Tyranny, Defiance, and the Death of LaVoy Finicum

LaVoy Finicum, who was shot at a roadblock by Oregon State Troopers and left to bleed to death in the snow, was not a violent criminal. He and his colleagues from the group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom were traveling to John Day, Oregon to organize political resistance to federal control over lands in the western United States.

After trying to run the roadblock, Finicum plowed his vehicle into a snowbank. He exited with his hands in the air, staggering in the snow before making a motion with his right hand that the FBI claims was an effort to grab a handgun. Another possibility is that Finicum, as some witnesses claim, was shot while his hands were raised in a posture of surrender, and that his subsequent movements were involuntary.

The carefully planned ambush, which displayed detailed intelligence regarding the plans of Finicum and his friends, was a joint operation between the FBI and the Oregon State Police. It was was not carried out in defense of persons or property, but to enforce the will of those in control of the Regime. Finicum, a 55-year-old rancher from Arizona, had become the subject of a federal warrant after renouncing his grazing contract with the Washington-based usurpers who control range lands in that state.

The night before he was killed on Oregon’s Highway 395 in an FBI-orchestrated ambush, Finicum had denounced the “escalation” he had seen on the part of government officials seeking to end the CCF’s occupation of the Malheur National Refuge. On several previous occasions Finicum – who had raised cattle and scores of foster children — made it clear that he would rather die than spend the balance of his life immured in a government cage.

Reasonable people can contend that the occupation was an imprudent provocation. That criticism can apply with equal validity to many similarly imprudent acts carried out by idealistic but obnoxious men during the 1760s and early 1770s, and now celebrated (in sanitized form) by inmates of the government-operated school system. Many of the same people who numbly absorb annual recitations of Patrick Henry’s oration at the Old South Church will see Finicum as a fanatic who committed “suicide by cop,” rather than someone for whom “Give me liberty, or give me death” was a credo, rather than a cliché.

After being shot multiple times, Finicum fell on his back – but he didn’t die instantly. The video captured by an FBI surveillance aircraft showed him lifting his hand imploringly, and holding it up for several seconds before he lost consciousness.

None of the officers on the scene approached Finicum to disarm him and render medical assistance while there was still a chance to save his life. In the press conference that served as a debut for the FBI’s snuff film, Greg Bretzing, a spokesman for the American Cheka, explained that potentially life-saving aid was withheld while the officers took Ammon Bundy and four others into custody.

This emphasis on “force protection” reflects the wartime priorities of an occupying army. Fallen enemy combatants are not owed the same consideration as criminal suspects. Thus Finicum’s mortal remains were left sprawled on the frozen ground, in a posture eerily reminiscent of the body of Lakota Chief Bigfoot following the vengeful Seventh Cavalry’s massacre at Wounded Knee.

The federal statute under which Ammon Bundy and six other members of the CCF have been charged, 18 USC section 372, offers no protection whatsoever to the persons and property of U.S. citizens. That measure, enacted in 1861, is designed to protect “officers” of the federal government (including administrative personnel and other bureaucrats) as they prey upon the Regime’s subjects.  It originally targeted actual and suspected sympathizers with the Confederacy, which in practice meant anybody who respected and defended the right of states to withdraw from the Union, even if motivated by an ignoble cause.

After the Confederacy was defeated and the once-voluntary Union was repurposed into a Soyuz, the same measure was frequently pressed into service during the thirteen-year military occupation of the South. A Justice Department memo written in 1977 noted that “although this provision is more than 100 years old, it has been infrequently used. Most recorded cases have involved internal revenue agents whose efforts to track down tax-evading operators of illegal stills met with resistance.”

Those anti-Bootlegger operations, significantly, continued for decades after the Regime ended the exercise in authoritarian derangement called alcohol prohibition: The 1977 memo cited three cases that occurred over the previous twelve years, the latest reaching the Supreme Court in 1971. The purpose of the memo, significantly, was to provide the FBI with a legal rationale for investigating and prosecuting, under the rubric of “conspiracy to impede federal officers,” acts that were not explicitly criminalized by other federal statutes.

The “conspiracy to impede” statute “did not even contain a requirement that an overt act be done in furtherance of the conspiracy before the conspiratorial conduct would become actionable,” pointed out Assistant Attorney General John M. Harmon.  “The broad purpose of protecting the Federal presence as fully as possible supports a broad, rather than narrow, reading of the word `officer,’” he continued. Thus it was the Justice Department’s opinion that “the term `officer’… includes both permanent and temporary, full- and part-time officers and employees of the United States.”

Sixteen federal tax-consumers are usually stationed in the cluster of buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They act as a salient representing an unaccountable federal bureaucracy that has usurped local jurisdictions by seizing land that was not theirs by right or constitutional mandate. Indeed, the federal claim to the land in Harney County, Oregon rests entirely on illegal settlement by white ranchers in violation of treaty obligations with the Paiute Indians.

Unlike the peaceful protest by the CCF, the illegal occupation of what would become Harney County in the 1870s did involve violence and extensive property damage – and it was actively encouraged by the Feds as a way of consolidating control over territory to which they were not entitled. That act of land larceny was “legitimized” in the fashion described by St. Augustine. A “government,” he explained in The City of God, is simply a gang that “acquires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples,” and then achieves legitimacy “not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity.”

Although the CCF did express its intention to use force in self-defense, the “occupation” of the vacant headquarters buildings – which would be considered trespassing, if they were legitimately owned by a definable victim – was not achieved by violence. But because the action undermined the local franchise of a Regime claiming a universal monopoly on violence, it was treated as an act of terrorism.

In her sophomoric screed called a “criminal complaint,” FBI Special Agent (she is, to be certain,  a very “special” agent) Katherine Armstrong uses quadruple hearsay to depict the “occupiers” as a nest of terrorists bent on wreaking bloody havoc in Harney County.  After the “occupation” of the refuge began, “BLM was notified … by a Harney County Sheriff’s Officer that a source informed him that the group … had explosives, night vision goggles, and weapons and that if they didn’t get the fight they wanted out there they would bring the fight to town.”

None of this was true, of course, and the conveniently anonymous “source” is hidden beneath redundant layers of official deniability. The only “fight” conducted by the CCF was a quixotic campaign “to restore and defend the Constitution,” as Armstrong’s criminal complaint observes. This kind of seditious talk was enough to cause Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, who displayed canine docility in doing the bidding of his federal masters, to irrigate his skivvies.

The CCF, quavered Ward in a January 27 press conference, “have chosen to threaten and intimidate the America they profess to love.” No being in whom we can find even a faint flicker of rationality could genuinely believe that anybody — let alone the entire country — was threatened and intimidated by the “occupiers.” But people whose position in society depends on the threat and exercise of lethal violence are intimidated by those who are prepared to call their bluff.

This, more than anything else, explains why LaVoy Finicum was left to die in the snow while his killers hurled flash-bang grenades at the terrified survivors in his vehicle. State-inflicted death is the last argument of tyrants, particularly those who fear that defiance may become contagious.