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‘I’m a sovereign’: What the words of infamous Shunfu Mart woman have to do with a radical movement in US

SINGAPORE — A woman who refused to wear a mask in public and proclaimed herself a “sovereign” who is above the law has left many scratching their heads over her comments, which were captured in video clips that have since gone viral.

The police said that it is investigating a 40-year-old Singaporean woman for not wearing a mask and for allegedly assaulting another woman at Shunfu Mart.

The police said that it is investigating a 40-year-old Singaporean woman for not wearing a mask and for allegedly assaulting another woman at Shunfu Mart.

SINGAPORE — A woman who refused to wear a mask in public and proclaimed herself a “sovereign” who is above the law has left many scratching their heads over her comments, which were captured in video clips that have since gone viral. 

The police said on Sunday (May 3) that they are investigating the 40-year-old Singaporean for not wearing a face mask and for allegedly assaulting a 47-year-old woman at Shunfu Mart.

They added that this is not the first time the woman has breached regulations that were put in place to stem the spread of Covid-19. She was reported to have breached safe distancing rules before.

In a video footage, the woman can be seen arguing with members of the public who had advised her to put on a mask.

She can also be heard saying “the law is… you can’t tell me what to do”.

In another clip, she added: “I’m a sovereign… This is something people are not going to know what it is.”

Indeed, many in Singapore who heard her remarks were perplexed and had little idea what she was talking about.

RADICAL MOVEMENT LINKED TO WHITE SUPREMACISTS

Literary magazine Lapham’s Quarterly published an article talking about this: The radical belief that one is a “sovereign citizen” above the law — and gets to decide which rules to obey and which ones to ignore — has its roots in the United States in the 1970s and was largely influenced by white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups from the 1960s to 1980s.

These groups believed that the US government and the banks were being controlled by an international conspiracy of Jewish people.

The most prominent among these groups was the anti-Semitic group Posse Comitatus. Many of the common tactics used by sovereign citizens today originated from it.

Because of this, Forbes business magazine reported in 2012 that the first generation of the sovereign movement consisted mostly of middle-aged high-school-educated white men. Many of these individuals also lived in rural communities.

Since the late 1990s, however, the movement has expanded beyond its original base of supporters and now encompases people from various walks of life — many of whom are unaware of the movement’s origins.

It has also attracted supporters in other countries, such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

TACTICS

American non-profit legal advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Centre said that most sovereign citizens engage in what some have called “paper terrorism” — non-violent crimes such as refusing to pay taxes, filing false property claims and suing government employees.

Many of them claim that they are not citizens and are instead “non-resident aliens”. Usually, they substantiate their beliefs by mining for a combination of quotes, legal definitions, court cases, religious material and websites that support their ideas.

Sovereign citizens have also been known to flood court systems with incomprehensible bogus documents.

Many do not engage in violent crimes, though there have been a handful who have acted violently before.

In one notable incident, which took place in 2010, a father-son pair of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle after they were pulled over on an interstate near West Memphis, Arkansas in the US.

‘LEADERLESS’

What makes it difficult for the authorities to identify sovereigns is that they do not have an official membership group for them to join.

They also do not have a central leader to look up to — rather there are multiple local leaders peddling their own brand of sovereign ideology.

The US authorities estimate that there are 300,000 people in the movement on its shores.

This number is expected to grow as sovereign ideology continues to spread, faster and to more people, over the internet.

It is not known whether the Singaporean being investigated is part of a broader movement here, but the claim by a citizen that he or she is a “sovereign” and above Singapore's laws is certainly quite unheard of here.   

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