Jason Arment

Interview with Eric Parker, Part III: Beyond the Horizon

Jason Arment concludes his fascinating, in-depth interview with “The Bundy Sniper,” Eric Parker. They continue discussing events in eastern Oregon and talk about other activist movements.

 

In this final part of our interview, when Eric and I talk, we are unaware that within twenty-four hours LaVoy Finicum would be shot dead and several of his compatriots arrested. [Read Part I and Part II.]

 

The Black Panthers aren’t really active anymore, but I would be just as interested in them. I want to make it clear: I’m not on anyone’s side. But if you’ve read my work in the past, you know I’m not a shill for the government.

[Our conversation becomes disjointed and turns back to the Bird Sanctuary.]

… they’ll probably be arrested at some point.

If they don’t die. All we want to see is—no going in heavy-handed.

 

Speaking of conjecture, let’s go ahead and go there. Because as you’re very aware, and I appreciate your awareness, this is a real situation and these peoples’ lives really are on the line. Whether or not those people at the Bird Sanctuary understand, I understand and you understand, they could very well not make it out of this. This is a serious, serious thing. I’ve wondered why the government hasn’t just shut off the water and the electricity.

They’ve got that whole Waco [avoidance] thing going on too. The FBI is a different animal. All I’ve ever dealt with is the bureaucracy of the BLM and the Forest Service. The FBI is a different animal.

I think that they didn’t know whether or not the best thing to do was ignore them, like they’re kids throwing a fit. Or to engage with them, because engaging could possibly escalate. If they were to just sit back and kind of let them blow off their steam; because really they haven’t broken any laws, technically. They went out and messed with a fence, that could be construed as something, but technically that fence was policy-placed. Technically, they’re just occupying—criminal trespassing, maybe. [The FBI] has to have their reaction match that.

I don’t know as far as why they didn’t just go straight in right then and there. I think that they had to feel it out because they didn’t know what could escalate from that. I mean there are guys in there that have fought in wars and are convinced they’re doing the right thing and convinced they are upholding their oath. And I hope they are taking that into consideration and that’s why they didn’t just go in. Because all the stupid videos aside, there are other guys in there that aren’t making videos and are prepared to defend themselves. They’re not going to go out like a bunch of religious zealots at Waco.

It’s definitely starting to escalate now. They’ve brought in over 200 federal agents in that town now. We’ve got our members over there still working with the community and working with them out on the refuge to try to open lines of communication—keep everybody safe. But it’s definitely starting to escalate. They brought in their own surgical team, the FBI. They took the whole top floor of the hospital in Burns and put their own surgical team in place. And they ordered a bunch of blood. Normally I would think, Okay, the government’s always training too, they utilize these situations to train. So, getting their surgical staff wouldn’t be too farfetched. But when I found out a bunch of blood too, that was kind of chilling.

And that information is coming directly from people on the ground—community members. It’s definitely escalating. The governor of Oregon is saying, “Do something, it’s gotta be stopped.” You’ve got the sheriff of the town really pushing the fact that he’s scared for his life. He’s barricading himself in the county building. They literally put up fences and concrete barricades.

 

Is he scared of the feds or the militia people?

The militia people is what he’s trying to say. The people that are coming to the town. I think he probably got a threat on his email, from somebody in Nebraska or something, you know, so, that justified him putting up fences and calling a bunch of other deputies. This little town of Burns looks like a police state. There’s deputies from four counties, and then all the feds. It’s just insane. The fire chief, I don’t know if you saw that video.

 

He just stepped down. He ran into some agent provocateurs, according to him, and he brought it up to people around him and was told to be quiet or quit, and he quit instead of being quiet.

I met that guy at the first town hall meeting. And he was giving me a rash of hell. Because I was an outsider. I understood exactly where he was coming from. I was an outsider, I’m telling them all to stand up to this presence, I’m telling them that the power lays in them and that we’ll back them up. Out of nowhere, we’re all out of nowhere. So he was really giving me a lot of shit, about what my agenda was and about what I wanted to accomplish. He was cautious of all of us.

