Melbourne--Mike Morrell is a 41 year old Air Force veteran who believes the nation is on the brink of political and economic collapse.
He says the United States is run by corrupt officials who want to strip citizens of their rights and create a "New World Order"--a secret regime that would head a world government run by the United Nations.
For that reason, Morrell started the 19th Regiment Brevard County Militia two years ago. He says the group is dedicated to preserving constitutional rights, especially the right to keep guns.
Members are "God-fearing, law-abiding, everyday people", said Morrell, who lives in Melbourne and used to own a gun shop in Palm Bay.
"Its back to the basics to teach people to work together, to come together with food, weapons, equipment and generators and make a secure area for their families."
Morrell is not alone. He is one example of what law enforcement officials say is a growing anti-government movement in Brevard County.
Those involved locally as well as nationwide come from many walks of life and represent a diverse group in the extreme political right, experts and law enforcement officials say.
And they express their disdain for the nation's institutions in a variety of ways, according to interviews with local members and experts at the Southern Poverty Law Center Militia Task Force in Montgomery Alabama, which tracks militia groups.
Some collect weapons, practice guerrilla warfare and wilderness survival skills and read handbooks on explosives. Others refuse to pay income taxes and claim the courts have no authority over them.
In all, they tend to be white men deeply disillusioned with the nation, describing themselves as victims of increasing crime, higher taxes, government regulation and affirmative action programs.
Merritt Island resident Carl Gorton is one of them.
Gorton assaulted a Brevard County sheriff's deputy in 1992 when the deputy and an Internal Revenue Service agent seized his vehicles for his refusal to pay taxes. He spent two and a half years in prison.
Gorton recently put his feelings this way in The Revelator, an anti-government newsletter he publishes:
"Informed patriots have been attempting for decades, at great personal expense, to inform their fellow Americans about the threat to our freedom. The reward has been to be ignored, ostracized and labeled as 'extremists', 'Nazis', 'paranoids', 'anti-Semites' and other Pavlovian trigger words de-signed to assassinate their character"
TWO DISTINCT FACTIONS
Brevard sheriff's officials say the movement generally consists of two factions---militia members and common law adherents. Both share many of the same beliefs.
They hate the federal government and say the United Nations is part of an international banking conspiracy to control the United States and impose martial law.
Members of both groups also believe the federal government cannot legally collect income taxes and that international "anti-Christ" Jewish bankers control the United States Federal Reserve.
"Their little underground networks are the same. Sometimes the leaders break off into splinter groups with their own ideas," said Major Doug Waller, who commands the Sheriff's Office Intelligence Unit in Brevard County.
Officials for other militia watchdog groups make similar assessments.
"These groups tend to be very fluid. Charismatic leaders tend to come and go, and so do their groups," said Michael Winogard, spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in Miami.
The membership in such groups overlaps locally, the militia leans toward a philosophy of possible armed confrontation with law enforcement authorities, Waller said.
For that reason, the Intelligence Unit is trying to monitor local militia activity.
Members of Morrell's group, for example, have armed themselves with semiautomatic weapons and conducted secret paramilitary training, according to Morrell and the sheriff's department.
We, the people, run the country, not the government," said Floyd Rogers, a 68 year old militia activist who lives near Melbourne and recruits people in militia groups in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
"They're not the law; the people are the law. And if it gets too bad, we can overthrow them," he said, referring to the paramilitary capabilities of militias.
Common-law adherents, meantime, are fighting a renegade battle against the legal system.
Instead of guns and combat gear, they advocate a legal doctrine based on their interpretation of the Bible, Black's Law Dictionary and the U.S. Constitution.
Adherents typically recognize only the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, which they believe to be God-given, not created by men.
They do not believe the 16th Amendment, which gave congress the power to tax income, is valid, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Sometimes they target IRS agents, judges and other officials with liens and harassing complaints in Brevard courts.
For example, a complaint last year from Anthony Hartman of Hollywood angrily attacked Brevard County officials for incorrectly listing the size of a lot he owns in Sebastian.
"This proves that these dishonest, crooked, lying, corrupted people were just lying to me to cover up the truth," wrote Hartman, who said he represented an organization called the Citizens Intelligence Agency.
Hartman's complaint---like all the complaints or suits filed in Brevard by common-law groups---have not been recognized by the courts because they have no legal basis, according to the state Attorney General's Office in Tallahassee.
That doesn't stop true believers.
In December 1995, Attila Salvetti, a Palm Bay resident and member of a local common-law group called the Restoration Township Jural Society, filed a complaint with the County.
It argued that attempts by the federal government to collect $55,933 in unpaid taxes he owed from 1985-1991 were "invalid."
"I have never voted. I always knew it never made a difference anyway," Salvetti said, explaining his political leanings.
Others echo similar feelings.
"Democracy is socialism," said Rogers. "But a republican form of government is sovereign, and we've lost it, my friend, big-time."
Rogers suggests government agents caused the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured more than 500.
Such rhetoric attracts supporters such as 74-year-old Barbara Dillabough, a firearms enthusiast who keeps a loaded handgun in her mobile home near West Melbourne.
Dillabough doesn't participate in militia training but knows some local militia activists and shares many of their beliefs.
"The militia I know aren't bad people," she said.
Besides their disgust with the government, the movement's members in Brevard espouse a number of conspiracy theories, according to sheriff's officials.
For instance, a sheriff's report on the militia states some believe that Air Force helicopters flown at Cape Canaveral actually belong to the United Nations and are used to spy on law-abiding citizens.
They also believe federal agents have a secret compound on Cape Canaveral where the U.N. keeps the choppers.
Others believe the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has a detention center in Avon Park in Highlands County where their compatriots are being secretly jailed.
The Air Force has a facility in Avon Park that is part of a bombing range. It has no jail.
One common conspiracy repeated by local militia members is that the United Nations is run by people attempting to impose a New World Order on U.S. citizens.