Pennsylvania Three Percenter group lays the groundwork to go national
Proud American Patriots Network sought members
Proud American Patriots Network sought members from extremist hotbeds online. Now, it wants to rewrite its history.
By Jared Holt
In the fallout of the January 6 insurrectionist riot at the US Capitol, many of the known extremist movements that participated or called for unlawful activity and violence during that time period wound up disheveled and paranoid.
One such faction of far-right extremism, the Three Percenter anti-government movement, scrambled and splintered for months as they found themselves on the receiving end of scrutiny, both from the public and from federal law enforcement agencies. The pressure after January 6 was so great that one longstanding Three Percenter group even dissolved itself. Federal prosecutors charged several individuals associated with the Three Percenter movement and militia movement groups for roles in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, including a charge of conspiracy against six California men belonging to a Three Percenter group. Earlier this summer, Canada labeled the Three Percenters a terrorist entity. Though anyone can identify themselves as a Three Percenter and there is not a single Three Percenters organization, many individuals and groups associated with the movement have expressed violent desires against the government.
Since the Capitol riot, some individuals have made efforts to regroup the movement’s supporters into clusters with the same ideology repackaged without the extremist branding. One group based in the village of Jamison, Pennsylvania, discreetly laid blueprints for a new national Three Percenter entity under the veil of a proposed 501c4 nonprofit political advocacy organization, seeming to bury the group’s extreme sentiments beneath the façade of a formal, government-registered nonprofit. Their efforts to obfuscate their Three Percenter connections were ultimately exposed by local columnist Cyril Mychalejko after they became involved in community efforts to protest mask mandates in area schools.
Husband and wife Theodore (“TJ”) and Brittany Kosin created a group called the Proud American Patriots Network (PAPN) in 2020, though their group has become increasingly active in recent months. Visitors to the group’s website could easily mistake it for a conservative nonprofit, equipped with a homepage that declares support for religious freedom, private property rights, and the 2nd Amendment. It advertises a donation page, which contained a footnote that the group is “currently in the process of obtaining [its] 501c4” tax designation. (At the time of publishing, the page reads as if the group has already obtained that status.) Pages on its domain contain a handful of political candidate endorsements in national and local elections, instructions for entering a scholarship essay contest, and a form to request community outreach assistance from the group. The site also solicits financial sponsorships, discloses its financial history, and lists board members.
But a closer look at the group reveals that its founders have previously identified themselves as Three Percenters, and people associated with the group have sought to recruit from online militia movement communities. Documents published by co-founder TJ Kosin outline plans to fulfill what appear to be larger, nationwide ambitions to build an armed and trained network of likeminded groups.
After facing community backlash surrounding a school board protest, the group has further sought to bury its past affiliations with the Three Percenters movement. The strategies of obfuscation on display from PAPN reflect strategies adopted by a larger swath of the militia movement, in which rebranded groups have sought to organize under names, images — and in this case, a proposed nonprofit entity — less readily associated with the reinvigorated stigma attached to belonging to a militia group after the Capitol attack.
Group’s newfound denials don’t match its web history
Under scrutiny from local media outlets, Proud American Patriots Network has denied its affiliations with Three Percenter and militia movements. The group’s internet footprint, however, tells another story. As the DFRLab was investigating PAPN, the group’s website changed several times, as did the contents of its social media accounts.
PAPN’s support for the Three Percenter movement has been a recent subject of controversy in its surrounding community, stemming from the group’s involvement in campaigns targeting a county school board over COVID-19 health and safety measures. The group shared a flyer on Facebook for a protest before a Bucks County School Board meeting on August 25, which stated that the “family fun” event was to be co-hosted by another group called Parents of Central Bucks School District. After members of the local community raised alarm over PAPN and its affiliations, the event was called off.
Responding to community concerns, PAPN wrote on Facebook that it was not a “militia” or an “alt-right wing racist organization.” The group’s website was updated to display a statement in a pop-up window on its website that begins: “Proud American Patriots Network renounces anything to do with the Three Percenter movement.”
Despite these denials both to the public and to local news outlets, PAPN’s digital footprint does not support the narrative it is now putting forward as it attempts to save face.
The DFRLab found links to two URLs that directed to the PAPN website posted on MyMilitia at least 85 times by a small handful of users as recently as June 2021. MyMilitia is a forum board that functions to connect would-be militia members to organizations in their respective areas. In January, a MyMilitia user with the screenname CPT SeaDog posted a link to the organization’s website in a subforum for Georgia-based users and stated that the group was “trying to get away from the stigma associated with the term ‘militia’ although that is exactly what we are.”
An account on document-hosting website Flipsnack in TJ Kosin’s name and linked to the group’s website lists several documents that reveal PAPN’s apparent ambitions to grow and expand its reach. Documents detail the group’s command structure at national, state, and zone levels, a set of training plans for its members, a pitch document for would-be sponsors, and the group’s bylaws. In the wake of the recent public outcry, some of the documents on Kosin’s account were edited or removed.
