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February 2, 2016 14

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum: The Making of a Martyr

On Jan­u­ary 26, 2016, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, one of the anti-government extrem­ists involved in the Jan­u­ary 2 armed takeover of the Mal­heur National Wildlife Refuge head­quar­ters near Burns, Ore­gon, was fatally wounded by Ore­gon State Police (OSP) troop­ers dur­ing an attempt by the OSP and the FBI to arrest Finicum and a num­ber of key occupiers.

Helicopter footage of shooting of "LaVoy" Finicum (middle) as he seems to reach for a weapon.

Heli­copter footage of shoot­ing of “LaVoy” Finicum (mid­dle) as he seems to reach for a weapon.

Finicum, along with occu­pa­tion leader Ammon Bundy and oth­ers, were trav­el­ing in two vehi­cles to attend a com­mu­nity meet­ing in John Day, Ore­gon, where they hoped to find sup­port for their armed seizure. See­ing an oppor­tu­nity to appre­hend most of the takeover lead­ers away from the refuge and its many armed extrem­ists, the FBI and the OSP orga­nized a traf­fic stop with road­blocks along the rural road to John Day. One of the two vehi­cles stopped and its occu­pants were removed peacefully.

The other vehi­cle, dri­ven by Finicum, fled the traf­fic stop, only to encounter a road­block a short dis­tance away. Per­haps attempt­ing to evade the road­block, Finicum drove his vehi­cle into a snow­bank, nar­rowly miss­ing the police vehi­cles and an officer.

While other occu­pants stayed in the vehicle—possibly trapped by the snowbank—Finicum rushed out into the snow. Video footage shot from a heli­copter shows a trooper approach­ing Finicum with the trooper’s weapon drawn. Though Finicum had emerged from the vehi­cle with his hands par­tially raised, upon see­ing the trooper he appears to have reached for some­thing under his jacket (author­i­ties later con­firmed he had a firearm). A sec­ond trooper emerged from the woods behind Finicum, which Finicum seems to have heard, because he turned around and once more reached into his jacket. Upon see­ing this motion, the sec­ond trooper fired shots at Finicum, killing him. Ryan Bundy, another vehi­cle occu­pant, suf­fered a minor gun­shot wound, appar­ently from a stray bullet.

 

Man­u­fac­tur­ing a Folk Hero

The deci­sion by fed­eral and state author­i­ties to make the arrest attempt was in some respects a risky one, not only because offi­cers could be wounded or killed by extrem­ists, but also because the wound­ing or death of any of the occu­piers could have neg­a­tive con­se­quences in terms of enrag­ing the extreme right and pos­si­bly prompt­ing acts of violence.

The arrests did dis­rupt and demor­al­ize the Mal­heur occu­piers, most of whom soon left the refuge, while a few oth­ers were arrested. As of this writ­ing, only four hold­outs at the refuge remain, pri­mar­ily because there is a fed­eral charge against one of them that they want dropped before they will surrender.

How­ever, the death of Finicum unfor­tu­nately pro­vided adher­ents of the so-called “Patriot” move­ment (which includes mili­tia groups, sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, and other anti-government extrem­ists) with some­thing that author­i­ties had hoped to avoid: a poten­tial mar­tyr around whom anti-government extrem­ists could rally. More­over, anger over Finicum’s death could pos­si­bly spawn acts of vio­lent ret­ri­bu­tion. Rage over deadly stand­offs between fringe groups and indi­vid­u­als at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and Waco, Texas, in 1993 played a major role in spark­ing the resur­gence of right-wing extrem­ism in the mid-1990s that led to the Okla­homa City bomb­ing and many other acts of vio­lence or attempted violence.

Upon learn­ing of Finicum’s death, “Patriot” move­ment adher­ents imme­di­ately claimed that he was mur­dered, though ini­tial accounts from other occu­pants of the vehi­cles were con­fused and con­tra­dic­tory. The FBI pub­licly released the heli­copter video rather quickly—in a clear attempt to quell rumors about the shooting—and, to most view­ers, the shoot­ing is likely to appear to have been jus­ti­fied. How­ever, anti-government extrem­ists watch­ing the video have per­ceived largely what they wanted to see on it and have inter­preted the video as still more evi­dence that Finicum was mur­dered. Extrem­ists have widely shared the video, which is typ­i­cally described as proof of Finicum’s “ambush and murder.”

