The picture of Eric Parker of Hailey crouched on a bridge aiming his assault rifle at federal officials confiscating cattle from a Nevada rancher ran all over the world in 2014.
Parker, an electrician, had answered the call of rancher Cliven Bundy to militias, patriots and other armed anti-government groups to come to his defense when the Bureau of Land Management was rounding up his cows. Federal officials said Bundy had failed to pay more than $1 million in fees for grazing his cattle on public land.
But last Saturday, when Bundy’s sons Ammon and Ryan led a group of militiamen onto the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to occupy a building in remote southeast Oregon, Parker and other members of the Idaho contingent remained with the peaceful protesters in Burns.
Parker is vice president of the Three Percent of Idaho, a group that was in Burns to protest the prison sentences of Dwight and Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers, for arson on federal land.
Never miss a local story.
The Three Percent of Idaho does not condone the takeover, the group’s spokesman, Chris McIntire, said Monday.
“We didn’t make any calls to arms nor plan or advocate any form of armed uprising,” McIntire said.
Parker chose to talk through McIntire to explain the difference between his decision to join the hundreds of anti-government militants who joined Bundy in April 2014 and his choice to decline to join the Bundys at Malheur this week.
In 2014, McIntire said, “The feds were coming in there with guns to take a person’s private property. This time the Bundy family took it upon themselves to occupy a federal building open to the public.”
The Three Percent of Idaho has been in the news lately for protests of refugees in Twin Falls and Boise. It takes its name and inspiration from what it says were the small percentage of American colonists who fought the Revolutionary War.
The group went to Burns for the peaceful protest to voice dissent of what it considered a wrongful prosecution of the Hammonds.
The Jan. 2 protest also timed for the weekend before the Hammonds reported to federal authorities to serve their prison time. It also protested the refusal of Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward to place the Hammonds under protective custody, McIntire said.
“We have remained within the Constitution, using civil discourse and the courts,” McIntire said.
Like-minded groups including Three Percent of Oregon, The Oregon Constitutional Guard and Pacific Patriot Network groups also rejected the Bundys’ call this time.
McIntire noted that the Three Percent of Idaho is a non-profit corporation. Violations of the law can cost such groups their tax-exempt status.
RIPPLE EFFECTS FROM 2014?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement organizations investigated the threats and confrontations surrounding the 2014 Bundy incident in Nevada, but so far no charges have been filed, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. He said the case is before the Department of Justice.
“Nothing has emerged,” said Ruch, who wants to see legal action against the people involved in the Nevada standoff and threats against federal officials.
The failure to file any charges in 2014 has emboldened anti-government threats, Ruch said.
“Certainly, if these guys were Muslim they would be treated differently,” Ruch said.
At least one federal analysis supports some of Ruch’s contentions.
An Intelligence Assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security dated July 22, 2014, said this “perceived victory by militia extremists ... will likely inspire additional anti-government violence over the next year.”
Bundy is still running his cows on 200 square miles of public lands managed by the BLM and the National Park Service in Nevada and Arizona.
“The federal government has ceded its land, if not officially, then functionally,” Ruch said. “They’ve declared it a demilitarized zone.”
‘RECOGNIZED HIS DUTY’
The 2014 and 2016 cases have important differences, said McIntire. Last weekend, it was the Bundys who were taking the offensive in southeast Oregon.
We don’t want another Waco. We don’t want another Ruby Ridge.
Chris McIntire, spokesman Three Percent of Idaho
But in 2014, it was the federal government stepping on the Bundy’s rights and threatening them, he said.
“Eric recognized his duty to draw the line,” McIntire said.