A candidate for school board in Eatonville who says he’s been endorsed by the Pierce County Republican Party has caught the attention of an organization that tracks extremist groups.
Matt Marshall, 35, is running for the Eatonville School District Board of Directors, District 3 position, which covers both Pierce and Lewis counties. He’s lived in Eatonville since 2016 after being honorably discharged from the Army, where he spent 12 years.
Marshall is also the founder and leader of 3% of Washington, a state branch of the controversial Three Percenters national movement.
3% of Washington consists of “God fearing Patriots that support our constitution, and promise to defend our country, our community, and our families from all enemies foreign and domestic,” according to the 3% of Washington group’s website.
Marshall is also vice chair of Pierce County Republicans Legislative District 2, but says he’s complied with bylaws that require him to be a non-voting member if he runs for office. District 2 represents Graham, Roy, Eatonville, Orting, Carbonado, Yelm and Spanaway.
Marshall announced his endorsement by Pierce County Republicans on his campaign Facebook page on June 13 and told The News Tribune that Pierce County Republican Party chairman Dave McMullan gave him word of the endorsement over the phone. McMullan had not responded to multiple requests for comment as of Wednesday evening.
Marshall’s announcement of the endorsement caught the attention of Western States Center, a Portland-based organization that tracks and works to combat white nationalism and extremist groups. The organization calls Three Percenters groups an anti-government movement with “a history of violence.”
“I think it’s disturbing and definitely notable (the Pierce County Republican Party) would endorse such a public, visible leader of a militia group that has threatened elected officials,” Western States Center spokeswoman Lindsay Schubiner said.
Marshall, reached by phone Wednesday, told The News Tribune that 3% of Washington is not an anti-government group.
“We’re not a militia,” Marshall said. “We don’t promote violence in any way, shape or form.”
Most recently, the 3% of Washington group denounced Initiative 1639, which was passed by state voters in November 2018. The resulting law makes it illegal for those under 21 to purchase or sell a firearm and implements safe storage requirements. It went into effect on Jan. 1.
On March 7, Marshall posted a statement to the group’s Facebook page reiterating opposition to I-1639 and that the government is “taking away our rights.” Marshall spoke at a rally in April, representing the group.
“It is time to make a decision. Either you are Pro-America, love liberty and freedom; or you are Anti-America. If you are Anti-America, you are an enemy of the State. Those of you who do not believe that a civil war is already in progress, need to open your eyes,” the Facebook statement said.
He continued: “We the People no longer trust the government ... As Washington 3%, we have had enough. We will not stop. If you want to know where we stand? Patrick Henry said it best, “Give me LIBERTY, or give me DEATH!” And we do not say that lightly.”
In a letter to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs on March 13, Western States Center asked the association to “speak out against intimidation and threats” and reinforce the I-1639 law. The letter cited Marshall’s Facebook statement as part of the intimidation.
“This language suggests a direct physical threat in the event that WA 3% fails to achieve its goals through democratic means,” Western States Center wrote in the letter.
The center also cited posts that appeared to threaten government leaders, including a Facebook post on the 3% of Washington Facebook page addressing Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson that said, “We the PEOPLE are not afraid of you. We WILL fight you. We WILL win… or we will die. We are willing to give our lives for this cause. Bring it on!”
Marshall said no violent threat was intended and that the group is focused on helping the community, veterans and the homeless. He said his group condemns racism and violent actions of others who have ties to the Three Percenters group, such as a couple who killed law enforcement officials in Las Vegas in 2014.
Marshall said he’s running for school board because he has three children in the district and always wanted to run for office. He feels supported by the Pierce County Republican Party and his community in Eatonville, which historically votes for conservative candidates, he said.
“Anybody’s who’s actually came and talked to us, it’s a very different idea than if they just do a Google search,” Marshall said.
Schubiner said the group is a threat to democratic institutions.
“They’re a militia group and many of them are armed, and what we’ve noticed in their work recently is there have been multiple threats to elected leaders, government staff (and) people who are just doing their jobs,” Schubiner said.