Even before the video was released, the process of turn­ing Finicum into a mar­tyr had already begun. As news of his death spread, extrem­ists on social media cre­ated a wide array of graphic memes pro­claim­ing Finicum a mar­tyred hero. One self-declared “lib­erty speaker” from Wash­ing­ton state, Gavin Seim, uploaded a short video about Finicum titled “The Edge of Rev­o­lu­tion.” In the video, Seim describes Finicum as “one of the finest patri­ots that Amer­ica could hope to have,” who showed peo­ple “what it was like to be a found­ing father.” Seim urged view­ers to “rise for lib­erty,” claim­ing that “we can no longer allow the gov­ern­ment to mur­der and abuse and terrorize…These crim­i­nals spilled blood yes­ter­day.” Within two days, Seim’s video had received over 110,000 views.

Sim­i­larly, musi­cian Jor­dan Page posted his own video, widely shared on social media, singing a song of his own com­po­si­tion, “The Bal­lad of LaVoy Finicum,” intended to make a folk hero out of the anti-government occupier:

He left his home to go and take a stand
His voice rang out across a deaf­ened land
And in the end it was a bul­let that exposed the lies
A truth remem­bered is a bat­tle won
And though his mur­der can­not be undone,
It rings out like an echo, thun­der­ing across the night

Page’s song was the most pop­u­lar of sev­eral songs related to Finicum’s shoot­ing that have appeared on YouTube or elsewhere.

One osten­si­ble Finicum sup­porter is using a t-shirt web­site to sell “LaVoy Finicum Memo­r­ial” t-shirts for $21.99, with pro­ceeds promised to go to the Finicum family—just one of the web­sites now sell­ing Finicum t-shirts and sweat­shirts. Another sup­porter announced the auc­tion of a framed print of a painting—starting bid, $2,500—with the pro­ceeds allegedly going “to the Bundy Ranch and/or a fund for Levon [sic] Finicum memorial.”

 

Chan­nelling Anger: Ral­lies, Protests, Memo­ri­als and Vigils

As quickly as news of Finicum’s death spread, sup­port­ers of the Mal­heur takeover began to orga­nize events—rallies, protests, vig­ils, and memorials—centered on the dead occu­pier and designed to raise sor­row and anger over his death. As early as the day after the shoot­ing, occu­pier sup­port­ers (and, allegedly, some for­mer occu­piers) held a small “can­dle­light vigil” in Burns, Oregon.

In south­west­ern Utah, Finicum’s home, sup­port­ers orga­nized a memo­r­ial for him in front of the Iron County cour­t­house. The event seems to have included at least one for­mer occu­pier in atten­dance, but its cen­ter­piece was Iron County Com­mis­sioner Dave Miller, who called the death of Finicum a “trav­esty” and hoped “the truth” would come out. Other regional events, includ­ing one for the Paiute County cour­t­house, were allegedly also held.

In Phoenix, Finicum sup­port­ers Israel Tor­res and Blanka Nieves, who had pre­vi­ously held sup­port ral­lies for the Ore­gon occu­piers, orga­nized a “We Are LaVoy” rally on Jan­u­ary 29 at Wes­ley Bolin Plaza, with around 30 or so atten­dees. Another protest was allegedly orga­nized in Port­land, Oregon.

Las Vegas, Nevada, saw a hand­ful of Tea Party activists and anti-government extrem­ists led by Karen Steel­mon and Greg Whalen (the lat­ter of whom was in tele­phone con­tact with the remain­ing occu­piers in Ore­gon) orga­nize their own impromptu demon­stra­tion in front of the fed­eral cour­t­house soon after the shoot­ing. They declared that Finicum, who had “been defend­ing Amer­i­can soil from a tyran­ni­cal gov­ern­ment,” was ambushed and mur­dered by the FBI. The pair also orga­nized a sec­ond Las Vegas cour­t­house rally on the week­end fol­low­ing the shoot­ing; 12–15 peo­ple seem to have par­tic­i­pated in that event.

Other events also occurred on the week­end of Jan­u­ary 30–31. The one most cov­ered by the media occurred in the long-suffering town of Burns itself, where the anti-government Pacific Patri­ots Net­work orga­nized a “rolling” protest of vehi­cles through the town; esti­mates of the num­ber of pro­test­ers ranged from 50 to over 100. With another rally orga­nized by Idaho Three Per­centers at the Har­ney County Cour­t­house in Burns for Feb­ru­ary 1, it is clear that Burns’ ordeal is not likely to end soon. Both of these groups declined to sup­port the Mal­heur occu­piers’ ear­lier actions but have jumped into the con­flict with the death of Finicum. Oth­ers trav­eled out to the loca­tion where Finicum was shot and erected a makeshift memorial.