When they took the refuge he was pissed off. He was like, “You guys said you wouldn’t do [anything like that].” And I had to explain to him, “We have no control over them. We’re still here. We meant what we said.” So when somebody came up to him and said, “Hey, your militia buddies are out there by the armory doing something,” he drove out there to see, to say, “Hey, what the hell?”

He confronted the two people in the car and they weren’t militia. They tried to tell him that they were hunting deer. And uh …

[Eric waits for me to realize it’s not hunting season, unaware that I haven’t gone hunting since returning from Iraq.]

It’s not hunting season.

He took a picture of the license plate and ran it and it went back to an FBI government vehicle. So you have all these people saying that the militia is harassing them, following them around, this and that. Nobody was doing anything like that. I’ve been pretty involved since the very beginning and we’ve actually told a couple to leave, who showed up, who we don’t necessarily like what they’re about. So we knew that was bullshit.

But when he came out and said, “I’ve found these guys to be FBI,” it all started to try to make sense—people complaining about that sort of thing happening.

 

Do you think the government will eventually cut the power? I’m just thinking from a very strange point of view, “What would I do if I were the government?” Because I’ve actually been in that situation, of being the arm of America. And I think the easiest thing that they could do is make it so the lights don’t turn on and the toilets don’t flush. Usually when that happens, life gets really shitty. In the dildo video, those guys look pretty comfortable in that building.

They are comfortable. As soon as the ranchers and community members started to open up; I mean, they’re bringing them food. They’ve embraced them. They are living comfortably.

Yeah, you could do that [cut the power], but here’s the thing too. Some of those other guys I mentioned, the ones not making videos, they’re pretty legitimate guys as far as strategic thinking, and stuff like that. One guy—and here it goes back to the Stolen Valor thing, I don’t know for a fact that he did do this in the service—what he did was looking at the geography, planning out how the battle would play out. And he’s the one who chose all this stuff. And having gone out there to the refuge, it’s a pretty good place. There’s a tower out there that’s 200-foot tall. You can see for miles and miles. Say if somebody had a .308 up in that tower, you’re pretty good for a while. You’d have to bring in heavy armor or a helicopter and literally blow up that tower. But other than that, just the cutting of the power, this place is a government facility with this huge natural gas generator and a bunch of big propane tanks.

 

So, they’ve got some time.

They literally could hold out for years if they wanted. And if the ranchers were backing them and bringing them more fuel for the tanks, they could do it forever. It’s completely self-sufficient. It’s got a big cafeteria, a barracks.

 

So, it’s more of a camp and less of a bird observatory.

They keep wanting to call it a preserve, or refuge, when it’s a full-on government facility. It’s meant to house manpower for fire season. They move a bunch of people into there for fire season, they stay at the barracks—big cafeteria. They come in during the summer and do their BLM stuff, and then during the winter it shuts down.

 

We’re talking how the government is ignoring it. Although obviously they’re not, because there are a bunch of people in the town, as one might assume would happen. But so far they’ve kind of played the ignoring game. Is there a certain time when the BLM would be using this facility, whereas it’s not so much that they’re ignoring it as they’d be allowing it to happen? Where the tone might shift?

I haven’t looked. It’d be pretty easy to see when it opens back up. But yeah, at a certain point they’re going to want back in there.

I don’t know?

I think eventually that will happen. And I’ll be honest, when I talk to the guys out there, because I still call them on the phone, what they would like to see happen is a force to build. They have the ability to house and feed a brigade of people. They would like to see all these frustrated individuals, patriots, whatever you want to call them, come out and move in. And enforce constitutionality in the county. So Hammond’s idea of going out and removing the signs and the fences, and putting the loggers back out there to log, and the miners back out there to mine, and the ranchers out ranching, and everybody making their money again, would put Harney County back where it was in the eighties. Which was one of the richest counties in Oregon.

 

I heard him talk about that briefly in a video. But one thing I’ve wondered: what if the government dropped a Hellfire Missile on these guys?

Especially with the NDAA!

 

It would not be the first time the government has used a drone to kill American citizens. It might be the first time on American soil, but I’m not even sure of that.

