ELKHART — Leave me alone, federal government.
That was the message at a presentation Tuesday by Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who calls on more assertive efforts by local law enforcement to fend off what he sees as ballooning federal power.
“The federal government is not our boss. They are not our king,” said Mack, whose visit was sponsored in part by Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers.
However, the federal bureaucracy is increasingly trampling on rights that should be reserved for states and locales, and it’s up to county sheriffs, as the only elected law enforcement officials in the nation, to help re-establish the balance. He alluded to Rogers’ efforts to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to back off an Elkhart County dairy that distributes raw milk for consumption.
“Government is here to protect our rights, and when they don’t, we have to do something about it,” said Mack, who served two terms as sheriff of Graham, County, Ariz. “And that’s all Sheriff Rogers did.”
Around 350 people attended the presentation at Beulah Missionary Church — including many from the Amish community — and they frequently applauded the anti-federal government message. Mack speaks on the issue across the country, and he sees similarities in his varied audiences.
“It’s the same — people who just want to be left alone,” said Mack, who now lives in Fredricksburg, Texas, and runs a group called the County Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association to further his message.
He alluded frequently to the raw milk issue, defending those who consume the product. The federal government prohibits commerce across state lines of raw milk while Indiana prohibits the sale of the unpasteurized white stuff, raising the hackles of some as unnecessarily strong.
Indeed, Rogers received a standing ovation from the crowd after he was introduced and his call to get the FDA to back off Forest Grove Dairy near Middlebury was mentioned. After the dairy operator approached him last month complaining about repeated FDA inspections, Rogers said in a letter to the agency that it would need a warrant to conduct any additional inspections.
“The government needs to stay out of your business,” Rogers said.
Rogers also referred to confrontations between federal authorities and Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge in northern Idaho in 1992 and the feds and Branch Davidian followers in Waco, Texas, in 1993. Both incidents became rallying points for critics of heavy-handed federal government involvement.
“While I’m sheriff in this county, it’s not going to happen,” Rogers said.
Mack’s strong rhetoric notwithstanding — “We are the generation watching America die and she’s on life support,” he said — the former lawman maintains that he doesn’t preach violence.
“I believe this is a fight and it is a battle,” Mack said. “But it’s one of peace. It’s one of absolute conviction.”
Later he said his call amounts to nothing more than establishing equilibrium in power between local and federal government. “It’s not subversive or violent,” he said.
A local tea party group, the Tea Party of Michiana Coalition, also helped organize Tuesday’s event.