Protests and ral­lies occurred out­side Ore­gon as well. Heather Lucas and Mike Kay orga­nized a Finicum protest at the FBI office in Colum­bus, Ohio, with around 45–50 attend­ing from right-wing groups and Anony­mous. “Rev­o­lu­tion starts here,” said one speaker, “Make no mistake.”

Else­where in Ohio, a hand­ful of activists in Lima, Ohio, hung signs and protested on a free­way over­pass on I-75. One pro­tester posted on Face­book after the event that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment let “riot­ers burn, loot and assault in Fer­gu­son and Bal­ti­more but when a patriot stands up peace­ful [sic] for his con­sti­tu­tional rights he is gunned down by the fed­eral government.”

A sim­i­lar over­pass protest occurred on Jan­u­ary 30 across the coun­try in Salem, Ore­gon, with about 10 pro­test­ers. Both were appar­ently orga­nized by activists with right-wing group “Over­passes for Amer­ica.” More such over­pass protests are sched­uled for the first week­end in Feb­ru­ary in Ore­gon and elsewhere.

That week­end, the week­end of Feb­ru­ary 5–7, is when a num­ber of addi­tional events will be held. Of these, the most sig­nif­i­cant is the memo­r­ial ser­vice for Finicum in Kanab, Utah, orga­nized by his fam­ily, who turned it into a polit­i­cal event by reach­ing out and announc­ing it to “Patriot” and right-wing groups to get their atten­dance. Karen Steel­mon, the Las Vegas Tea Party fig­ure men­tioned above, announced she was orga­niz­ing a “pro­ces­sion” of peo­ple from the Las Vegas area to “pay respects” at the memo­r­ial ser­vice. Utahn and for­mer Mal­heur occu­pier Wes Kjar has declared he will orga­nize a “memo­r­ial horse ride” to the service.

For those too far from Kanab, Finicum sup­port­ers have orga­nized the “National Memo­r­ial & Prayer Vigil for LaVoy Finicum,” for which they urge peo­ple to gather in front of “your local cour­t­house” on Feb­ru­ary 5 or the fol­low­ing day.

Other events known to be planned for the week­end include:

  • The Lib­erty for All III% have announced a “Cowboy’s Last Ride” protest in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton, for the week­end of Feb­ru­ary 5–7, declar­ing that they “will never allow one more inno­cent per­son to die at the hands of the Government.”
  • In Boise, Idaho, some­one call­ing him­self “1776Revolutionist” is orga­niz­ing the “RIP Lavoy Rally” at the Boise capi­tol build­ing; atten­dees are requested to bring “Hands up, don’t shoot” signs.
  • In John Day, Ore­gon, the town to which Finicum was dri­ving when his vehi­cle was stopped, Rae­lene Hunt-Reed and Tyson Baker are orga­niz­ing a can­dle­light ser­vice for Finicum.
  • Hunt-Reed and Brian Win­ters have also sched­uled a “can­dle­light memo­r­ial” for Finicum at the Crook County cour­t­house in Prineville, Ore­gon. This would be the sec­ond rally for Prineville; oth­ers orga­nized a Feb­ru­ary 1 “Mem­ory of LaVoy Finicum and All Our Patri­ots” rally at the courthouse.
  • Ari­zona activists are orga­niz­ing a Finicum can­dle­light vigil at Mesa RiverView Park on Feb­ru­ary 6, allegedly with “guest speaker Alexan­der Melusky.” Melusky is run­ning for Sen­ate in Ari­zona; it is not known if he is actu­ally appear­ing at this event.
  • Ken­tucky Three Per­center George Al Collins has announced a “rally and memo­r­ial ser­vice in remem­brance of LaVoy Finicum” at the capi­tol build­ing in Frank­fort, Ken­tucky, on Feb­ru­ary 6.
  • John Adams is orga­niz­ing a can­dle­light vigil for Finicum at the West Vir­ginia capi­tol build­ing in Charleston, West Vir­ginia, on Feb­ru­ary 6.
  • Krista Etter of West Palm Beach, Florida, is arrang­ing a rally at the fed­eral cour­t­house on Feb­ru­ary 6.
  • North­east Ohio Three Per­centers are allegedly plan­ning an event on Feb­ru­ary 7 in front of the FBI build­ing in down­town Cleve­land, Ohio.
  • In Ruck­ersville, Vir­ginia, Michael Mad­den, the owner of The Con­fed­er­ate Keep­ers Store, has sched­uled a “Rally/Protest of the MURDER of LaVoy Finicum” for Feb­ru­ary 7, with the loca­tion oddly being a con­ve­nience store.
  • Col­orado anti-government extrem­ists are orga­niz­ing a Feb­ru­ary 7 protest dubbed “#WAKETHEDEAD” in front of the FBI office.
  • Steve Bal­das­sari and Scott Henry have announced a rally at the Mass­a­chu­setts State House in Boston on Feb­ru­ary 6 “to fight for our rights, defend the Ore­gon ranch­ers, but also to honor LaVoy Jeanette Finicum, a true patriot.”
  • South Car­olina Three Per­centers are allegedly orga­niz­ing a “VIGIL AND A SHOT FOR FREEDOM MEET” on Feb­ru­ary 6 some­where in South Car­olina. It is not clear if this is related to a “LaVoy Finicum Trib­ute and Prayer Meet­ing” being orga­nized by Bob Har­grove for the Huger Recre­ation Area at the Fran­cis Mar­ion National For­est on Feb­ru­ary 6.

