A new storefront at the Woodland Mall and social media postings have stirred up questions, primarily: What is the Oath Keepers Outpost, and who are the Oath Keepers?
New to the Woodland Mall is the under-construction Oath Keepers Outpost, which will be a retail space specializing in survivalist gear, such as firestarters and emergency kits, and “prepping” equipment in case of multi-day disasters.
According to Michelle Beaverson of the Woodland Mall, three people signed the outpost’s lease. She noted, “there won’t be gun sales at the store because Dunham’s already sells guns (and there’s a noncompete agreement at the mall). This (store) is something new for Bowling Green.” The store is located between Queta’s Kitchen and the shuttered World Nail.
Nick Getzinger, state executive officer of the Ohio Oath Keepers, whose wife Tracy will be involved in running the outpost, notes that the store is not owned by, and is a separate entity from, the Oath Keeper organization. The Ohio Oath Keepers is a nonprofit organization.
Getzinger, who lives near Weston, was distributing fliers to mall stores on Thursday that explained who the Ohio Oath Keepers are and what their mission is. Among the key points Getzinger made were, “We are a non-partisan group of Christian Patriots for America. We support, uphold, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”
He noted that the Ohio Oath Keepers’ philosophy follows the principles of the former Civilian Defense Corps. “Ohio has been a leader for other states as far as the path we’ve chosen to take as Oath Keepers. We were the first to take on the civil defense role,” he said Thursday.
Mallgoers who were curious about the new store’s name may have seen information on social media about a planned survivalist training summit that the Ohio Oath Keepers have in the works for June 10-12 at the mall. While the memo was released prematurely and is preliminary, both Beaverson and Getzinger noted that plans are underway for a multistate summit.
“Talks of the summit came after the outpost was established, and there are still details to be finalized,” Beaverson said Thursday. “It’s new to the area so there are going to be questions. It’s an event (that could) bring income and extra customers to my tenants. That’s my main concern is that my tenants are happy.”
“We’ve already benefited some of the businesses by renting out the martial arts center for our training,” Getzinger noted. “This could be good for everyone — bring business to town and give us a place to have training for our summit.”
Getzinger is a 20-year firefighter veteran, a military veteran, and a former Wood County deputy. He says he was drawn to the Ohio Oath Keepers because he sees civil defense as a great asset. He notes the Ohio Oath Keepers is a diverse group with a host of talents, and “most of us are businesses, owners, doctors, EMTs.” The Ohio Oath Keepers are trained and available to help support law enforcement and safety personnel if needed, he said.
The flier Getzinger distributed to mall tenants stated, in part, “The Ohio Oath Keepers is a nonprofit 501c3 corporation and nonpartisan group made up of the following: law enforcement, fire, EMS, military, nurses, ministers, doctors (both active and retired), and a large group of business owners, including ordinary men and women from all walks of life. (WE are not a militia.)
“We come together as advocates for the Constitution to train the public about their rights, their duties as citizens and their obligation to assist their neighbors in the event of a crisis from any type of disaster that is manmade or natural. ...
“Every member of the Ohio Oath Keepers has previously at some point in their life taken the Oath or Pledge to protect our citizens no matter the cost. We the Ohio Oath Keepers are here to uphold that pledge that did not have an expiration date and guarantee to protect the sovereignty of our citizens and our country.”
When asked why he thought Bowling Green and the Woodland Mall was an ideal spot for a future summit, Getzinger initially noted that Ohio has one of the largest military serving populations in the United States, and therefore has a high number of veterans.
“We had spoken about renting the space for the survival store, and the summit came up after the fact. We have three empty stores in the Woodland Mall, and I know there used to be gun shows here. Our plan is to utilize what is available in the mall. This is a very easy-to-access spot from I-75, Toledo, and the turnpike,” Getzinger said.
“The idea is to bring people into a decent area to conduct this (training summit). The mall is nice inside. Despite what some people might think, we don’t really like living out in the woods,” Getzinger joked.
He noted that the summit is in the very early planning stages and they are unclear how many people would attend, but he would keep the numbers within legal fire code limits. The trainings will be open to the public, Getzinger said. The multistate area from which Ohio Oath Keepers are expecting to draw involves Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana.
Beaverson also noted that the mall has not yet settled on a contract for the summit or given the OK to plans by the Ohio Oath Keepers.
Getzinger says he is planning meetings with local law enforcement agencies to discuss the summit.
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn noted Thursday that he received an email on March 14 from Getzinger seeking a sitdown with him, and dates for such a meeting are yet to come.
The sheriff examined a list of proposed events on the Oath Keepers’ social media posting and noted he didn’t see any activities that stand out as a danger or risk to the public.
When asked about the legality of the possibility of concealed carry occurring at the summit, Wasylyshyn noted that would be at the mall’s discretion.
“If you own a business, it’s the business’ discretion whether to allow CCW,” he said.
If the name “Oath Keepers” sounds at all familiar, it is likely because of the notoriety a group of Oath Keepers achieved in 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri, while that city was under a state of emergency. The state of emergency occurred in the wake of unrest after the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer. Though the openly armed Oath Keepers members stressed their presence was meant to help keep the peace during the unrest, many of the protesters themselves said they were made uneasy by the group’s presence. At the time, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”
Mark Potok of the Southern Law Poverty Center, a nonprofit legal organization that specializes in civil rights and public interest litigation, notes that the national Oath Keepers group has no record of engaging in political violence, though he also opined that “the core ideas of these groups relate to the fear that elites in this country and around the world are slowly and steadily and nefariously moving us towards a one-world government, the so-called New World Order,” in a 2015 NPR interview.
Getzinger notes that the Ohio Oath Keepers are not a militia and the actions taken by Oath Keepers in national situations such as Ferguson are “separate from what our intentions are. ... We have no affiliation with what happened in Ferguson. We are nonpartisan — we are very clear about that. We are Constitutionalists. ... We are independent completely from the Oath Keepers that were in Missouri.”
Getzinger also said that “We are cautious about any of our members doing anything illegal. We don’t allow felons in our ranks.”
The Ohio Oath Keepers and the Woodland Mall will release more information as the event is formulated, finalized and approved.