When we saw that drone flying over us at the Bundy Ranch it was the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever felt in my life. I was like, “Holy shit, they claim the ability to kill us with those things.”

 

Yes, they do. And openly so.

They say we’re terrorists and then they can kill us. Boom. Done. End of story.

 

Do you think that could happen potentially?

Here’s what scares me, is that that’s what they want. I think that there are certain powers out there, and certain agendas out there, that want to see a shooting war put in place, and martial law afterward. If that happens, they have the ability to crack down. I have a fear that is what some people want, and so they kind of want to push these situations as far as they can. I don’t know whether it’s the Black Lives Matter community saying it’s “all cops want to kill people that are black” or whether it’s DHS saying “any returning veteran that has a problem with the way he was treated or a problem with the direction of the country is a terrorist and a possible threat.” It almost seems like they’re pushing for it. So I really try to be careful. We don’t want to give them something they might be after.

 

You spoke of Black Lives Matter. I’ll oftentimes bring up the Patriot movement and parallel it with the Black Lives Matter people. And people see the two things as very estranged because of race, and I just frankly don’t.

Black Lives Matter is addressing how disproportionately law enforcement … I mean there are a number of examples, I’m sure I don’t need to go into it with you. But if an officer rolls up on some African American gentleman, perhaps doing something that could be construed as illegal, sometimes these people are shot—like that child who was playing with a toy—sometimes these people are shot within thirty seconds.

It’s disgusting. It’s horrible. There are atrocities occurring.

 

Do you think the militia movement and the Black Live Matter movement will ever team up? Could you see that happening maybe in the future?

I know there are certain members of the movement who really advocate for that kind of thing. Because that’s the one thing that scares them [the establishment], is everybody coming together and realizing the oppression is all around, in one way or another. And if we were to all see that, and act accordingly, then there would be no stopping us.

Divide and conquer, the George Soros of the world, they put a lot of money into these situations—paid protesters and different situations like that. I won’t say that there aren’t racists in the Patriot movement. They’re definitely out there. When I see someone freaking out about the Black Panthers, or the Huey P. Newton Gun Club down there in Dallas—the black guys marching around with guns. You’ve got these white folk freaking out, like, “Oh my God, they’re marching around talking about killing white people.”

I always say, “I’m never going to speak ill of any person arming themselves and using their First Amendment.”

I don’t care who, what, or why. As long as they’re not killing somebody, or attempting to kill somebody, if they’re arming themselves and using their First Amendment it doesn’t matter who they are and what they’re trying to accomplish. Because that’s part of America. And it’s something that’s not out of my wheelhouse, so I’m not going to hold it against them.

Having said that, I think there are agent provocateurs on that side that get out there and start yelling about how “we need to just kill all the white people” and this and that. They [the establishment] want to build that separation. We have it on our side too. They want to go out and yell, “All Muslims are gonna try to kill us.” And I look at those guys and I say, “Come on. Even if you truly do believe that, shut up. It’s not helping anything.”

The idea of everybody coming together, it’s a nice one, it’s a good one, I wish it would happen, but I don’t think it will. I think there are too many outside agendas at play that are trying to stop it.

The Oath Keepers really tried in Ferguson. They first were protecting private property during the looting. The next go-round, when it went down again, they did really go out and get in the crowd saying, “We’re here for you, and we’re not going to let that happen again. And as long as you’re staying peaceful, we’re going to make sure they don’t bust your heads.”

And we had a chance right there as a movement to really take it all the way. And like I said I was sitting in my living room watching on the computer just waiting for it to build, and I was going to jump in my truck and go too. Because if we were able to show those folks in the inner city—because with Ferguson you saw all the engagement coming from law enforcement onto the peaceful protesters, but then you’d see footage of down the street, all the rioters are rioting free range.

If the peaceful protesters could have figured out that if they were to all go arm themselves and then stand there and protest peacefully, like they were, it wouldn’t have happened. They wouldn’t have been a soft easy target. And that’s what was gonna happen. And I really don’t know how it all fell apart. There are some different stories out there, but really I think it probably just comes down to agent provocateurs, people getting involved in that movement and steering it in a way that’s going to stop anything legitimate from happening.

