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June 17, 2016 2

Alleged Triple Killer had Extreme Anti-Government Views

Erick ShuteOn June 14, Penn­syl­va­nia author­i­ties caught and arrested a fugi­tive accused of hav­ing shot and killed three of his neigh­bors in West Vir­ginia the pre­vi­ous day. Erick Shute, 29, who allegedly had a long-running series of dis­putes with the neigh­bors, report­edly attacked the three (and a fourth who escaped) over a con­flict about firewood.

Shute was a minor pub­lic fig­ure as the vocal­ist for the long­stand­ing death metal band Pyrexia, with which he had report­edly been involved since child­hood. He also worked as a fire and water dam­age restorer in New Jer­sey and was involved with a vari­ety of odd busi­ness ven­tures, involv­ing crowd­sourc­ing, dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies, and multi-level mar­ket­ing, among others.

After the slay­ings, a woman who described her­self as “one of his ex girl­friends” posted on-line that “he has never been [one] for the police or gov­ern­ment.” That seems to have been a seri­ous under­state­ment. West Vir­ginia author­i­ties claimed that Shute was an adher­ent of the extreme anti-government sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment and even sug­gested that he was build­ing a com­pound on the West Vir­ginia land report­edly pur­chased by his mother and used as a week­end home by Shute. Author­i­ties have said they found stock­piles of food, weapons and ammo on the prop­erty, as well as “bunkers.”

Actu­ally, Shute’s involve­ment with anti-government extrem­ism appears to have been more exten­sive than just the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. Rather, to vary­ing degrees, Shute iden­ti­fied with all three major wings of the anti-government “Patriot” move­ment: the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment, the tax protest move­ment, and the mili­tia move­ment. Shute was also sup­port­ive to some degree of anar­chism, which is also anti-government, though from a more left-leaning perspective.

Shute’s old­est known extrem­ist ties do relate to the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. While liv­ing with his mother in New Jer­sey dur­ing the period 2009-11, he sub­scribed to sev­eral sov­er­eign cit­i­zen beliefs, espe­cially those reject­ing the legit­i­macy of motor vehi­cle laws. In 2011, he tried to get a local police depart­ment to sign a “peace treaty” with him that would some­how allow him not to have a license or reg­is­tra­tion. This visit led to his arrest for dri­ving a vehi­cle with no license plates as well as charges of aggra­vated assault on a police offi­cer, resist­ing arrest, and obstruc­tion. Based on a court­room video he uploaded to the Inter­net, Shute seems to have defended him­self in court—as many sov­er­eign cit­i­zens do—claiming that the judge in his case was not a judge but an “exec­u­tive admin­is­tra­tor” and that there had been no judi­cial courts in Amer­ica for cen­turies. Shute was con­victed and spent half a year in jail.

Shute also became involved to at least some degree with the tax protest move­ment, which claims that a con­spir­acy is hid­ing the “fact” that most Amer­i­cans don’t have to pay income taxes. He engaged in argu­men­ta­tive phone calls with IRS rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sent hos­tile let­ters to the IRS as late as 2015 claim­ing that he had been given no “proof” he was required to file an income tax return or that the IRS had juris­dic­tion over him. Judg­ing by some of his on-line remarks, he may not have been pay­ing income taxes for more than five years.

In recent years, how­ever, Shute seems to have iden­ti­fied most strongly with the ideas of the mili­tia move­ment. The mili­tia move­ment believes that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is col­lab­o­rat­ing with a “New World Order” glob­al­ist con­spir­acy to strip Amer­i­cans of their rights and enslave them. Sub­sidiary con­spir­acy the­o­ries ema­nat­ing from the move­ment include a belief that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to round up cit­i­zens and place them in intern­ment or con­cen­tra­tion camps; a belief that the gov­ern­ment is plot­ting to sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion and declare mar­tial law, per­haps on a pre­text such as a ter­ror­ist attack or pan­demic; and that the gov­ern­ment will engage in mass gun confiscations—among others.

Mili­tia move­ment adher­ents oppose this per­ceived gov­ern­ment con­spir­acy. Many, though by no means all, join para­mil­i­tary mili­tia groups. Though Shute “liked” a num­ber of mili­tia groups on his Face­book pages, he does not seem to have joined a for­mal group himself.

