group. On August 17, 2012, two more suspects—Chanel Skains, 37, and Britney Keith, 23—were charged with accessory after the fact.
The posse had an active presence in Tigerton, Wisconsin until a crackdown by government prosecutors in the early 1980s left many of the group's leaders imprisoned.