BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) — Tension filled the air around the Harney County Courthouse Monday as hundreds of people — those against the militia and those against the government — protested, the latest in a series of ongoing events related to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The largest group to date of anti-militia protesters to assemble since the occupation began January 2 is evidence the town is deeply divided.
Signs remain stuck in the snow from the protest, left behind by some of the 300 or so protesters and counter-protesters.
Ranchers in trucks with horses and a woman in old-fashioned western wear showed up to support those who want less federal government. But local residents were quite vocal and certainly not outnumbered.
“This is ridiculous! They are scaring our children!”
“Three Percenters, go home!”
Brandon Curtiss, the president of 3% of Idaho, turned in a petition to oust Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and the county commissioners or face more protests.
“We’re asking for the resignation of the county government,” said BJ Soper, the founder of the Pacific Patriots Network.
Curtiss said they want those resignations “within 72 hours.”
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty tells KOIN 6 News, he’s not stepping down.
“This isn’t a valid petition in any sense of the law, that I understand.”
Another group was there protesting the death of LaVoy Finicum and chanted “don’t shoot.”
Finicum supporter Barbara Berg arrived with stickers on her body to represent bullet holes. She claimed Finicum, 54, was shot in the back and had his hands in the air on Jan. 26 during a confrontation with the FBI and Oregon State Police north of Burns.
But Finicum’s supporters called his death “murder,” and poured out a vial of red fluid to symbolize his death.
Counter-protesters chanted their response:
“He went for the gun! He went for the gun!”
Finicum’s memorial service is set for 2:30 p.m. Friday at the family’s church in Kanab, Utah. The town of 4,500 is located about 30 miles northeast of Finicum’s hometown of Cane Beds, Arizona.
His daughter Arianna Finicum Brown says the funeral is open to the public but that cameras and video are prohibited inside.
On Saturday, about 50 people not associated with the 3% of Idaho, rolled through the streets of Burns to protest the death of LaVoy Finicum.
Late in the afternoon, members of the militia group and supporters of the Bundy brothers made a push to get into the Harney County Courthouse, but were stopped by counter-protesters.
“They are not from here,” one told KOIN 6 News. “We don’t want them here. We want them to go home.”
The Pacific Patriots Network
Founding member BJ Soper of Redmond issued a “call to action” over Finicum’s death, posted on the PPN website.
Though their mission statement says they are “our communities first responders,” Soper called on “any and all Americans to come to Burns, Oregon to come to the aid of the American people standing against these violent, malicious and deceitful tactics” of the FBI.
Beyond the death of LaVoy Finicum, the PPN is upset the FBI arrested militia member Jason Patrick once he left the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.