How­ever, Shute’s on-line state­ments clearly indi­cate an adher­ence to the movement’s ide­ol­ogy. Respond­ing to a con­spir­acy arti­cle about an employ­ment ad for a U.N. “dis­ar­ma­ment offi­cer,” Shute claimed in 2014 that any­one who took such a job “deserves to be killed” by some sort of “painful and hor­ri­fy­ing” man­ner such as being “eaten alive by dogs.” When the gov­er­nor of West Vir­ginia vetoed a per­mit­less carry firearms bill in 2015, Shute posted that “some­one needs to behead this mofo.”

In 2015, Shute expressed hap­pi­ness at the thought that police offi­cers might be among the first Amer­i­cans “to get put in intern­ment camps.” He also posted that he could not sup­port the troops “if the troops are train­ing to take you and me away into an intern­ment camp.” Like many other anti-government extrem­ists, Shute became out­raged at the mil­i­tary exer­cises held in the south­ern U.S. under the name “Oper­a­tion Jade Helm,” claim­ing that they were mar­tial law train­ing scenarios.

Shute, an avid fan of anti-government con­spir­acy web­sites such as InfoWars, believed in a wide array of stan­dard “Patriot” move­ment con­spir­acy the­o­ries, from air­planes using “chem­trails” to poi­son the Amer­i­can peo­ple to vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams being part of an agenda “to kill off mil­lions of peo­ple.” Shute even claimed to have tried to attend the 2012 Bilder­berg con­fer­ence in Chan­tilly, Vir­ginia, a mag­netic lure for con­spir­acy the­o­rists who believe that “Bilder­berg­ers” are part of an inter­na­tional conspiracy.

By 2015, it is clear that Shute had devel­oped extreme, and extremely para­noid, atti­tudes towards gov­ern­ment and law enforce­ment. In Feb­ru­ary, Shute stated that it was time “to pull the gov­ern­ment offi­cials out of their beds at night and hang them from the trees in their front yards.” Urg­ing peo­ple to “arm up,” Shute stated in March that every­body should have a gun in every room in their house and that they should even sleep with their guns, so that they would be ready to kill any police offi­cer who came through the door. “This is the time for war,” he wrote, “and if you don’t get pre­pared to fight, that’s your problem.”

In Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary 2016, Erick Shute became a sup­porter of the anti-government extrem­ists who engaged in an armed takeover of the Mal­heur National Wildlife Refuge in Ore­gon and sub­se­quent stand­off, even lis­ten­ing to the live broad­casts by the final few occu­piers in the last hours of the stand­off, before they were arrested. After their arrest, Shute wrote that he “loved” the occu­piers and that “even though we never met, I feel so close to these peo­ple now.”

Inci­dents such as these increased the already extreme hos­til­ity that Shute felt for law enforce­ment. Respond­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2016 to a news report of one offi­cer who had killed a dog, Shute urged that the offi­cer be tor­tured and mur­dered, includ­ing being hung over a fire, whipped, teeth and nails pulled out, fin­gers cut out, among many other vio­lent and grue­some meth­ods. Indeed, so hos­tile was Shute to law enforce­ment that he may have well posed a risk to local law enforce­ment as well as to his neighbors.

Shute will be extra­dited back to West Vir­ginia to face mul­ti­ple homi­cide charges.

 

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March 21, 2016 4

Winston Shrout: The Rise and Fall of a Sovereign Citizen Guru

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Port­land, Ore­gon, obtained a 19-count grand jury indict­ment in mid-March against Win­ston Shrout, a Hills­boro, Ore­gon, res­i­dent and one of the most promi­nent sov­er­eign cit­i­zen gurus in the United States, a man whose videos and sem­i­nars have attracted thou­sands of peo­ple to the anti-government extrem­ist movement.

Winston Shrout

Win­ston Shrout

Shrout was charged with 13 counts of using fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments in con­nec­tion with an alleged debt elim­i­na­tion scheme. Fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments are bogus checks, money orders, or sim­i­lar doc­u­ments that pur­port to be pay­ments of money but are not in fact gen­uine. Since the early 1980s, sov­er­eign cit­i­zens have been fas­ci­nated with fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments, using them for every­thing from escap­ing their own debts to per­pe­trat­ing major frauds and scams, espe­cially against indebted prop­erty own­ers. Pass­ing them became a fed­eral crime thanks to a law passed after the 1996 Mon­tana Freemen stand­off; the Freemen hav­ing been ener­getic pro­mot­ers of such bogus instruments.

