For sheriff candidate Mike Ingersoll, Ammon Bundy, and a crowd of approximately 40 people, gathered at the St. Maries City Park, the evening began with a pledge and a prayer.
For another gathering of approximately 20 people, the evening was a time for protest. Individuals from St. Maries and the surrounding area posted on Main Avenue holding signs reading “This is our home not your Redoubt,” and “Law not Vigilantes.”
The protestors were there to protest the headliner of Mr. Ingersoll’s campaign event—Ammon Bundy, whose presence they believe attracts individuals with extreme ideologies. They were not alone, several motorists honked in support as they passed.
“Remember the Citadel,” said protest organizer Jimmy Knox. “Well, the other thing that happens here is people come here that read about Redoubt. I’m a prepper myself, but not a crazy right-wing one. That is not what North Idaho is about. We’re sick of the influx of extremists here in town. It’s a nice place... We don’t want this to turn into a haven for radicals.”
American Redoubt refers to a movement that encourages families, commonly identified as preppers, to relocate in an area of the US that spans from eastern Washington to Montana in the event of an apocalyptic case scenario.
“(Ammon Bundy) seems to be an attention getter and we think he is stirring up the extremists in town. And now he is endorsing a sheriff candidate,” protestor Keaton Buell said.
Asked if he considered himself an extremist, Mr. Bundy said “I don’t know that I would say no to that. My temperament is not extreme.”
Indeed, for an individual associated with an armed opposition to local, state and federal authority; multiple arrests leading to a barring from the Idaho capitol; and support for Black Lives Matter and defunding the police, Mr. Bundy’s presentation was calm and articulate.
He seemed intent only on educating people to defend their rights and oppose government abuse, but is not opposed to government.
“We still have one of the greatest systems invented by man or God,” Mr. Bundy said.
However, his experience confronting the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, various law enforcement agencies in Oregon, and subsequent processing through the judicial system is what motivates him to be an activist.
Of the government Mr. Bundy said, “They bypass the grand jury...They minimize the sheriff...These are all parts of the process put in place to protect the people they are abusing.”
His experience confronting the Bureau of Land Management, in Nevada, over grazing rights and the constitutionality of federal land ownership, showed him the value of a government and a sheriff in particular.
Mr. Bundy said it was a former Nevada sheriff who used his authority to keep federal agencies at bay in defense of Mr. Bundy’s family and their claim to grazing land.
“The sheriff can do more good in any other person in the county to protect your rights,” Mr. Bundy said.
For Mr. Ingersoll’s part, he views himself as a constitutional sheriff candidate.
“I’m for the people. They are my employer. (They are) the reason I am here and that is it. What is it that you would like me to do to help you,” Mr. Ingersoll said.
Mr. Ingersoll views Mr. Bundy as he views himself, which is what led him to seek his support in his bid for sheriff.
“Ammon Bundy is standing up for the people’s rights—our constitutional rights,” Mr. Ingersoll said.
At least in regard to policing, the protestors on Main Avenue may have more in common with Mr. Bundy and Mr. Ingersoll than they realize. Several of those gathered in protest to Mr. Bundy, recently stood on the streets of St. Maries to support Black Lives Matter.
“I support their right to protesting and defunding the police. There needs to be a correct constitutional force. If people could hold them accountable, by vote, like they can sheriff—I think that would solve the problem,” Mr. Bundy said regarding Black Lives Matter.
Mr. Ingersoll has a community vision of policing, with a focus on positive engagement and he has called for local reform and transparency. He also told the crowd before him that he intends to work with local veteran advocate Hank Thornton to respond compassionately to calls pertaining to veteran suicide.
“You can talk to him and he listens and he truly cares about the people in this county, and the veterans, and he has guaranteed to do what he can to help the vets,” Mr. Thornton said.
Mr. Ingersoll has also said he wants to use his position directly to provide firearms training and a new approach to drug enforcement, and indirectly, to secure trade school opportunities for the community.
“As an officer your job is not to put a hand on, but to put a hand up and help people,” Mr. Ingersoll said.