“As I spoke to these folks I realized that they weren’t hateful or on the fringe. Instead, they were neighborly, they love each other as neighbors. They are the kind of folks that would stop and help you change your tire. They’re the type of people that care about each other and for our rights as Americans and as humans. Why did corporate media skew the story instead of looking into the reasons that the protest was taking place? I guess we are just conditioned to trust our news outlets. I think that trust is waning and I would like to propose that the Malheur Refuge protest and the death of one of the protesters should be looked into for yourself.”
Driving south to John Day from Bellingham, I thought to myself just how far away from the urban setting eastern Oregon is. Not just far in the sense of distance but far in the sense that people out here live a different life than most people in America. Out here folks care about each other, they know each other. They look out for each other. They have to, if they don’t look out for each other, who will? Without all of the comforts of large emergency service infrastructure and a grocery store on every corner the people of eastern Oregon have to be there for each other.
FRR: Being unfamiliar with the people out here, what did you expect after hearing media accounts of the Oregon Standoff? Did anything surprise you about your interactions with them?
A day in eastern Oregon made it clear to me that these folks are good, hardworking, caring Americans. I don’t understand why have some of them been deemed terrorists by the media. Why did a small group of ranchers decide to form a protest in such a remote part of Oregon? Why not protest in a big city like normal protesters? Why didn’t they burn things and assault people like the “normal” protesters that we’ve seen throughout America? I wanted to take a good look at it first-hand. There has to be more to the story than it just being some fringe group taking over a federal building with guns, as CNN reported.
FRR: What did you know about the background of the story, and the motives of the Oregon Standoff protesters before tonight?
I knew a little. The Harney basin has been a real hotbed of land deputes and outright destruction of natural resources for decades. By reading the news about the protest in Oregon last year you may think that all of this wrong-doing must be caused by the people who live there. But I learned that all of these transgressions and aggressions have been perpetrated by our own Federal Government.
Just think, when one group of Americans who feel that they have been marginalized and treated poorly by our own government burn down their town, threaten police and civilians with violence, and even commit violence they are called ‘protesters.’ When another group of Americans who feel that they have been marginalized and treated poorly by our government launch a small protest at an actual remote government-run building, they are deemed to be ‘terrorists.’ What’s the difference? I mean, other than burning property, destroying police cars, and beating innocent people.
FRR: Since you are drawing a contrast between they ways certain groups of people have handled disputes with the federal government or other authorities, do you believe LaVoy Finicum and his friends had a legitimate reason to protest, and do agree with the way they handled it?
The difference is that the protesters at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge were ranchers and their friends and family. They were trying to bring attention to a very serious grievance they have with how the federal agencies have been behaving throughout out western states. Their grievance was and is sincere and it affects each and every one of us. Two of their neighbors were tried and convicted as terrorists for just doing what they always have done. What were they doing that would cause them to be tried twice for the same offense. What terrible activities were these two ranchers engaged in that would land them in a federal prison after being convicted of terrorism? They were taking care of their property by back-burning their grasslands in order to promote fresh growth and keep noxious weeds at bay so that their cattle would grow up healthy. Well, the wind direction changed and the fire did spread onto federal land, also once thought of as “public land”. It burned more grassland and some fire fighters came out to suppress it. Done. Still a slow news day out there. It happens all of the time. No one was hurt and everyone went home for dinner.
FRR: What do you think America needs to know about the motives of LaVoy Finicum and the other Malheur Refuge protesters? What details have mainstream media outlets left out of the ‘whole story?’
The short story is that the father and son ranchers are now sitting in a federal penitentiary as convicted terrorists. Then other ranchers protested the abuse and heavy hand of our federal government and were swiftly also labeled “terrorists” by our own media. By the end of the protest nothing was burned down, no civilians or police were assaulted, no police cars were burned. None of those things happened. Unfortunately the peaceful protest did end in violence. A protester was shot down by our own government officials on the side of the road standing with his hands up. LaVoy Finicum was that protestor. The Finicum family lost someone they loved that day. No one rioted in the streets for LaVoy. No one beat anyone with a pipe or blocked traffic. We all watched the video of this man being shot down, yet most Americans went on about their day. Shame.
FRR: Do you think that during the year since LaVoy’s death the attitudes of other Americans have changed about him, the Bundys and others involved with the Oregon Standoff?
When I heard that the Finicum family was holding memorial for LaVoy, I wanted to travel to John Day to pay my respects too. I was astounded by how one-sided the press had been about the protest and eventual death of LaVoy Finicum. I didn’t know anyone at the memorial, not personally at least. I was an “outsider” in many ways. I live in a city. I don’t own land, or raise livestock. I pay a water bill and sometimes go out for brunch. I did not know how I would be received by these folks, many of whom where there at the protests one year ago. According to the media I was supposed to be among a fringe group of potential terrorists. What I found in John Day was the very opposite of what CNN said I would find. So, I guess, since my entire perspective changed, probably thousands of others have, as well.
FRR: What would you tell our readers about the things that impressed you most about your visit to LaVoy’s memorial? What would you say to others who have not had the opportunity to learn more about the people involved and the events leading up to this remembrance?
The people that showed up for the memorial were, well, friendly! They were Americans, like you and I. They had jobs and families, and bills, just like you and just like me. They showed up at the memorial because they were friends and family of LaVoy or other members of the protest. As I spoke to these folks I realized that they weren’t hateful or on the fringe. Instead, they were neighborly, they love each other as neighbors. They are the kind of folks that would stop and help you change your tire. They’re the type of people that care about each other and for our rights as Americans and as humans. Why did corporate media skew the story instead of looking into the reasons that the protest was taking place? I guess we are just conditioned to trust our news outlets. I think that trust is waning and I would like to propose that the Malheur Refuge protest and the death of one of the protesters should be looked into for yourself.