Debt elim­i­na­tion schemes are also extremely com­mon within the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment; sov­er­eigns use their pseudo-legal lan­guage and con­cepts to con­vince vic­tims that, for a fee, their mort­gages or other debts can sim­ply be made to van­ish. Often, fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments and debt elim­i­na­tion schemes go hand in hand.

The fed­eral indict­ment accuses Shrout of cre­at­ing and spread­ing more than 300 bogus “Inter­na­tional Bills of Exchange” and “Non-Negotiable Bills of Exchange,” instru­ments with a com­bined face value of over $100 tril­lion (but worth­less in fact). The indict­ment claims that Shrout used such instru­ments him­self and also mar­keted them as a way for oth­ers to pay off their debts. Shrout is also charged with 6 counts of will­ful fail­ure to file income tax returns.

The indict­ment is a super­sed­ing indict­ment, adding the fic­ti­tious instru­ment charges to the tax charges, which were orig­i­nally filed against Shrout in Decem­ber 2015. Since that orig­i­nal indict­ment, Shrout has declined to use an attorney—a com­mon tac­tic for sovereigns—and has defended him­self using sov­er­eign cit­i­zen fil­ings that, among other things, declare his refusal to con­sent to the juris­dic­tion of the fed­eral court or to be taxed by the IRS.

Shrout, 67, has been one of the most influ­en­tial lead­ers of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment in the 21st cen­tury. Sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that, long ago, an evil con­spir­acy infil­trated and replaced the orig­i­nal “de jure” gov­ern­ment with an ille­git­i­mate, tyran­ni­cal “de facto” gov­ern­ment. They claim that the “de facto” gov­ern­ment has no author­ity or juris­dic­tion over them, which allows them to ratio­nal­ize ignor­ing or break­ing vir­tu­ally any tax, law, reg­u­la­tion, or court order. The move­ment is dom­i­nated by a coterie of gurus, the peo­ple who come up with the movement’s pseudo-legal theories—as well as its often-illegal tactics—and teach them to their followers.

Shrout grew up in Ken­tucky but resided in Utah for much of his life before finally mov­ing to Ore­gon. Shrout has said he is a col­lege grad­u­ate but worked var­i­ous blue-collar jobs such as car­pen­ter, welder, and con­struc­tion worker until 1998, when, as he put it, “as luck would have it I was able to retire.”

Fol­low­ing this early “retire­ment,” Shrout encoun­tered the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment at a time when it was enjoy­ing a burst of pop­u­lar­ity. This was due to a new com­pi­la­tion of sov­er­eign cit­i­zen the­o­ries and tac­tics, often referred to as “redemp­tion” or “straw man the­ory,” which swept through the move­ment in 1999 like a wild­fire and still remain quite pop­u­lar to this day. Long­time sov­er­eign cit­i­zen guru Roger Elvick came up with redemp­tion theory—acting on it would even­tu­ally land him in prison—and shared it with a group of dis­ci­ples who became gurus trav­el­ling the coun­try, hold­ing sem­i­nars and sell­ing man­u­als and videos explain­ing redemp­tion the­ory and its var­i­ous asso­ci­ated tac­tics. Many of those dis­ci­ples are now them­selves in fed­eral or state prison.

Shrout has at times seemed to imply that he learned redemp­tion the­ory from Roger Elvick, but Shrout’s ear­li­est sov­er­eign cit­i­zen fil­ings appear to date from 2000, by which time redemp­tion the­ory was already quite pop­u­lar in the move­ment. In August 2000, he filed a nota­rized doc­u­ment explaining—in sov­er­eign cit­i­zen pseudo-legalese—how he had refused to sign or accept a traf­fic cita­tion from a Wash­ing­ton County, Utah, sheriff’s deputy.

