Rep. Marshall Burt (L-Green River) starts work during the in-person portion of the 2021 legislative session in Cheyenne. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

CHEYENNE — The Three Percenters movement has gained representation in the Wyoming Legislature — at least symbolically.

A photograph resurfaced this week of freshman Rep. Marshall Burt (L-Green River) that shows a tattoo on his left forearm — the Roman numeral “III” surrounded by 13 stars, above the year 1776. The symbol is commonly associated with a far-right, anti-government movement and the popularization of militia groups. 

In a written statement this week, Burt said he is not involved in any militia groups, and got the tattoo because he enjoyed the symbolism of what it stood for.

“I got the tattoo because the American Revolution symbolism appealed to me, and to me it represents my solid commitment to the Second and Tenth Amendment,” Burt wrote. “I have never been a member of a militia group, and I think we have much bigger issues to address, like reducing wasteful spending and getting patients and veterans access to treatments, rather than to dwell on something as minor as a tattoo.”

The tatoo’s symbol — which closely resembles a Betsy Ross flag — is associated with a loosely organized anti-government movement known as the Three Percenters, which has been growing in influence within American conservative politics. The name comes from the debunked claim that only 3% of colonists fought against the British during the Revolutionary War but “achieved liberty for everybody,” according to a policy brief by the Anti-Defamation League. A number of militia groups and anti-government activists have adopted the symbol. 

The photograph of Burt — in which he is sitting at a table with a smiling young supporter — initially appeared online last year. National Libertarian Party chairman Joe Bishop Henchman first posted it on his public Facebook page shortly after Burt’s victory over incumbent Democratic Rep. Stan Blake in November.

Burt’s “Three Percenter” tattoo, seen here on his left forearm. The Roman numeral “III” references the debunked claim that only 3% of the American colonists rose up in arms against the British. The 13 stars represent the original 13 colonies. Beneath is the numeral “1776” — the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. (Screengrab/Facebook)

After a reporter contacted Burt about the tattoo on Nov. 5, the image was removed from the post, which featured other images of the newly elected lawmaker engaging with Henchman and a handful of supporters.

The Libertarian Party did not respond to an email or phone message requesting comment. 

Who are the Three Percenters?

The Three Percenters ideology has gained increasing prominence in American politics over the last decade, with a growing number of Republican officials recently making headlines for their ties to the movement.

Newly elected U.S. Representatives Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) have both attracted attention for their associations with militia groups tied to the Three Percenters. Illinois state lawmaker Chris Miller, was found to be sporting a “III%” decal on a truck driven by his U.S. Representative spouse around the Jan. 6 riots at the United States Capitol. Members of a Three Percenter militia group also provided security at the 2017 “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

This week authorities listed the Three Percenters among the groups they feared were plotting another attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Unlike militia groups like the Oath Keepers, however, researchers say the Three Percenters are often loosely defined, and many who prescribe to the ideology may not actually be active participants of any centralized group. 

“Nobody has a firm idea of what the [Three Percenter] movement is,” according to J.J. MacNabb, a fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. 

“If you are, for example, a Three Percenter in Idaho, you’re part of a militia. You show up, you train, you organize, you actually have membership,” MacNabb said. “But if you’re just kind of a Three Percenter, or if you got a tattoo or wear the T-shirt, or have a patch on your hat or whatever, you very well might not belong to any local group, and you’re not part of them. You’re part of the movement. And because it’s loosey goosey, there’s no real definition of what it means to be a Three Percenter.”

Some Three Percenter supporters may not even know what the symbology actually stands for, MacNabb said. 

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In interviews with people who have had tattoos similar to Burt’s, MacNabb has learned that people have many different interpretations for the symbol, she said. One believed it was pro-military. Another believed it represented support for the Second Amendment. Last year, a draft pick by the New England Patriots, Justin Rohrwasser, made headlines after he was spotted with a Three Percenter tattoo, which he said he believed was a pro-military, patriotic symbol. In fact, the symbol has  gained favor among members of the military, and members of some chapters have had close ties to the military. 

Burt himself is a Marine Corps veteran. 

Many definitions

According to the Anti-Defamation League, while the media often refer to the Three Percenters as a movement or a group, they actually constitute a segment of the broader anti-government militia movement and, as a concept, can be seen as a way to “simplify, popularize and spread the ideology and beliefs of the militia movement.” 