Prior to those changes, PAPN’s bylaws clearly stated its goals of recruiting and training a “civilian entity” that can assist state, county, and local authorities and respond to natural disasters. That portion of the document has since been removed. The bylaws still state that the group seeks to establish a “training facility” that law enforcement can utilize and to provide police departments with resources they otherwise would not have due to budget constraints.
Tucked into a section about community outreach, there was an explicit call-out to the Three Percenters movement: “The Three Percenters movement is not just you and me. They are our Sheriffs, Police Officers, Firefighters, Medics, Nurses, Teachers, Doctors, IT folks, librarians, grocers, farmers; they are in ALL professions. They are members of OUR community.” The DFRLab downloaded the document on August 5, 2021; in the following weeks, that part of the bylaws was quietly updated to refer to members as “constitutionalists” rather than Three Percenters.
One since-deleted document on the Flipsnack account, downloaded by the DFRLab on August 18, outlined a training plan for “Level 1” and “Level 2” members with the stated intention of fostering a “combat ready unit that responds rapidly to known or suspected enemy activity and defeats that enemy.” Drilled skills for a Level 1 member included marksmanship with firearms, in-field communication methods, and first aid application. Level 2, described in the document as the standard for a “fully functional and deployable PAPN soldier,” included higher benchmarks for the aforementioned skills and demonstrated proficiency in an assortment of small team combat leadership abilities. The document also included outlines for a “Level 3” status, which included a section for testing proficiency in “Sniper Operations” and close-quarters combat, in addition to a list of qualifications for special operations groups.
On July 18, 2021, the group’s TikTok page posted a slideshow montage showing photos of individuals posing with airsoft guns at an indoor facility in New Jersey. The video was also posted, but later deleted, on PAPN’s Instagram account.
On PAPN’s YouTube channel, a video titled “Firing Under Duress Training” shows what it states is an Arkansas chapter of the group’s members conducting firearms training drills with wooden props spray-painted with phrases like “Kill Kill Kill” and “Biden is watching.”
Though most of PAPN’s activities have taken place in and around the vicinity of Jamison, Pennsylvania, the group has a framework to go national. Additionally, on MyMilitia, users purporting to be part of the group have attempted to solicit others to form chapters across the country.
TJ and Brittany Kosin appear to be active members of their community, including TJ’s recent involvement with local conservative campaigns. On the Instagram account of Theo and Sons Custom Clothing, a business registered to Kosin, some posts indicate that the company has had relationships to local law enforcement, including the Buckingham Township Police, which thanked their company for a gift of masks — a somewhat discordant gift considering their current anti-mask activism directed at the Bucks County School Board.
In August 2020, TJ Kosin posted a video to his personal TikTok page of his wife and himself preparing care packages to give to the same police department.
The DFRLab did not find evidence to suggest that the Buckingham Township Police Department was aware of or supported the Kosins’ political organizing attempts.
PAPN has a dedicated article in its bylaws that encourages members to recruit on behalf of the group, though it states that recruiting is not a required activity. It urges members to try recruiting “family members, friends, and neighbors” first, because they are “the easiest” before they move on to “people [they] see in person or on social media that seem to have the same ideals that we have.” It explicitly discourages members from engaging with individuals who seem eager to launch a “hard power” revolution.
After joining the group, members are directed to a private forum board that includes spaces for group discussion and a calendar of events. At the time of writing, the DFRLab counted 57 user accounts registered to the forum.
The group’s bylaws contain rules for the group regarding how its members may communicate with one another. Primary communication within the group is limited to the group’s private forum board. Secondary means of communication are allowed via the encrypted messaging service Wire, the web-based conferencing software GoToMeeting, and personal radio systems. These rules demonstrate that PAPN is interested in keeping its group conversations away from public view. Bylaws state that new members are subject to background checks, and a since-removed section stated that members were required to sign non-disclosure agreements with the group.
The Kosins have looked to both mainstream platforms — including Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram — and alternative social media platforms such as MeWe, Gab, and Wimkin to build pages for PAPN. Few of these accounts have large followings, but some occasionally post video and photo content.
Though PAPN has sought to present itself to unassuming allies and the public as an innocuous conservative nonprofit, the DFRLab’s findings make clear the group has also operated with an ulterior agenda.
The vague presentation style and attempts at revisionism utilized by PAPN has already caused confusion in its local community, and that confusion has produced sympathy from conservative organizing groups with less ideologically extreme philosophies and “both-sides” style coverage from local news outlets. Both effects may provide net benefits to the group.
Broadly, extremist movements facing increased scrutiny after the January 6 riot at the US Capitol may turn in larger numbers to strategies like those the Kosins have used in their quiet village of Jamison, Pennsylvania. To answer this strategy, additional scrutiny and examination will be required. Reporters have a responsibility to not blindly repeat a group’s denials when they aren’t based on the evidence, as is the case with Proud American Patriots Network.
This story was originally published on September 3, 2021.
Jared Holt is Resident Fellow with the Digital Forensic Research Lab.
Cite this case study:
Jared Holt, “Pennsylvania Three Percenter group lays the groundwork to go national,” Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), September 3, 2021, https://medium.com/dfrlab/pennsylvania-three-percenter-group-lays-the-groundwork-to-go-national-359bef710cd0.
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