 

It is interesting to think about because it’s definitely what happened with the Black Panthers in the late sixties, early seventies. They were a force to be reckoned with for a while, and then the FBI, and COINTELPRO, and a few other things really gutted that movement.

We live in a crazy world, and we happen to live in the most powerful nation on the face of the planet. And maybe to exist, ever—although it’s hard to compare technologically-advanced civilizations to the ancient ones. It’s just interesting because we’re both citizens; we’re both talking about this; we’re both obviously a little dissatisfied with how things have gone and where things are going. And we’re talking about how black citizens are upset as well. And they have also mobilized.

It’s an exciting time to be an American, but I’m anxious about the future; it doesn’t always turn out for the best.

No, it doesn’t.

 

As much as we would like it to.

We don’t have MLK with us anymore. It was proved in civil court that the United States government killed him. And obviously that’s a little bit different than criminal court, but at the same time you’re not going to get the federal government to criminal court, period.

I think it’s important to get this stuff down because if this does, and I don’t want to see this happen, but I just think about Waco. What if there had been Joe Schmuckatelli out there, and he got a piece of the Waco story where people really got a sense of what was going on and all of a sudden these cultists aren’t just insane, they’re actual human beings. And why did Waco happen? How did it combust? Why are there videos of tanks using flame throwers on a target full of children, and men and women that were citizens of this nation? There are questions that went unanswered.

Everyone has their force-fed mainstream media outlook on things. A lot of times it’s very narrow, and it’s agenda driven. It’s just not the truth.

 

And it’s usually hysteria. There’s a part of me that feels for these gentlemen in eastern Oregon, because I do what I think is right as well. But there is also a part of me—

Honestly, I have to take the role of the observer because I do interviews with people about this kind of stuff, and write about it. So I’m the observer. I’m the fly on the wall. But I hate to see the nation like this. I don’t make any money off this stuff, I do it because I think it’s the right thing to do.

Do you make any money doing this stuff?

No. I stay away from it. I’ve been approached to do interviews with some more notable mainstream folks, and I won’t. I don’t want people to say that I’m trying to—I may eventually write a book over the things that I have done, but as far as right now, no. We take donations when we go operational: for gas money, for putting people over in that town. We’re tax deductible. Other than that, no. Nobody’s making any money, it’s all volunteer.

 

It’s because you believe in it.

Yeah. And there are those guys out there that do go and they’ll take a bunch of donations and make a bunch of money. That’s not what we’re about. Most of the donations are coming from our members; we’ve got around 2,000 members. So when we decide we want to go do something as an organization, everyone starts chipping in.

And that’s one of the reasons that I’m talking to you, too. I saw that you kind of write about what you’re passionate about, not really looking to make money.

 

The rich writers are few and far between. I’m not Stephen King, you know what I mean? I just want to facilitate some understanding. I’m not trying to make anyone look good or bad. I just feel like if there was more understanding, things would go in a more positive direction.

I was going to ask you, but then I forgot. Do you mind me asking your ethnicity? And if you don’t want to answer, that’s fine.

I’m a mutt. I’m an American mutt. I’ve got some Italian in me, and Pacific Islander. The first Parker brothers were two Irish brothers that changed their name when they came off of the boat because of the Civil War. They changed their names to Parker so they didn’t have to go to Dixie. I think my great grandmother was Spanish.

 

So, there’s a lot [of diversity]. You’re not some WASPy Anglo-Saxon.

No. I’m an American.

 

I’d like to thank Eric Parker for speaking with me. Without his firsthand account, we would be at a loss for his thoughts on that notorious day at the Bundy Ranch, and we wouldn’t know some of the more intricate details of how the eastern Oregon standoff manifested.

 

[Eric Parker and thirteen others were indicted in early March by the Federal Government for their roles at the Bundy Ranch standoff; arrests were made a few days after Part II of this interview was published. At this time, Eric remains incarcerated, awaiting trial.]

