One of the disturbing undercurrents of the 2016 armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, led by “Patriot” movement figure Ammon Bundy, was the extent to which it revealed how deeply this far-right extremism had spread into the mainstream—including elected officials such as sheriffs, deputies, and state legislators.
That same undercurrent is now running through the Oregon Legislature, thanks to the growing extremism of the Republican Party in the state, which has broken into the news because nine Oregon state senators have fled to neighboring states in order to deny the Democrat-dominated body the quorum needed to vote on a key climate-change bill.
Not only has one of these legislators threatened to kill state policemen if they arrive to force him to attend the legislative session (“You better send bachelors and they better be heavily armed”), but now some of the very same militiamen involved in the Malheur standoff have announced they plan to rise to these senators’ defense.
A Facebook event listing posted this week announced a coming “Rally To Take the Capitol” in Salem on Thursday. According to Kos diarist Spherical Aberration, organizers are claiming that “at least some of the errant Senators intend to return to the capitol on the 27th for the rally, but that they will not be participating in government. The affiliated militias have committed that they will not permit the Oregon State Police to seize ‘their Senators’.”
Bruce “B.J.” Soper, leader of a militia dubbed the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, which is aligned with the “III Percent” militia movement, is listed as one of the event’s three organizers. Soper also ran a “Pacific Patriots Network” that organized the initial antigovernment rally in Burns, Ore., that wound up being the springboard for the Malheur standoff.
Talking Points Memo reported that a III Percent Militia member claimed “more than 200 militiamen from 17 counties had mobilized within the state and around the Oregon-Idaho border.”
“These people are all armed and prepared to put themselves in front of senators to prevent arrests from Oregon State Police specifically,” he told TPM. Oregon “Patriots” have a particularly heated animus towards OSP officers because two of them were involved in the January 2016 shooting of Malheur figure LaVoy Finicum during a police arrest operation when the standoff organizers were traveling. Finicum has subsequently become a major martyr figure for the movement.
One of the III Percent groups apparently involved in the Salem event planning is Eric “EJ” Parker, leader of the Real Three Percenters of Idaho. Parker was a major figure in the 2014 armed standoff led by Cliven Bundy in Nevada, ultimately standing trial (and winning acquittal, as well as the applause of Idaho legislators) for aiming his long-range rifle in the direction of federal agents.
“We see it as the right to protest” Parker told TPM. “We see it as the same right to protest as the protesters in the wash at the Bundy Ranch had.”
Another man listed as one of the organizers of Thursday’s event, John Parker Jr., won brief notoriety in 2015 when he was at the scene of the Oct. 1 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. Parker told reporters then that he had been armed during the incident, but chose not to attempt to stop the shooter because he feared creating confusion with law enforcement at the scene.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.