Ral­lies and protests even fur­ther in the future are also scheduled—likely to be merely the first of many. These include:

  • Arkansan Madonna Carter is orga­niz­ing a rally in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, at the state capi­tol, for Feb­ru­ary 13.
  • A “We the Peo­ple” rally was orga­nized for Feb­ru­ary 13 in Colum­bus, Ohio, at the Ohio State House, even before Finicum’s death. Now atten­dance is likely to be even higher.
  • A “Lavoy Finicum Free the Bundys and Ham­mons March” in Bowl­ing Green, Ken­tucky, on March 5 to “honor one of our fel­low free­dom fight­ers who lost his life stand­ing up for what was right.”

It remains to be seen how suc­cess­ful the extreme right will be in ele­vat­ing Finicum to the pan­theon of extrem­ists con­sid­ered mar­tyrs by the move­ment, or whether their attempts to use Finicum to rally sup­port will be suc­cess­ful past the short term. The still-unresolved stand­off in Mal­heur, with its four hold­outs refus­ing to leave, also makes the future more uncer­tain. How­ever, what is clear is that anti-government extrem­ists are right now ener­get­i­cally try­ing to use Finicum’s death to rally sup­port for their cause and this in itself is troubling.

 

 

 

 

 

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October 2, 2015 12

Extremists Claim Oregon Shooting Is Sign of White Genocide

The tragic shoot­ing at Umpqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Rose­burg, Ore­gon, in which a gun­man killed nine peo­ple and wounded a num­ber of oth­ers, elicited a strong response among a sam­pling of extrem­ists. When the media released infor­ma­tion that the shooter, 26-year-old Chris Harper Mer­cer, had listed him­self as “mixed race” on an online dat­ing pro­file, white suprema­cists called his actions a form of “white genocide.”

White suprema­cists were also quick to reject some media reports that said the gun­man had white suprema­cist lean­ings. They claimed the gun­man was moti­vated by hatred of whites and Chris­tians. They also blamed Jews for every­thing from encour­ag­ing blacks to kill whites to down­play­ing the story once the shooter turned out to be non-white.

Chris Harper Mercer online profile circulating on Stormfront

Chris Harper Mer­cer online pro­file cir­cu­lat­ing on Stormfront

Since Mer­cer had expressed an inter­est in online post­ings in Vester Flana­gan, a black for­mer reporter who shot and killed two white ex-colleagues, posters on Storm­front, the largest white suprema­cist Inter­net forum,  pro­moted the idea that blacks were tar­get­ing whites en masse. One poster called Mer­cer and Flana­gan “anti-white terrorists.”

Oth­ers on the site focused on Mercer’s mixed race her­itage as the cause of his actions. One poster wrote that “light-skinned blacks are the most racist of all. They hate their white blood with a pas­sion.” Another per­son post­ing as “White Nation­hood” claimed that Mercer’s “inter­est in the left-hand path [a ref­er­ence to the occult and black magic] plus racial anx­i­eties prob­a­bly fueled his anti-white, anti-Christian mas­sacre.” Still another wrote, “Half castes secretly wish to be white, the denial of this godly priv­i­lege makes mulat­toes insane.”

Some posters on Storm­front saw the shoot­ing as an indi­ca­tion that whites need to take action to arm them­selves or live sep­a­rately from non-whites. Some­one post­ing as “14 words of truth” wrote that the reac­tion to the shoot­ing would be “many armed men world wide bring­ing jus­tice to the guilty.” The per­son added, “All that vio­lence could be avoided by halt­ing white geno­cide and allow­ing white folk to live within our own nations in peace.”