There is an unofficial Three Percenters’ website, for example, with a merchandise store and a blog detailing the movement’s beliefs. That blog also challenges various ways the movement has been depicted in the popular press, particularly following civil unrest throughout the summer and the violent riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Shortly after Burt was elected to represent House District 39, Joe Bishop Henchman — the national chair of the Libertarian Party, which supported Burt’s campaign — posted a series of images on his Facebook page depicting him spending time with Burt. In one of those images, Burt’s Three Percent tattoo is visible. (Screengrab/Facebook)

However, the site — which belongs to a group that purports to be the “original” Three Percenters — explicitly states on its (now-defunct) landing page that there “are lots of three-percenter groups” and that there was no specific organization responsible for the storming of the Capitol. 

“As we’ve said many times before, we do not allow members into our organization who are racists, white supremacists, violent, anti-government, extremists, terrorists, etc.,” the group wrote in a Feb. 19 blog post. “We have a vetting standard in place to weed out these types that would seem to hurt our organization. We are law-abiding good people who love America and want to give back to our communities. We ask the news agencies to conduct accurate reporting instead of lumping all Three Percenter groups into one. We’re not all the same. In fact, we’re radically different from one another. Do better reporting.”

After a reporter reached out to Burt via text message on Nov. 5 asking for comment, the tattoo image was removed from Henchman’s post. Burt hasn’t responded to the reporter’s questions, and the national Libertarian Party has not returned phone calls or emails requesting comment. (Screengrab, Facebook)

The symbol has been connected to anti-government violence in recent years. One of the men charged in the 2018 bombing of a Minnesota mosque was found to have run a Three Percenter group, and several people prescribing to the ideology were among those who stormed the United States Capitol. 

Rohrwasser later said he regretted getting the tattoo after learning what it symbolized, and planned to have it removed, according to the Providence Journal. The United States Military has issued warnings that some of its symbols — including a combat medic trauma course symbol closely resembling the Three Percenters symbol — were being co-opted by white supremacist and anti-government groups who were attracted to the “patriotic symbology,” the Army Times reports.

“A lot of these guys who get this tattoo don’t know what it actually means,” MacNabb said. “And the fact [that Burt] ran for office is a good thing. In its purest form, a Three Percenter would never run for office. They’d try to gather up enough people to take on the government from the outside.”

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  1. Symbols have been co-oped throughout history. The symbol has no ideology, therefore the ideology comes from the person expressing it. While it is clear that a small segment of people seem to have adopted the 3% moniker, the vast majority of people that identify with this symbol are individuals that have or are currently willing to put their lives at risk when others are not. We’re talking about military veterans, active duty military personnel, law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, nurses…you know, all the men and women people profess to honor and respect when we need them or want to appear virtuous online and in public, but then dismiss as radicals simply because those same people identify themselves as patriots.

    Maybe someone can help me identify the time-frame when considering yourself or someone else a “Patriot” became an automatic affiliation with anti-government, right-wing, racist militia groups!? As a US Navy veteran who is married to a US Navy veteran and who’s son is currently an active member of the US Navy, it’s fair to say that we consider ourselves Patriots, who have all taken the oath to protect and defend our constitution.

    Patriot, until recently, is a term that has been used for centuries in many countries to characterize a person that is loyal and steadfast to the cause of their nation. US patriotism took on a different meaning because it symbolized (it’s gonna be OK, I know how some people get triggered by symbolism) the belief in the idea that we should be free to live our lives as we see fit as long as that does not infringe on others doing the same. Notice that the oath is to protect and defend the constitution, which is simply a documentation of the ideals this country was founded on.

    Before you even start typing your response, I understand and acknowledge that these ideal have not always been equally applied to all people, but it is this very idea that every correction in our history has been based on…that all citizens of this nation are covered by the same rights to equal freedom. It has not been a perfectly executed experiment in self-governance, but I challenge anyone to present a better formula that even comes close. I’ve studied (and continue to study) history and have traveled the world and there is no country, on earth today, that more people wish and dream to come to. This isn’t because the United States is perfect, it’s because of the freedoms protected by the words written on a piece of paper and patriots willing to protect and defend it.

    True US patriots are, at their core, devoted, loyal and steadfast in the belief that every citizen should be free to live their lives without worry of government impedance. It’s why they are stanch supporters of not just the 2nd amendment, but the 1st, 3rd, 10th…let’s be honest the whole of the Bill of Rights. These amendments are the foundation of our freedom and were designed to keep the federal government in check and to prevent centralized overreaches of power and to ensure that Americans remained free from government tyranny.

