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Who are the Three Percenters, the group linked to a tattoo on a player the Patriots drafted?

Justin Rohrwasser #16 celebrated after a field goal in the second half against the Rice Owls on November 2, 2019 in Houston, Texas.
Justin Rohrwasser #16 celebrated after a field goal in the second half against the Rice Owls on November 2, 2019 in Houston, Texas.Tim Warner/Getty

Former University of Rhode Island placekicker Justin Rohrwasser, whom the New England Patriots drafted over the weekend, faced scrutiny after photos surfaced of a tattoo on his arm that’s a known symbol for the Three Percenters, an anti-government extremist group.

Rohrwasser, who began his college career at URI before transferring to Marshall, told reporters Saturday that he got the tattoo in his teens, when he thought it was a “military support” symbol.

He conceded that he should have done more research before getting the marking and that he’ll cover it on the field, adding that the symbol has “obviously” evolved “into something that I do not want to represent.”

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So who are the Three Percenters?

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading monitor of hate and extremists groups, describes the group as “one of three core components” within the anti-government militia movement, along with the Oath Keepers and other “traditional militia groups.”

The law center’s website says the Three Percenters moniker refers to the “dubious” claim that only 3 percent of American colonists fought the British during the Revolutionary War.

The Anti-Defamation League, another group that monitors extremism, says on its site that the Three Percenters arose as part of a resurgence in the militia movement around the time former President Barack Obama took office.

The ADL refers to the group’s “erroneous” belief that just 3 percent of colonists took up arms against the British but managed to win “liberty for everybody.”

Members of the group, the ADL site says, view themselves as modern-day revolutionaries, fighting against a tyrannical US government instead of the British.

“With anyone able to declare themselves a Three Percenter, the concept allowed many people to join who were not suited, physically or by inclination, to engage in paramilitary activities,” the ADL site says. “The Three Percenter logo—the Roman numeral III—has become very popular among anti-government extremists.”

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The law center last year listed Three Percenter-affiliated groups active in nearly every state including Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont.

Among the higher-profile Three Percenters, according to the SPLC, is Tyler Tenbrink, a Texas man sentenced in 2019 to 15 years in prison in Florida for shooting at a counter-protesters in that state following an appearance at a local university by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

A Gainesville, Fla. police statement said Tenbrink and two other men were traveling in a Jeep when they stopped the vehicle to argue with counter-demonstrators.

The Jeep occupants “began threatening, offering Nazi salutes and shouting chants about Hitler to the group that was near the bus stop,” police said at the time. “During the altercation, Tenbrink produced a handgun" and "fired a single shot at the group which thankfully missed the group and struck a nearby building.”

Katie McInerney of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press and Gainesville Sun was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.