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February 2, 2016 25

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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July 29, 2014 5

Some Anti-Semitism In U.S. In Reaction To Israeli Operations In Gaza

As Israel’s response to the lat­est round of rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza con­tin­ues, some Jew­ish indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions in the U.S. have been tar­gets of anti-Semitism related to the cur­rent conflict.anti-semitic-graffiti-synagogue

In Florida this week, two sep­a­rate anti-Semitic hate crimes des­e­crated a syn­a­gogue and a Jew­ish family’s prop­erty. Con­gre­ga­tion Torah V’Emunah, an Ortho­dox syn­a­gogue within close prox­im­ity to other syn­a­gogues, was spray-painted with the word “Hamas” and swastikas on its front entrance. Addi­tion­ally a Jew­ish fam­ily dis­cov­ered that one of their cars was cov­ered from top to bot­tom with eggs while the other had the words “Jew” and “Hamas” smeared in cream cheese on the windows.

In Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia over the week­end, phrases such as “Jews=Killers” and “Jews are Killing Inno­cent Chil­dren” were found near the entrance to a Jew­ish sum­mer camp.

Last week, anti-Semitic leaflets, which threat­ened vio­lence if Israel does not pull out of Gaza, were left on cars in Peter­son Park, a pre­dom­i­nantly Ortho­dox Jew­ish neigh­bor­hood of Chicago.

On July 17, about two dozen anti-Israel pro­test­ers tar­geted the Florida Holo­caust Museum with graphic images of dead Pales­tini­ans and slo­gans charg­ing Israel with genocide.

Ear­lier this month, the Chabad of South­ern Nevada in Las Vegas was spray-painted with graf­fiti that read “Fre Pales­tine” [sic] and “Free Gaza.”

Sim­i­larly, in Mass­a­chu­setts, the Mon­te­fiore Ortho­dox Syn­a­gogue in Low­ell was van­dal­ized with the words “Free Pales­tine” and “God Bless Gaza” spray painted in red on its white mar­ble walls.

Amer­i­can Jew­ish insti­tu­tions have also been tar­geted online. The Moroc­can Islamic Union-mail hacker group van­dal­ized the web­site of Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Am Israel in Penn Val­ley, Penn­syl­va­nia ear­lier this month with the phrase “end Israeli vio­lence in #Gaza” and an image of Moham­mad Abu Khdeir, a Pales­tin­ian who was killed in Jerusalem by what appears to be a group of Jew­ish extremists.

Addi­tion­ally, the pop­u­lar­ity of some dis­turb­ing Hitler-related hash­tags on Twit­ter has grown in reac­tion to Israel’s “Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge,” such as #Hitler­Was­Right and #HitlerDidNothingWrong.

Such anti-Semitism is also evi­dent at many of the anti-Israel demon­stra­tions held in cities through­out the U.S., as well as in Europe, where the State of Israel is often demo­nized with Holo­caust imagery or other anti-Semitic expressions.

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July 25, 2014 17

Anti-Semitism On Display: Two Weeks of U.S. Anti-Israel Protests

In the 15 days of protests against Israel’s response to the lat­est round of rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza, there have been a total of 134 anti-Israel demon­stra­tions held in cities through­out the U.S. Many of these demon­stra­tions fea­tured anti-Semitism with many com­par­isons made between the State of Israel and Nazi Ger­many. In addi­tion, some of the ral­lies have fea­tured con­tent in sup­port of Hamas and over­all Pales­tin­ian “resistance.”

map-anti-israel-protests

 

1. Cal­i­for­nia

The state with the most anti-Israel demon­stra­tions was Cal­i­for­nia where there were 19 dif­fer­ent protests held in cities such as Los Ange­les, San Diego, San Fran­cisco, Chico, and Santa Cruz. Quite a few of these demon­stra­tions fea­tured signs that com­pared the State of Israel to Nazi Ger­many. In San Fran­cisco an Israeli flag was burned. In Los Ange­les, a demon­stra­tor held a sign that read “That Jew-Jew Lame shit I ain’t with it Israel you bet­ter quit it Gaza-za #FreePalestine.”

san-diego-anti-israel-protest

 

los-angeles-anti-israel-protest

 

2. New York

Ten anti-Israel demon­stra­tions have taken place in New York State in cities such as New York, Syra­cuse, and Buf­falo. At these demon­stra­tions, some par­tic­i­pants held up anti-Semitic signs and cer­tain speak­ers called for the destruc­tion of the State of Israel and defended the ter­ror­ist group Hamas.

new-york-anti-israel-protest

 

3. Ohio and Washington

In Ohio and Wash­ing­ton State, there were nine sep­a­rate anti-Israel demon­stra­tions held in cities includ­ing Cleve­land, Toledo, Seat­tle and Olympia. In both states, pro­test­ers held anti-Semitic signs that made com­par­isons between the State of Israel and Nazi Ger­many and alleged Israeli con­trol over the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment. “Die-ins” were also held in both states.

cincinnati-anti-israel-protest

 

spokane-anti-israel-protest

4. Texas

Eight anti-Israel demon­stra­tions took place in cities such as San Anto­nio, Hous­ton, Austin, and Dal­las. Pro­test­ers held signs that read “They’re both the same” (writ­ten next to pic­tures of Adolf Hitler, an equals sign, and Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu), “We’re see­ing Israel’s incre­men­tal geno­cide in the Gaza ghetto,” and “End the Pales­tine Holocaust.”

dallas-anti-israel-protest

 

5. Florida and Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Seven sep­a­rate anti-Israel demon­stra­tions took place across Florida and in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Pro­test­ers attended these demon­stra­tions hold­ing signs that read “Adolf Netanyahu Hitler,” “One Holo­caust doesn’t jus­tify another!,” and “Gaza is the real Holo­caust.” A sign that read, “Blam­ing Hamas 4 fir­ing rock­ets @ Israel is like blam­ing a woman 4 hit­ting her rapist” appeared in Miami.

washington-dc-anti-israel-protest

 

tampa-anti-israel-protest

 

6. Penn­syl­va­nia and Massachusetts

There were six anti-Israel protests held in both Penn­syl­va­nia and Mass­a­chu­setts in cities such as Philadel­phia, Pitts­burgh, and Boston. At these demon­stra­tions, par­tic­i­pants were seen with signs that read “Not even the Holo­caust gives you the right to do this!” and “Do you think that Israel is a vic­tim? Zion­ism = Nazism.” The sign “Blam­ing Hamas for fir­ing rock­ets is like Blam­ing a woman who punches her RAPIST” also appeared at a rally in Philadelphia.

boston-anti-israel-protest

 

philadelphia-anti-israel-protest

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