Protestation or Intimidation?

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich (R) has been warning us for years about Matt Shea (R, LD4, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) and the movement Shea leads. Leah Sotille, in her podcast series Bundyville and Bundyville the Remnant, laid out the doctrine and rise of the movement, its outward swagger about 2nd Amendment “rights”, its fundamentalist theology, its warped “Patriotism”, and its ties to white supremacy. Locally, Jay Pounder and Tanner Rowe have exposed documents from the inner workings of Shea’s local organization that detail preparations for an armed takeover. 

So what is brewing among these protesters/terrorists? First, any protester who carries an assault weapon to a protest is engaging in intimidation, not protest. Such intimidation is a political weapon–a threat of violence, the same purpose the Brownshirts served in another era. Matt Shea regularly speaks at rallies of assault-weapons-carrying intimidators at Franklin Park near Northtown in north Spokane. He rouses these military weapons carriers in support of his pet project, the “Liberty State,” and fosters the teaching of military tactics. His incumbent position in Washington State government encourages the tactics of intimidation of his followers, tactics supposedly based in their ideas of the sacredness that weds the 2nd Amendment to far right Christianity and theocratic government.

Intimidation tactics are on display here in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho as 2nd Amendment Fundamentalists gain a foothold in elected offices. We need to pay attention. Recent case in point: Most of my readers are familiar with the Festival at Sandpoint, a gathering that draws big names in music and thousands of audience members to this town of around ten thousand people every August, a gathering that puts millions of dollars into the local economy. The Festival (a private nonprofit) leases Memorial Field from the City of Sandpoint to hold the event. In the age of mass shootings, many performers require gun-free venues in consideration of their own safety.

Ah, but not that easy in Idaho, where the Bonner County Commissioner seats are held by 2nd Amendment Fundamentalists. These folks saw fit to file a suit, Bonner County v. City of Sandpoint, contesting the firearms ban, a suit that will cost local taxpayers of both the City and the County tens of thousands of dollars. (Bonner County is the second northernmost county of Idaho [south of Boundary County]. Sandpoint is the county seat of Bonner County.) The suit turns on a fine point of law, claiming it is unconstitutional for a private entity leasing city land in Idaho to prohibit weapons carriage. 

In a sane country and state that actually respected the rule of law, the suit, even as stupid a waste of time and money as it seems to many of us, would progress through the court system, a verdict would be reached and these two local governmental entities would abide by the ruling. 

But this is a area where Redoubt Radio issues a call to arms and a few hundred people come out in their camo jackets with their assault rifles to parade through town, folks who think it is their “patriotic” duty to appear and brandish their weapons.

So here is the part that’s frightening. Read this quote from the Bonner County Daily Bee from an article that appeared on April 30, entitled “County seeks firearms ban decision”:

“Counsel for Bonner County filed a motion for summary judgment to swiftly end the dispute, which officials contend has the potential to devolve into scenario not unlike the deadly clash at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

A large, armed protest is being planned if the prohibition against firearms during the Festival is allowed to stand. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Second Amendment advocates are expected to demonstrate if the ban is not lifted, according to county officials.

“This dispute creates a highly explosive and dangerous situation ripe for a public disaster,” Amy Clemmons, the county’s counsel, said in court documents filed on Tuesday.”

How does this quote (and the whole article in the Bee) read as anything but a threat of armed rebellion, a threat made by the very county officials who would call these folks out to protest? “A large armed protest is being planned…perhaps thousands…” Let that sink in. The Commissioners of Bonner County are threatening the City of Sandpoint with a potentially violent gathering–telling the City to give in or face the consequences. This is not subtle.

This is what we get when we fail to pay close attention to whom we elect to local public office. This is how we get a Matt Shea in Eastern Washington or a Dan McDonald (Bonner County Commissioner) or a Sheriff Daryl Wheeler (Bonner County) or a Heather Scott (ID State Rep and compatriot of Washington’s Matt Shea) in northern Idaho. This is getting real. It is time to pay attention.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Recently announced: The Festival at Sandpoint 2020 will not be held this year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is postponed to 2021. At least there won’t be a bunch of bearded, camo-covered wannabe Patriarchs parading with assault weapons and intimidating Festival goers–at least not in 2020.

P.P.S. Where were the sensible people of the State of Idaho when Republican legislators passed a state law that “forbids the prohibition of firearms in public places” by local authorities? Now the Bonner County Redoubters are wasting taxpayer money and the judicial system to extend that prohibition to private entities renting city property. What’s next?