Anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy led a meeting last week where he agitated for Idahoans to physically defy the state’s stay-at-home order, which is meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bundy is perhaps best known for leading the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016. But these days he’s threatening to rise up against the public health measures to ward off COVID-19.
Bundy, who lives in Idaho, announced a “people’s meeting” on Facebook to respond to the state government’s COVID-19 “stay-home order,” which the governor signed on March 25. A few dozen people responded to the call the next day, crowding an otherwise empty building in Bundy’s hometown of Emmett, according to video of the gathering that an attendee subsequently posted on Facebook.
“The right to travel is not theirs to take,” Bundy announced to the crowd. “The right to assemble is not theirs to take. The right to worship how and when and where we want is not theirs to take.”
If a business owner decides to keep their business open in violation of the state order, Bundy said, he would organize a group to “surround them and protect them.”
In addition to legal and political advocacy, he said, “we will also, if necessary, provide a physical defense for you so that you can continue in your rights.”
At the end of the meeting, he had attendees sign their names to an agreement to “unite each other” in the common defense pledge. The Associated Press reported Bundy’s remarks Wednesday.
At one point after Bundy read the state’s order that “gatherings of individuals outside the home are prohibited,” attendees at the meeting cheered.
“We’re the breaking the law,” one attendee responded. “Sorry,” said another. “You guys are in trouble,” Bundy joked as he read through the list.
In American history, Bundy argued, dying for liberty’s sake had been celebrated.
“Now it’s the exact opposite, flipped upside down,” he said. “In order to save lives, we have to take freedom. That’s where we’re at right now.”
Bundy told the AP that he wasn’t opposed to social distancing in itself, but that he objected to the state forcing him to do so.
“If it was a guideline, I would applaud it,” he said. “It’s not, it’s an order.”
Political action to oppose the governor’s step was necessary, Bundy said at the meeting,
But, he said, “when I say ‘political,’ it’s not calling up my legislators and saying, ‘I don’t like this, I think you should vote this way.'”
“It is all of us going to the governor’s house, right? Literally, and saying ‘You will not do this.” We’re going to his house. We’re going to this director of Health and Welfare’s house. Okay?”
The room applauded. The group would meet again Thursday night, Bundy said.