When Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, the world soon knew his name. The media dutifully portrayed Wilson as a seething racist and passed along graduation photos of a smiling Brown- a “gentle giant” he was reported to be.
Fast-forward to the shooting death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, the protester shot and killed after he had ran a roadblock when a joint police taskforce sieged upon the convoy of which he was a part. The de facto spokesman for the Bundy group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge exited his vehicle with his hands up. When he dropped his hands, he was shot dead by an Oregon State Police officer who alleged that he had reached for a weapon nestled firmly within his coat.
Though the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative has been proven to be demonstrably false in the case of Brown’s shooting, Finicum’s death played-out on camera and the FBI released the aerial footage of Finicum’s death. He had his hands up just seconds before he was gunned-down but yet, the FBI and Oregon State Police seemed pleased- they had got their man.
Now, the Oregon House of Representatives has voted to shield the officer’s identity who shot and killed Finicum. The House voted overwhelmingly to shield the officer from accountability, 55-3.
“This bill is deadly serious,” said Democratic state Rep. Jeff Barker during the floor debate on Wednesday. “This isn’t to protect a wrongdoer. It isn’t to protect a police department that screwed up.”
Strangely, those who demand justice for the shooting of LaVoy Finicum were joined in their outrage by a strange ally: Black Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter Portland came-out against the bill that would protect the identity of the shooter.
“The passing of this bill would be a major blow to police accountability in the state of Oregon. We CANNOT allow this to go unchallenged,” said a post on the group’s Facebook page.
Unbelievably, Barker labeled those who demanded to know the identity of the assassin within their state as “whack jobs.”
The bill allows a judge to withhold the name of an officer involved in a deadly shooting for 90 days if there is a “credible threat of danger.”
Facebook page Oregon Wide Open, a group dedicated to government transparency, blasted the bill and mocking Barker’s characterization of Finicum supporters, saying,
“So all you ‘WHACK JOBS’ who simply want to know who killed a man without provocation of any kind, you have a very short window to let your state representative know your vote resides with him or her only if they don’t sign off on this nonsense. This is unprecedented and will set a lasting standard of unaccountably if allowed to happen.”
While there is virtually no ideological overlap between sympathizers with the Bundy group and Black Lives Matter, the one thing that seems to the one commonality is that both groups see that increased governmental transparency cannot be a bad thing.
Whether the shooter was in the wrong or simply doing his job is certainly a matter for discussion. What seems clear, however, is that the same standard of transparency is most-certainly not being applied in Oregon as it has been in other shootings across the country. The simple fact is that this nation’s government and every government within needs a stronger commitment to providing more transparency, not less.
The federal government occupied land that was not theirs to occupy. When protesters occupied such land, the response by authorities was one of a highly militant nature and a man ended up dead with the standard rationalization that “he reached for a weapon.”
Whether it is Waco, Ruby Ridge or Malheur, the operating procedure appears to be the same: the federal government (and/or militarized state police) pursue a tactical solution to a standoff and when the dust settles, American citizens are dead and the authorities close ranks and declare the operation “regrettable, but ultimately a success.”
If only the Bundy group had occupied Wall Street or parks or squares throughout the nation, they would have been hailed as social justice heroes and given indefinite time to occupy whatever they liked…
If only Finicum would have been black, Burns, Oregon, would have been destroyed by riots and legislators would have demanded indictments instead of government secrecy.