BOISE — Protesters at the Idaho Capitol building steps Friday afternoon decried the recent arrests of four Idaho men who allegedly participated in an assault on federal law enforcement personnel in the Bunkerville, Nevada, area in April 2014.
Brandon Curtiss, the president of the “3% of Idaho” organization, said that after the rally attended by about 150 people, he requested a future meeting with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to ask where Wasden stands on the federal indictments.
The charges — contained in a superseding indictment stemming from the April 12, 2014, incident connected with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy — were leveled March 2 against O. Scott Drexler, 44, Challis; Eric J. Parker, 32, Hailey; Steven A. Stewart, 36, Hailey; and Todd C. Engel, 48, Boundary County.
Some protesters on the Capitol steps Friday asserted that the federal arrests were unjustly based on the political beliefs of the four men, whom they said should be released from custody.
The rally started on the Capitol steps and concluded inside the building in the second-floor rotunda near Wasden’s office.
“I know his (Wasden’s) office has been getting a lot of phone calls in regards to the four Idahoans arrested by the FBI last week for their being present at the Bundy (cattle) ranch in Nevada,” Curtiss said in an interview. “So I want his stance on that. And he should give the public his stance. Whether he agrees with it or not, we just need to know where he stands.”
It was clear Friday afternoon where the Capitol protesters stood on the arrests issue.
“Let’s go ahead and call them what they are: They’re political prisoners,” said Boise resident Andrew Chavez. “They’re in jail for their political belief. They’re in jail because they’re willing to stand up to the federal government. So that’s why they’re in jail. They’re not extremists. They don’t have criminal records.”
A March 3 news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson summarized the superseding indictment of 14 people, including the four men from Idaho:
“The superseding indictment alleges that the charges result from a massive armed assault against federal law enforcement officers that occurred in and around Bunkerville (Nevada) on April 12, 2014. The defendants are alleged to have planned, organized and led the assault in order to extort the officers into abandoning approximately 400 head of cattle that were in their lawful care and custody.”
Chavez said local law enforcement personnel in Idaho weren’t informed of the arrests.
“The federal government does not have a right to come and grab our patriots without even telling the freaking sheriff what’s going on,” Chavez said. “They’re expecting us to bow down and we’re not gonna do it.”
Redmond, Oregon, resident B.J. Soper was another one of a number of speakers at the protest, urging communication with state lawmakers about the issue.
“It’s time to be angry,” Soper said. “It’s not time to sit and be quiet. It’s time to speak out on all avenues, from emails to phone calls, to standing right here and letting them inside that building know that this is enough.”
In addition to Chavez and Soper, many other protesters in the crowd took issue with the arrests of the four Idahoans, wielding placards such “Free the Patriots” with the names of the four men listed and “Release All our Political Prisoners.”
Boise resident Terry Shepard said he got interested in becoming involved in the protest after the Jan. 26 shooting death of LaVoy Finicum at the hands of federal authorities in Oregon. Finicum was one of the leaders at the monthlong takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon.
“I started to realize that it’s coming to everybody,” Shepard said. “The government doesn’t really want to keep the (U.S.) Constitution, and it’s up to the people to make the government keep the Constitution, and it’s kind of a difficult thing to do.”
Curtiss said that Wasden was out of the office Friday, but that a message requesting a meeting with Wasden was left with a receptionist.
“It’d just be a really simple conversation (to) understand where he stands,” said Curtiss, who said the four men should be released. “And, I guess, depending on how that conversation goes, that would determine what my response would be. You know, he may not even be aware of it. I mean, that’s what we’re finding: The FBI are doing things, the federal government are doing things, that the state’s not even aware of.”