April 19, 1985: Siege of White Supremacist Group CSA Begins in Arkansas

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A Brief History

On April 19, 1985, around 200 Federal law enforcement officers began a siege of “The Farm,” a compound of the Covenant, Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), a right wing white supremacist paramilitary survivalist organization.  You may recall that April 19 (1993) is the date of the great fire and mass deaths at the Waco Branch Davidian conclusion of another Federal siege, and that April 19 (1995) is the date of the Oklahoma City Federal Building terrorist bombing.  If this is not enough domestic terror related events for one date, you can recall the April 19 (2013) killing of one of the Tsarnaev brothers and capture of the other (after shooting him), the 2 Chechnyan immigrants responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.

Digging Deeper

On this ominous date in 1985, FBI (including their HRT unit) and ATF agents, between 200 and 300 strong, surrounded the CSA compound Elijah, Arkansas, beginning a 2 day siege that ended with a negotiated surrender.  Having so many Federal agents show up in a small town was sure to give away their presence, but masterful acting on the part of agents pretending to be tourists and fishermen enabled the Feds to achieve surprise.

The CSA had set up the “Farm,” a 224 acre compound, to house and train their fighters and assassins.  A radical group with loose ties to other White supremacist groups such as The Aryan Nation, the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, and Neo-Nazi groups, the CSA was anti-Jewish in the extreme, and saw the US government as a tool of Zionists.  Like most of these White supremacist groups, the CSA had a radical religious basis as well as racial and political hatred.  An offshoot group formed by even more radical members of the CSA was “The Order,” which reformed in Idaho.  The Farm was fortified with bunkers and a defensive plan, with the 100 or so adult male occupants heavily armed with military type rifles and sub-machine guns.  The semi-automatic military style rifles had been illegally modified to fire on full automatic, and some .22 caliber pistols had been fitted with illegally manufactured silencers.  Sawed off shotguns, a heavy machine gun, explosives and at least one anti-tank rocket were in the considerable arsenal of the CSA.  The Federal agents fully expected a shootout.  (The women and children in the compound had been evacuated early in the negotiations.)

The Order (white supremacist group) logo

One member of the CSA, Richard Snell, had murdered an African-American Arkansas State Trooper and a pawn shop owner in 1984, and had attempted to bomb a natural gas pipeline in 1983.  Snell had been arrested after being shot by police in 1984, and was executed in 1995.  The incidents with Snell brought extreme interest from the FBI and ATF to the CSA, ultimately resulting in intelligence operations that in turn resulted in getting warrants on April 16, 1985 to search the Farm.

James Ellison, founder of the CSA and associate of other White supremacist leaders (previous prison contacts) was arrested and charged with weapons violations after the surrender along with 4 other group leaders.  Ellison later agreed in 1987 to testify against 7 leaders of the Aryan Nation in exchange for release, but all 7 defendants were acquitted due to the jury finding Ellison not a credible witness.

Aryan Nations emblem.

With so many members and leaders intertwined with members and leaders of various other White supremacist groups, perhaps it is only natural that rumors of a connection between the CSA and the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing developed. No known involvement by the CSA in the Oklahoma City terrorist event has been established, but a conspiracy to murder FBI agents, prosecutors and judges has.  The CSA appears to be defunct at this time, but so many other similar organizations are still out there that the threat remains.

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building two days after the bombing, viewed from across the adjacent parking lot

The government take down of the CSA compound had a surprisingly peaceful conclusion, one that cannot be expected to be repeated in all future such incidents, but certainly an outcome that gives some credibility to making the effort to achieve peaceful conclusions to such stand-offs.

Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think of paramilitary, religious, racially oriented groups?  Do they have a legitimate place in our society?  Should the government monitor them, attempt to infiltrate them, or just leave them alone?  Feel free to comment regardless of your own beliefs, as we welcome discussion by either side, in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Federal Bureau of Investigations.  The Covenant, The Sword, The Arm of the Lord – The FBI Files.  The FBI Files, 2009.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.