Dean Clifford, the so-called guru of the Freemen-on-the-Land movement, was arrested Sunday night in Hamilton on a Canada-wide warrant.
Plainclothes officers from the OPP’s Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement Squad (ROPE) nabbed Clifford after he hosted a two-day “Divestment from Corporations and Detaxation” seminar at the Hamilton Marriott.
The Canada-wide warrant was issued by Winnipeg police, who allege Clifford assaulted police, resisted arrest and obstructed police in the province.
The charges stem from an incident at a traffic stop in Winnipeg on July 13, according to Const. Eric Hofley of the Winnipeg Police Service.
"The warrant is a result of subsequent checks of court-imposed conditions which revealed that he was in breach of his recognizance," he said.
Clifford was scheduled to appear in a Winnipeg court on Aug. 21, but didn't show up. As a result, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Hofley would not specify what happened at the traffic stop that led to the charges. "I can't say anything because it's still before the courts," he said.
In Hamilton, police usually outline the circumstances that lead to an arrest.
According to an Ontario Provincial Police news release, Clifford "is currently in the process of being returned to Manitoba."
This video of the arrest has since been posted on YouTube. It contains some crude language.
In the video, seminar attendees yell at the officers who are arresting Clifford, saying they need to show proof of the warrant, and allege they are "kidnapping" him. Officers aren't obligated to show proof of a warrant in that situation, according to OPP Sgt. Peter Leon.
"If we have knowledge that a warrant exists on reasonable grounds, then we can [make] that arrest," Leon said.
The people who attended the seminar also repeatedly ask for the officer's badge number. "And if someone wants our badge number, then absolutely," Leon said. "But it depends on the circumstances and the environment."
In a "riotous-type situation," he said, officers would first focus on safety and making the arrest.
Plainclothes OPP officers wear their badge either on their hip or from a lanyard on their necks, Leon says. The badge does not include their badge number.
Mike Walling is a member of the Freemen-on-the-Land movement who has met Clifford in the past. He says the way Clifford's arrest was handled is "kind of scary."
"It seems like there isn't any clarity with police," he told CBC Hamilton by phone from Kelowna B.C. "They don't seem interested in identifying themselves to the public."
Calls government work 'absolute rubbish'
Members of the Freemen-on-the-Land movement believe statute law is a contract of which people can opt out. According to Clifford’s website, he doesn’t pay income or property taxes, and doesn’t drive with a license, insurance or government plates.
His beliefs are based on his assertion that “95 per cent of what government is doing is absolute rubbish” and he “does not consent to be governed by any of their bureaucrats,” Clifford's website reads.
“I’ve opted out of most things that people consider something you should do as a ‘good Canadian citizen,’” Clifford told the CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti in an interview earlier this fall. “People have every right to do this, and whether or not the people of Canada like it or not is irrelevant.
“I’m going to assume all liability for myself and I’m going to be responsible for what I do.”
Walling said the general public doesn't really understand the movement, which at its core is about freedom and being peaceful, he added.
"Everyone I've met who is involved in this movement is peaceful," he said. "They're not advocating violence in any way.
"It should be 100 per cent peaceful."
The Freemen-on-the-Land movement made national headlines earlier this year when a Calgary man claimed his rental property was an “embassy” that gave him rights over the landlord who owned the home.
The tenant was eventually removed from the property and police arrested him on warrants from his native Quebec, stemming from an alleged 2007 assault against his former landlady in Montreal.
'They follow their own sets of laws'
The Law Society of British Columbia and B.C. Notaries have both issued warnings about Freemen. In a bulletin last year, the society said the group may number as many as 30,000 in Canada.
The RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are developing awareness materials for front-line officers, and the movement has been the subject of policing seminars in Vancouver and Toronto.
The FBI considers the movement a domestic terror threat in the U.S.
A 2011 FBI report cites several cases where followers have clashed with law enforcement, including the 2010 shootings of two Arkansas officers during a routine traffic stop. It warns the movement is likely to grow, fuelled by the recent economic downturn and the popularity of seminars being held across the country.
"They may refer to themselves as 'constitutionalists' or 'Freemen,' which is not necessarily a connection to a specific group, but, rather, an indication that they are free from government control," the report says. "They follow their own set of laws."