    Tyranny is a word that is thrown around in hyperbole these days so it’s scoffed at as being ridiculous that the US government could ever become tyrannical. This is mostly because it is widely thought of as something that happens all at once, with an overthrow of the existing government and the installation of a dictator. Some would argue that tyranny can also occur in a slow and methodical (even accidental) manner, until one day you wake up and the freedoms you took for granted have vanished. This is what some of our citizen brothers and sisters believe is happening before our very eyes. The concern for such tyranny is not anti-government, but it is what has held the wolves at bay for nearly 245 years. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a phrase I’m sure most of you have heard before…stop for a moment and consider that in context to our current political climate regardless of what “team” you’re on. Are we not at point where lifelong politicians have created an elite governing body that continues to tell us what is best for us?

    We’ve already established that I consider myself a patriot…what does that mean to me? I fly the Stars and Stripes with honor and reverence, but respect your right not to; and while I don’t agree or respect it, even your right to defame it if you choose. I believe that gun ownership and the right to protect my way of life is clearly outlined, but using those firearms to infringe on someone else’s way of life is abhorrent, unless defending my life or someone else’s. I believe that every person on earth should have the right to love whoever they choose as this has no bearing on how I live my life. I believe that as a patriot, should the day ever come, it is my responsibility to protect and defend the constitution for my family and yours regards of what you look like, who you love or who you voted for.

    Perhaps instead of just dismissing an entire group of people because you don’t understand why they would risk everything for these ideals, simply engage in conversation with them. Attempt to understand them. You don’t have to walk away from the conversation agreeing with them; but maybe, just maybe you’ll both walk away better understanding each-other and gain some respect for one another. And if nothing else, agree to live and let live.

    I’ll leave you with one more symbol (because I know how much you love them) that has been co-oped in the past, but for me clearly states what should be the attitude of every single person and that is the Gadsden Flag. For those that aren’t familiar with it’s name, it is a flag with origins from the Revolutionary War that depicts a coiled rattlesnake and the simple words, “Don’t Tread On Me”. In today’s terms…”Don’t Start None, Wont Be None”. The rattlesnake was a purposeful choice for this flag, as it rarely strikes offensively, but rather out of defense when it feels it has no other choice to protect it’s life. It’s a warning…respect the boundaries and space or don’t be surprised when you get bit.

    – Proud Patriot

  2. Who cares? And so what? Where is freedom of choice? His body, his choice? These far left radicals are unreal……

  3. I’m confused. In order to show his “solid commitment” to Amendments 2 and 10, Rep. Burt gets the number 3 indelibly inked on his forearm.

    As an alleged Libertarian and according to the Libertarian Party platform, Rep. Burt is pro-abortion, pro-legalizing prostitution, pro-legalizing marijuana and other drugs, pro-LGTBQ, as well as against Social Security, and against government subsidies of the oil/gas and coal industries.

    I eagerly await seeing Rep. Burt stand up for these principles in the Wyoming Legislature.

  4. If he does not know nor understand the significance of the symbol, he has no business to be in the state legislature at all.

  5. Wyofile is better than this; a tattoo can mean anything and it is a personal choice. Moreover tattoos are permanent and historical. People can change and grow.
    “First they came for the libertarians and I did not speak out because I was not a libertarian.
    Then they came for those with tattoos and I did not speak out because I did not have a tattoo.
    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”
    Pastor Martin Niomoller recognized the need for tolerance and let us learn and judge a man by the strength of his character and actions, and not by a tattoo.

  6. Listen just shows you how uneducated these 3% are. if they thought only 3% fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War they need to go back to school before anyone let them pass any laws for every American that they have hate for..
    In truth the Population at the time in America at the time of the Revolutionary war was divided up pretty equally about 30% to form the United States 30% where loyal to England and 30% just would go with who ever was winning.. Honestly its a wonder Washington was able to drag out the war for so long. But we all know that, just look at low long North Vietnam held out against the French then the Japanese and the United States

  7. I believe it’s not about the tattoo, it’s about what it stands for. It reminds me of the jerks carrying confederate flags into the Capitol on January 6. When they get caught and the squeeze is on they insist it doesn’t mean anything. Symbolism of that type means something, doesn’t matter whether you are a veteran or not, which I am. I can assure you that type of symbolism doesn’t mean patriotism. He may or may not actually be actively in a militia, but it sounds and looks like he’s a short step away.

  8. “Will you walk into my parlour?” said a spider to a fly. And thus the legislature is compromised.

    1. Guess you missed the part where he’s a Libertarian. Quite a few of my friends that are veterans have the same tattoo.

      1. Libertarians (so-called) are just ultra-right rethuglicans in disguise. They claim to value freedom above all, and they do…freedom for themselves, to do whatever they want, at the expense of the freedom of others, particularly those not wealthy enough to block their evil ways. In other words, just ultra rethuglicans.