Two months later, Shrout filed his first bogus lien—a com­mon harass­ing tac­tic that sov­er­eigns use against per­ceived oppo­nents or ene­mies. Shrout filed a $1,340,000 lien dubbed an “Affi­davit of Oblig­a­tion” against Uni­fied Indus­tries, Inc., which is a cor­po­ra­tion that holds resources and busi­ness enter­prises asso­ci­ated with the Apos­tolic United Brethren (AUB), one of the major fun­da­men­tal­ist Mor­mon polyg­a­mist sects in Utah. The lien stemmed from some sort of dis­pute Shrout had with El Ran­cho Moto­qua, a sub­sidiary com­pany of Uni­fied Indus­tries estab­lished to cre­ate a polyg­a­mist com­mu­nity in south­ern Utah. In such com­mu­ni­ties, prop­er­ties are often not owned by indi­vid­ual busi­ness own­ers or res­i­dents but rather by a hold­ing com­pany or trust run by the sect. Shrout seems to have been per­mit­ted a res­i­dence in Moto­qua and came into con­flict with the polyg­a­mists run­ning the com­mu­nity. In the bogus lien, Shrout com­plained that he had been threat­ened with “removal” from his house and that he was “excluded from par­tic­i­pa­tion in the reli­gious cer­e­monies and usages” held inside a com­mu­nity building.

Was Shrout him­self an adher­ent of the polyg­a­mist AUB? It is not entirely clear from the lien doc­u­ment, though at one point Shrout refers to him­self “and sev­eral thou­sand other fun­da­men­tal­ist Mor­mons.” How­ever, non-adherents have some­times resided in AUB com­mu­ni­ties. Some adher­ents of polyg­a­mists sects have got­ten involved with the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. Shrout’s step­daugh­ter, April Ramp­ton, was a res­i­dent of Moto­qua as late as 2012, before she her­self was con­victed in fed­eral court on nine counts of fil­ing false tax claims while engaged in a com­mon sov­er­eign cit­i­zen and tax protest scheme.

Before the end of 2000, Shrout filed a series of redemption-related doc­u­ments and he soon became a redemp­tion guru, teach­ing the the­ory to sov­er­eign audi­ences. In 2004, Shrout and Patri­cia Bekken formed an entity called Solu­tions in Com­merce to mar­ket sov­er­eign sem­i­nars and work­shops. Shrout proved to be a pop­u­lar speaker, with a folksy demeanor that he delib­er­ately played up, refer­ring to it once as “hill­billy shtick.” The debt elim­i­na­tion schemes that Shrout pro­moted were also pop­u­lar; one admir­ing extrem­ist in 2004 referred to Shrout as a “top dawg” among such promoters.

Shrout’s rep­u­ta­tion within the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment grew in the mid-2000s, but it was the social media rev­o­lu­tion that really helped pro­pel him to the top ranks of sov­er­eign gurus, as YouTube videos of some of his appear­ances and sem­i­nars began to cir­cu­late widely by 2008–2009, bring­ing him far greater atten­tion and pop­u­lar­ity. This same time period cor­re­sponded with the begin­nings of the great reces­sion and the mort­gage cri­sis, events that helped spawn a major resur­gence of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment by cre­at­ing a large pool of angry and des­per­ate peo­ple who were poten­tial recruits.

Shrout held sem­i­nars across the coun­try but hardly lim­ited his activ­i­ties to the United States. In the 1990s, the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment had taken root in Canada, so Shrout spoke to atten­tive audi­ences in that nation—until Cana­dian author­i­ties finally pro­hib­ited him from enter­ing the coun­try. But Shrout found other inter­na­tional audi­ences, hold­ing sem­i­nars in Aus­tralia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, help­ing to bring the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment to all of those countries—to the dis­may of authorities.

More recently, Shrout expanded beyond strictly sov­er­eign notions to express him­self on UFOs and other “New Age” issues, claim­ing that in the early 2000s he and friends of his have been vis­ited by alien “Pleia­di­ans.” He’s made ref­er­ences to every­thing from incar­nated fairies to “Hol­low Earth” the­ory. Sev­eral years ago, Shrout set up a new web­site, dubbed Exo-Commerce, to pro­vide “insight from a uni­ver­sal per­spec­tive,” which appears to be an attempt to blend sov­er­eign cit­i­zen the­o­ries and tac­tics with “New Age” beliefs. It is dif­fi­cult to deter­mine whether these are sin­cerely held beliefs or merely a cyn­i­cal attempt on the part of Shrout to expand to another gullible audience.

The new fed­eral charges against Shrout could put an end to such oppor­tunism, cyn­i­cal or sin­cere. If con­victed on all charges, Shrout may face what could be an effec­tive life sentence.

 

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February 2, 2016 26

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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