By Marilyn Kittelman
Burns, OR – Hundreds gathered in front of the Harney County Courthouse in Burns, Oregon on Monday, February 1 to protest the shooting of LaVoy Finicum by law enforcement on January 26. Finicum, a 54 year old Arizona rancher and father of 11, was on his way to a public meeting with several other people when he was stopped at a road block and shot after he exited his vehicle.
Finicum was among a group of patriots who have maintained control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for more than a month to protest the re-arrest of Dwight and Steven Hammond. The Hammonds were sent back to Federal prison after serving the full sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge, Michael Hogan. After their release the federal government went back to court and demanded they serve more time.
On January 26, the group was en route for what they maintain was a public meeting in John Day with the Grant County Sheriff, Glenn Palmer, when Finicum was gunned down, and 11 others arrested before days end. Shortly after the killing of Finicum, people began gathering in Burns to protest.
On Monday, February 1, protestors entered the Harney County Courthouse to deliver notarized petitions demanding that Sheriff David Ward (formerly of Drain, Oregon) and the three Harney County Commissioners: Judge Steven Grasty; Dan Nichols and Pete Runnels resign.
After delivering the petitions, hundreds of protestors held signs. They shouted messages to law enforcement and to the much smaller group who had shown up to support the sheriff and FBI.
“LaVoy’s blood is on your hands!”
“Who’s the only side shooting?” they chanted.
And “FBI killed LaVoy!”
Ranchers driving trucks and pulling livestock trailers circled the block, driving slowly through the crowd. Rancher Joe Kingen drove more than 150 miles to take part in the demonstration. Cory Shelman, a local rancher and horse trainer, rode a sorrel horse through the crowd carrying an American Flag.
The wife of one rancher said she was “scared to death to come” but admitted “we had to!”
One rancher said they were just trying to feed cattle but when they reached the FBI checkpoint they were forced to get out of the vehicle. He said an FBI agent got in the truck and drove it over spike strips. He was forced to walk several miles back to town and get the local tire shop to drive him back out and replace the tires. He believes the FBI is intentionally taking it out on locals to pit them against the protestors. “It won’t work,” he said.
An interview with Jacob Rothgeb, local rancher, can be seen on the Roseburg Beacon Facebook page. Rothgeb got up early, fed cows and headed to the protest. “The militia groups and the original Bundy occupation, they’re trying to help.” Rothgeb believes the sacrifices made by the occupation will make a difference and that people will take notice of what is happening to those trying to make a living on the land.