 

[squerb_button]

 

Jason Arment

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He's earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Chautauqua, Hippocampus, The Burrow Press Review, Dirty Chai, and War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities; anthologized in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 & 4; and is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The Florida Review, and Phoebe. Jason lives in Denver.

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5 Comments

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  3. Zeph said:

    Oh, and a link to the Rise of American Authoritarianism: http://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism

    Watch out for the authoritarian personalities in your own movement, Eric. I was always wary of them on the left, too, even while non-violently protesting for “liberal” causes, like ending the covert war in Nicaragua. Most of my fellow protesters were decent, sincere people responding as caring citizens to bad deeds by our government – but a few activists would be just as dangerous if they were ever in power.

  4. Zeph said:

    Thanks for an interesting set of interviews. It’s good to see the nuances within the movement that spawned the Bundy ranch confrontation and Oregon standoff; it’s very tempting to reduce them to one dimensional caricatures, based on their own PR. Eric is more thoughtful and complex than that, however.

    By far most of my friends are pretty liberal. But they really do not like to see the government over-reach and they are very concerned about the possible damage to our freedom from the National Security State. There actually is room for some common ground. But the “arm yourself against the government” approach is a tremendous turn-off. It may seem brave and effective (at least sometimes) but it’s losing the bigger battle for hearts and minds by keeping your audience small and “other”.

    Eric makes good sense part of the time, and kind of slips off the rails other times, from my view point. There’s some weird interpretations of the US Constitution floating around out there that he partakes of; I say that based on reading 100% of it for myself, not just somebody’s interpretation of it. But what it inspires in me is more like an interest in engaging with him, trying to change his mind on a few points (and probably having my mind changed on others).

    I think it’s folly to move the challenge to government power into the arena of bullets; that’s the home territory of the most dangerous hardliners inside and outside of government, and the government has a lot more bullets. What stops them from freely using them is not the fear of being fired upon, but the limited tolerance of the American public for government violence against peaceful opponents. Once you start posing as armed and dangerous, people who would otherwise be potentially sympathetic to your cause, start thinking it would be a good idea if the government met fire with fire.

    Read up on “the rise of American authoritarianism”. Authoritarian personalities are spread among political movements, tho they have been gravitating towards the Republican party since Nixon’s southern strategy.They tend to respond to perceived danger and to discomfort with “outsiders” by supporting a strongman (government) making thing better. Trump embodies that strongman. However, even non-authoritarians can behave like authoritarians (eg: supporting the strongman) in the face of physical threats, like terrorism or ebola. By contrast, authoritarians tend to additionally react similarly to abstract “threats” like gay marriage or too many black faces on TV. Trump is drawing much of his support from authoritarians (not exclusively in the Republican party). But Paris and San Bernadino tend to lead even non-authoritarian personalities to support a strongman government to keep them safe; this happens beneath the rational level and probably goes back to tribal life and maybe our hominid ancestors.

    So then a group of heavily armed “protesters” takes over a building and posts threats of violence (framed as self defense, but nevertheless basically saying they’ll kill any law enforcement that tries to displace them). They are sending as strongly as they can the signal “WE ARE DANGEROUS!”. What happens is that you get a lot of even non-authoritarian personalities wanting the government to “end it now” with violence if need be – even though many of those folk could be on your side (or at least would not countenance government over-reaction violence).

    Instead, my liberal friends (and many law & order conservatives) have dismissed the whole protest movement; they aren’t interested in hearing about how the Hammonds have been inappropriately charged under anti-terrorism laws (which these liberals normally detest, by the way!). This armed resistance movement is conditioning the public to accept or encourage a more oppressive government.

    This is not to say that the government would suddenly be reasonable and unthreatening if just everybody put down their weapons; it’s not that simple. I’m just saying that the effectiveness boost you get by “being dangerous” is much smaller than what you lose in support from the public – and that support is what holds back worse repression, not the guns – however counter-intuitive that might be on the gut level to some of Eric’s fellow activists.

    Anyway, thanks again for publishing some interviews that help me avoid black and white stereotypes.

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