Funeral of Oregon occupier Finicum to draw large crowd

Funeral ceremony of armed Oregon occupier Robert 'Lavoy' Finicum, who was shot dead by law enforcement after road chase, to draw supporters from across western US

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A sign is displayed with the picture of LaVoy Finicum during a demonstration outside the Harney County Courthouse in Burns, Ore., Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. Hundreds gathered to protest and support the armed occupation of a national wildlife preserve.

The funeral for the man killed by law enforcement during the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge is expected to draw supporters from around the West to a small Utah town.

Robert "Lavoy" Finicum, 54, was shot during a Jan. 26 traffic stop after authorities say he reached for a gun in his jacket pocket. His supporters call it an ambush after Finicum and others took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and demanded the federal government turn over public lands to local control.

His death inspired a call for like-minded followers to come to Kanab, Utah, for his funeral Friday. The day's events, billed as "Lavoy Finicum's Stand for Freedom," include a visitation and funeral followed by a memorial horse ride to a local middle school for a benefit concert.

The events could draw up to 1,000 people, including many from Kanab and the nearby towns of Fredonia and Cane Beds, Arizona, said Sgt. Alan Alldredge of the Cane County Sheriff's Office. Others are expected to come from Nevada and elsewhere in Arizona.

"They've kind of put the call out nationwide," Alldredge said.

His office and the Utah Highway Patrol will be on hand to make sure the events are peaceful and orderly. Given the anti-federal sentiment expected among the crowd, Alldredge said local law enforcement agencies have pleaded with the FBI and other federal agents to stay away.

"We've kind of asked them to stay away, and they say they will," Alldredge said.

One of the protesters who stood with Finicum at the Oregon refuge hopes to attend the funeral. Shawna Cox is from Kanab, and a judge released her from jail on condition that she wear an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet.

The standoff began Jan. 2, with the group demanding the government change federal land policies and free two ranchers imprisoned for setting fires. Cox and 11 others were arrested, while the four people who remain at the site have been indicted on federal charges.

Defense attorneys have said their clients engaged in civil disobedience and are being punished for political speech. They say the only use of force during the standoff was by police.

The government says that once the occupation began, the group brandished firearms to keep officials from carrying out their duties, threatened violence and intimidated locals "to effectuate the goals of the conspiracy."

TRTWorld and agencies