ST. GEORGE – Just as Iron County ranchers and others gathered in Parowan to remember Arizona rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who was killed Wednesday in Oregon, individuals came together in St. George to do the same.
“We’re just here in commemoration of LaVoy Finicum,” demonstration participant Walter Parker said.
Finicum, 55, of Cane Beds, Arizona, was killed Tuesday during an altercation involving the FBI and Oregon State Police who were conducting what authorities described as a traffic stop that ended in gunfire.
Parker said the gathering, which took place at the 5th District Courthouse in St. George, was not a protest but rather a recognition of what Finicum was trying to do.
“He was trying to tell the rest of the country about our laws of public lands,” Parker said.
Robert Douberly, a neighbor of the Finicum family, said the Arizona rancher had visited Oregon last year and “realized the injustice that was happening with the Hammonds and he stayed there,” he said. “I don’t believe that he expected it to turn into what it did.”
“He just realized that the people there needed to know the laws of the Constitution,” Douberly said,” “and that was LaVoy Finicum.”
Around 20 to 25 people gathered at the courthouse for the event that took place at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The original event was planned by Iron County resident Phillip Gardner who announced his intention on an early-afternoon radio talk show. The event was subsequently extended to Washington County for anyone who wanted to pay tribute to Finicum’s memory.
“It certainly is a tragic situation that we had a loss of life up there,” Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner said. Gardner did not attend the demonstration. He supports the push to gain state-control over the public lands from the federal government as Finicum did, though expressed misgivings about the occupation at the Malheur Notational Wildlife Refuge.
“I totally understand the frustration they have with the (Bureau of Land Management), on the overreach,” Gardner said. “… The frustration just builds and builds and ultimately it led to this.”
Finicum was in Oregon with brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and several others who had occupied a vacant building at the refuge. They took over the building Jan. 2 following a protest against the pending imprisonment of Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven Hammond, 46, both of Diamond, Oregon.
The two were convicted of committing arson on federal lands three years ago and served time – the father three months, the son one year. But a judge later ruled their terms were too short under federal law and ordered them back to prison for about four years each.
Gardner called the situation an example of federal overreach that could be avoided if the public lands were given to the states.
Local control, Gardner said, would work much better in the case of the Hammonds versus the overkill that can tend to come with overreaching federal policies.
Finicum went on to become one of the faces associated with the group occupying the wildlife refuge as he addressed reporters in press conferences early on.
On Tuesday, Finicum, the Bundy brothers and others were on U.S. 395 heading to a meeting with ranchers in John Day, Oregon. While en route, the group was stopped by the FBI and Oregon State Police who had warrants out for the arrest of certain individuals, Finicum being among them. During the encounter, Finicum was shot and killed and the Bundys and others were arrested.
Authorities have yet to release any official details surrounding the incident, though conflicting witness accounts have surfaced over social media.
As reported by The Oregonian, Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Mike Arnold, shared a statement from his client Wednesday, part of which reflected on Finicum’s death.
First I want to address my beloved friend LaVoy Finicum. LaVoy’s one of the greatest men and greatest patriots I’ve ever seen. His love for this country ran deep through the blood he gave yesterday and I mourn for him and I mourn for his family. I’m praying fervently for you in every prayer.
The Finicum family also released a statement Wednesday concerning LaVoy Finicum’s death.
We thank all those reaching out to us in love during this difficult time. Your faithful prayers are felt. Please keep praying and keep using your voice to get the truth out. This fight against tyranny is not over. Press forward.
Forgiveness is what we can extend and understanding is what we want.
Christ was and is LaVoy’s exemplar. Though there are evil and conspiring men at work, Christ still forgave the executioners for they knew not what they did.
“It’s basically a bad thing we hope has a good ending,” Parker said at the remembrance event for Finicum, “but I’m afraid if it’s left to the federal government, there’s gonna be more bloodshed.”
St. George News Reporter Julie Applegate contributed to this story.
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