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FBI to Malheur Militia: You’re Free to Travel

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LaVoy Finicum and author, Cedar City, Utah (1/13/16)

I met LaVoy Finicum in Cedar City, Utah yesterday (1/13/16) when I thought he was in Oregon engaged in an armed occupation of a federal facility at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

How could this be?

Listening to the radio on the way to pick up my kids from school and there he is, LaVoy, the Public Information Officer of the Malheur standoff, on a local afternoon conservative talk radio show. I did a double-take-listen to hear where the interview was taking place. Sure enough, it was in studio, in Cedar City, and not Finicum from the Malheur.

Jeepers. I’ve been investigating and writing about LaVoy, foreshadowing. I’ve heard him on the same station before but this time it is different.

I’ve referred to LaVoy as a “seditionist” and “terrorist” while also empathizing with him. I’ve come to respect him in a weird kind of way, as he is acting upon his convictions and making a national impact. Nobody can convince me otherwise. Whether these convictions and results are rational or legal is another question.

Apparently, the very fella posing with a rifle under a blue tarp readying for a federal raid and threatening to shoot them can travel 20 hours from Burns to Cedar City to give an interview and visit with family.

I stopped along the road on the way to school and called the FBI in Salt Lake. They took my information and number (naturally) and left it at that. I haven’t heard from them since.

Listening to LaVoy on the radio while again driving made my head spin. “What the hell? How can this be allowed?” When I got to school, “LaVoy Finicum is in Cedar City at the radio station!” I said to the 911 fella on the other end who responded, “So?” Softening a bit after my explaining why so, he said, “There is no arrest warrant and we can’t do anything.”

My kids now in the car, I make the decision. “O.K. kids, remember that fella I’ve been writing about, who is in the news and is involved in that wildlife refuge takeover up by Lakeview? Well, he’s on the radio. We’re going to the station to check it out.” Everyone excited and alone apprehensive, really not knowing where it was going, we drove to the address of the radio station on their website.

Downtown, in an old brick office building we searched. I asked the lady in the candy shop where the station was, “It’s moved. Down the street a few blocks, honey, in the big new two story on the left.” Of course the kids couldn’t have candy, we had to go.

Instead of driving, we trotted a mile down Main to the station where we sat in the parking lot and waited for LaVoy Finicum to come out of the building. I was curious if he had brought a security detail (he didn’t) and I took a picture of LaVoy’s outfit, a giant, white, RAM pickup with a great set of tires while the kids played in the snow and argued.

I felt like a stalker. Like Pete Santilli, the grandstanding jerkoff at Malheur that was recently thrown out of a community meeting. While the kids played, I listened once in awhile via a stream as my phone battery ran out of juice. Like Santilli. What to say. Never knew I would be stalking and didn’t bring a charger in the car. SOL as the kids and I beat a retreat back a mile to the car, dejected and hungry.

In the car, on the way to the pizza joint for take home, is a cell phone store on a Main Street corner. “Stay in the car.” I get a charger and back we go, the kids now complaining about thirst. We park next to Finicum’s truck.

Fifteen minutes later, out comes LaVoy and his wife, holding hands and smiling, like they’re lovers and friends rather than husband and wife. It was nice to see.

The kids prepared and attentive, me feeling kinda creepy but resolute, I get out of the car, approach them, and state who I am – thankfully to no shock. I state my purpose: “I have written about you and have come to respect you. I heard you on the radio and felt an obligation to finally meet you, to shake your hand and tell you so. So, here I am.”

No. The Lord didn’t tell me to go.

A journalist friend said to me portending earlier in the day, “Why are these motherfuckers always so nice?” And, true to word, LaVoy and his lovely wife seem to be very nice people. They were gracious when I stated my intent, each held out their hands without reserve for a friendly firm handshake, and they referenced knowledge my work.

I asked no questions about the stand off, only made reference of my feeling of need to shake his hand and meet him. “I would love to have a long talk with you in the future when this is all over,” referencing my background and interests. I find his distorted views on the Constitution and of natural law, prior appropriation and local governance deeply fascinating from a political science viewpoint. Both LaVoy and his better half said they’d like that, Mrs. Finicum making reference with great concern in her eyes to the danger and uncertainty of the situation, and if and where that conversation may be.

I am very much looking forward to it. Someday. Maybe from prison.

I asked if him if he would take a picture with me. “You bet,” as he put his arm around me, his hand on my shoulder and I returned in kind, as Mrs. Finicum took a few shots while LaVoy and I talked about how even people with great differences should be able to meet with honor and respect for one another.

I respect LaVoy as an activist. He is dedicated to his cause, a very good communicator, on point, inspires, and acts on his convictions with style. An anarchist, of sorts. Abbey would say he’s a scum stirrer like me. A kindred spirit. Broken like everyone.

So, yeah. Here you have an aging loud mouthed environmental activist hippie pseudo wannabe writer and an anti-public National Wildlife Refuge federal building occupying public lands sovereign militant together arm-in-arm. In Cedar City, Utah when he’s supposed to be in Oregon holding down the Refuge.

I’m glad my kids could see and experience it. Citizens in training.

On a Serious Note

From the beginning and along with almost everyone following this standoff, I have wondered why a perimeter was not established by the FBI or other law enforcement officials. Even just closing the roads. Early in the takeover, there was concern for the safety of children that were at the Refuge perhaps being used as shields, a tactic of the militant movements to create potential martyrs for any future propaganda. They did it at Bunkerville.

We know the militants now travel freely outside of the armed camp whose base is an illegally occupied federal building. They have illegally accessed government files and computers. They have torn down fences with government equipment. For almost two weeks, we’ve been watching them go into Burns to get dildos and other snacks.

Wouldn’t you think that arrest warrants would have been sought and issued by federal authorities and that they would be taken into custody? Wouldn’t you think that as they are traveling around town they would be apprehended? Certainly this is not the way to starve them out.

From a policing standpoint, how would a person or movement of color be treated? Do you think that if a Black, Indigenous People, or Muslim militant group were to engage in an armed takeover of a National Wildlife Refuge or other federal structure that an instigating member would be allowed to travel 20 hours home through multiple states to give a radio interview to proselytize and visit family? I don’t think so, my serendipitous meeting with LaVoy surely indicating further inconsistency of application of law and enforcement concerning the militants of the Malheur standoff.

In any case, Federal law enforcement either didn’t know Finicum left the refuge or they allowed him to travel from Oregon to southern Utah. Neither a good scenario or a satisfactory answer, and the media damn well better have some serious questions to pose to the FBI.

The question remains: Why was LaVoy in Utah? Could he have been in the area getting his affairs and family in order, readying for an exit and surrender? And, did the FBI allow him – and others – do this? Which, of course, would mean FBI negotiations have already taken place. A stretch.

The Friday (1/15/16) Ammon Bundy press conference is being billed as an “exit strategy” by some media outlets. I think they will ask for the Koch American Lands Council Transfer of Public Lands Act wet dream to be considered in Congress. It is likely why Matt Shea of Washington and other ALC/CSPOA affiliated government officials met with the rebels last week.

It is also possible that they will surrender as “martyrs” to an oppressive federal government after giving a speech, and is the reason I met LaVoy Finicum yesterday as he was back home preparing for prison.

Who knows. We’ll soon see.

Postscript

I had a Tweet related to the Malheur that went semi-viral. Some 60,000 impressions and counting in a few days. Somehow, it sums the entire surreal standoff, the actions of the antagonists and protagonists, and made people laugh. It’s kinda how I felt meeting LaVoy.

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Chris Zinda is an activist and writer living in Oregon.

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