This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Hundreds of supporters of the Malheur refuge occupation and the Bundy family converged at the Utah Capitol on Saturday to honor a "fallen hero" and the "patriots" imprisoned in the fight for freedom for which the armed encampment claimed to stand.
LaVoy Finicum loved his country and its founding principle of freedom, which he believed is God given, according to Jeanette Finicum, the widow of the Arizona rancher killed by police Jan. 26.
"The day my husband, LaVoy, was murdered, assassinated by our government, they had been invited by Sheriff [Glenn] Palmer to speak to the citizens of his county in John Day," she said at the Capitol in her first major public appearance since her husband died.
Jeanette told the 200 to 300 well-wishers gathered on the Capitol's south steps that she believes LaVoy was trying to show police he was no threat when they shot him at a "kill stop" they set up on an Oregon highway.
Freedom in America is in serious peril, thanks to federal bureaucracies that have lost their moorings to the U.S. Constitution, according to speakers at the rally. Agencies like the Bureau of Land Management are depriving families of their ability to make a living off the land after generations of "beneficial use" that comes with ranching, logging, mining and irrigation.
Critics counter that grazing on public lands is a privilege, not a right, and the federal government has long subsidized ranchers through low fees and direct payments, despite a heavy toll cattle inflict on delicate arid and mountainous landscapes.
On the steps behind the speakers, a few counterdemonstrators stood with signs condemning what they saw as the occupiers' criminal abuse of public lands, while rally-goers tried to obscure their view with American flags and yellow "Don't Tread on Me" banners.
"We are troubled when LaVoy Finicum prior to his Malheur refuge involvement, urged Utah ranchers not to pay grazing fees and promised militias will come to their defense in the process," said Bart Tippetts of Mormon Stewards Protecting the Earth. "We urge Utah citizens to work within the due process of law rather than through armed threat of force. ."
Saturday's event was part of a nationwide network of 100 rallies called "Stand By Me For Liberty." The Sky View High School choir, from Smithfield, opened the rally with "The Star-Spangled Banner." Many rally-goers wore black T-shirts emblazoned with the Finicum ranch's distinctive brand and the words, "I am the virus," a reference to a public official who likened the Malheur occupiers' message to a contagion.
"We are here because the rule of law is not being honored and sustained. We all believe and know that the people who were at the refuge and at the Bundy ranch were obeying the rule of law according to original intent, which is what Justice Scalia believed in and we are very saddened with his passing," said Cherilyn Eagar, a Utah conservative activist acting as the Finicum family's spokeswoman.
Rally speakers demanded a full and independent investigation into Finicum's killing and the release of those held on various charges stemming from the Malheur occupation and the 2014 standoff at the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
Those arrested Thursday included Bundy brothers David in Utah, and Melvin in Round Mountain, Nev. The brothers were planning to attend the Salt Lake City rally, but they remained in custody.
A Millard County contractor, David Bundy was taken into custody at the site of a home he is building for his family outside Delta, according to his wife, Marylynn.
"All he did was help his neighbors stand up for their rights," she told the crowd. "He didn't do anything wrong. Where in Utah is the governor and our state representatives to help my husband? Why is my husband locked up in a box for nothing? I have six children who don't know where their dad is."
David's role was limited to taking pictures of federal agents on private property, an offense for which he was knocked down, stomped face-first into the ground and jailed briefly in Las Vegas, Marylynn said.
Two other brothers, Ammon and Ryan, have also been indicted in the 2014 standoff and have been in custody since Jan. 26 when they were arrested for leading the Malheur occupation. It was during these arrests on a highway heading north from the wildlife refuge that Oregon State troopers shot and killed Finicum.
Aerial footage of the incident shows the truck Finicum was driving speeding away from the spot where police pulled over the truck and another vehicle carrying occupation leaders. The truck then approaches a road block and veers into the snow. It comes to a stop and Finicum exits the drivers seat with his hands raised with at least two officers pointing weapons at him.
"I know he was constantly thinking of the safety of others because he valued life. When he left that truck I believe that he was trying to divert attention from the people he cared about in the truck to himself thereby have all the officers who were there in wait in the trees to focus their attention on him," Jeanette said.
Authorities say officers fired on Finicum when he appeared to lower his hands to reach for a possible weapon hidden in his coat. His widow rejected that version.
"When you see him reach in is when he was first shot, and I believe he put his hands back in the air he was continuing to show them he was no threat to anyone," Jeanette said. "And again when he reaches back to his body, I believe he was shot a second time and he raised his hands a second time empty to show he was not armed. And then he was killed, shot who knows how many times."
Sheriff Palmer had instructed the occupation leaders to come to the John Day meeting unarmed and witness say they had no guns on their person, though there may have been weapons in the truck, according to Jeannette.
"My husband, Lavoy, was an amazing man. From the very first time that I met him, it was clear to me that this man was a rare gem," she said. "He was a man of great character and principal and integrity and strength, he was modest and humble and would be really embarrassed about all the fanfare."