ROSE NOLEN: The 'sovereign citizen' movement preys on hopelessness

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Years ago, when I lived in Kansas City, I thought it was the sanest place in the world to live.

Wherever I went, I always ran into someone from the old neighborhood, so I always felt safe.

That was because when I first lived in the city as a child, it was segregated, and my old neighborhood was not one neighborhood but a large section of blocks.

Later, when I moved away, the city started to break apart, piece by piece, and before long it didn't feel the same anymore.

Now when I hear about weird stuff going on there, I wonder if it's still the place I left behind.

Take this business about "sovereign citizens." Recently, in Kansas City, a homeowner was harassed by a rent-to-own buyer who didn't believe in paying property taxes. 

Others in the movement have been convicted in Kansas City for mail fraud after creating their own type of currency to pay debts. Some have even tried to help friends settle debts with phony promissory notes.

Of course, I know when times get tough, people resort to all kinds of ways to stay out of trouble.

The problem is that when people hear about these so-called legal methods of dealing with financial problems, they are apt to jump right on the bandwagon.

I can imagine trying to sell my house in this tight market, being willing to finance it myself and winding up with a tenant who refuses to pay property taxes. I would have to hire a lawyer to get me untangled from this kind of mess.

I see how the paperwork could go on and on until I reached desperation and decided to find my own way out.

When you consider the way these people can tie up lawyers, judges and courtrooms with their foolishness, I see how an individual without legal training could be in trouble.

When you understand how difficult life can be for some people, it's relatively easy for them to become trapped in these hopeless schemes.

It is just not everyday people falling victim to these domestic terrorists. Some of these characters are tying up the courts with their lawsuits, using all kinds of documents, including the Bible, to push their case.

A parking ticket can be reason enough reason to initiate a damage suit against a police officer.

It is difficult to imagine where all this will end. If these people continue to keep courts tied up with lawsuits, it could last for years. The courts are already filled with legitimate cases to settle.

It is sad when people feel so trapped by everyday problems that they start to believe the law is an enemy rather than a friend.

Many are looking to the tea party for a solution; others are hoping the Occupy movements will help solve their problems. Some have declared themselves "sovereign citizens."

I hope Congress and the current administration will see we need a government that will unite us and not tear us further apart.

People are wandering off, and some are getting lost. It's time to stop and think about a new direction, all of us together, now.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at

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Michael Williams December 6, 2011 | 8:23 a.m.

No doubt the sovereign citizens thingie is full of loons.

You said KCMO used to be safe, then you said it was safe because it was segregated.

Please explain.

PS: You blame KCMO's problems on a minor movement of loons? That's the weirdest assignment of blame for KCMO's problems I believe I've ever read. I used to live there, too, and still have family there. I can categorically say KCMO's problems have more to do with a decades-long, city-wide entitlement mentality than any small scale right-wing conspiracy.

Sheesh. Whatever are you thinking?

(Report Comment)
frank christian December 6, 2011 | 11:16 a.m.

@ Rose - "When you consider the way these people can tie up lawyers, judges and courtrooms with their foolishness, I see how an individual without legal training could be in trouble." Trial lawyers have clogged our courts with superfluous litigation over last 30 years in a trend that could overwhelm our legal system and they overwhelmingly support the politicians you continually purport to be the only ones to "save" us. (trial lawyers gave 4M$ to Clinton and have given 4M$ so far to Obama. 13/4M$ to Romney.)

Those, throughout history, that have attempted complete control of the people, have first denigrated the rights of "personal property" with propaganda and laws making those rights too troublesome to exercise or retain. I hope this piece is not you doing your part in the effort I've described.

A note on American sovereignty.

"I suspect that my boss at the Council, Richard Haass, has it right: seizing the “opportunity” of global integration will require accepting “a little less sovereignty.” But how much less—and under what terms—are matters we have only begun to debate as a nation. Council on Foreign Relations

(Report Comment)

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