“Ten­niel” had sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, writ­ing, “Given the open war­fare being now per­pe­trated against Whites by non­whites, par­tic­u­larly negroes, in Amer­ica, it is vital that White peo­ple be able to be ARMED AT ALL TIMES IN ALL LOCATIONS IN AMERICA.”

Many of the posters on Storm­front blamed Jews for the shoot­ing. One poster declared, “White geno­cide is real and there is always a filthy jew [sic] behind it.” “Laidbackguy71” wrote, “Don’t let the Jews jive ya because they are the ones with blood on their hands for all of this.” Another poster claimed, “The jews [sic] keep try­ing to brain­wash peo­ple that race mix­ing is love and a demon­stra­tion of tol­er­ance and equal­ity. It is the worst thing a par­ent can do to a child.”

Still oth­ers claimed that the shoot­ing would lead to gun con­trol and dis­arm­ing the pop­u­la­tion. A poster on another white suprema­cist Inter­net forum, Van­guard News Net­work, wrote, “It doesn’t mat­ter this was a gun-free zone or that the shooter was a mulatto. Tal­mu­dic media won’t report this any­way! What mat­ters is that this story, along with oth­ers before, will be exploited to enter­tain a men­tal­ity that ulti­mately, leads towards dis­arm­ing Amer­i­can people.”

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July 15, 2015 8

White Supremacists View Donald Trump as Champion of Disaffected Whites

Don­ald Trump’s big­oted remarks about Mex­i­can immi­grants, his sub­se­quent jump in the polls and his abil­ity to attract thou­sands of peo­ple to a cam­paign event in Ari­zona caught the atten­tion of white suprema­cists. Eager to exploit the sit­u­a­tion, some white suprema­cists are hail­ing Trump as a cham­pion of dis­af­fected whites who are angry about non-white immi­gra­tion and cul­tural changes.

Andrew Anglin

Andrew Anglin

On July 13, neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin wrote an arti­cle on The Daily Stormer, the vir­u­lently racist and anti-Semitic site he runs, which praised Trump for his com­ments on Mex­i­cans. Anglin asserted, “The Trump Train has left the sta­tion and is run­ning non-stop to total vic­tory over the bar­bar­ian hordes of Mex­ico. Because there is one issue which mat­ters beyond all other issues and that is the inva­sion of White coun­tries by non-whites.”Anglin adds that “the amount of good” that Trump has done “is immeasurable.”

Writ­ing also on July 13, Peter Brimelow, who runs the racist, anti-immigrant site VDare, attacked “cul­tural Marx­ists,” often a code word for Jews, for rebuk­ing Trump’s remarks and “shut­ting down” the immi­gra­tion debate. Brimelow com­pares the reac­tion to Trump to the neg­a­tive reac­tion to the Con­fed­er­ate flag. Brimelow then implies that the main­stream media “elite” that has rejected Trump’s views is mostly made up of Jews in New York.

Richard Spencer, the head of the National Pol­icy Insti­tute, a white suprema­cist think tank, posted pic­tures of Trump’s cam­paign stop in Ari­zona on July 12, in the online racist jour­nal Radix under the title, “Trump Against the World.” Spencer claimed that Radix peo­ple were at the event. In the arti­cle, he also made an appar­ently sar­cas­tic com­ment about the “diver­sity” of the largely white crowd.

On July 10, on The Alter­na­tive Right, a white suprema­cist web­site, an uniden­ti­fied writer com­pared Trump to a “honey bad­ger” that has ram­paged through the Repub­li­can pri­mary field. The per­son writes, “Even if they could find some way of stop­ping Trump, the man has already left his mark on the 2016 Pres­i­den­tial Race by tap­ping into the ris­ing eth­no­cen­tric tide of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, some­thing that is hardly likely to dis­si­pate when the lib­eral left is engaged in a mas­sive cul­ture war against White identity.”

Kevin Mac­Don­ald, a white suprema­cist and anti-Semite, wrote an arti­cle about Trump’s can­di­dacy in his online pub­li­ca­tion Occi­den­tal Observer on July 10. Mac­Don­ald claims that “Trump’s state­ments on the crim­i­nal ten­den­cies and gen­er­ally low func­tion­ing of Mex­i­can and Cen­tral Amer­i­can immi­grants have struck a chord with White America.”

*As a 501(c )(3) non-profit orga­ni­za­tion, the Anti-Defamation League does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office.

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