News quickly spread across the state that Nevada rancher and Constitutionalist Cliven Bundy was to visit Sanders County last weekend. The Bundy family got national attention for its 2014 armed confrontation with federal authorities in Nevada.
However, the rally in Paradise on Saturday evening was more than Bundy and his son Ryan speaking of their encounters with federal government and how it had impacted their lives. Rather, the “Freedom and Property” event played out as more of an informational seminar focused on Constitutional rights.
The event was organized by the Ryan family of Plains. Jake Ryan is set to appear before the courts later this week in regard to charges against him from his involvement in a standoff in Oregon.
The Paradise Center, formally the Paradise school, was packed to the rafters as media, supporters and citizens filled the old gymnasium to listen to a slate of speakers for more than three hours.
Amongst the drove of supporters that converged on the tiny town was John O’Neil of Kalispell.
O’Neil said that he was there as a supporter of Bundy and what his family stands for.
“I wish I was a cowboy, rancher like the Bundys; but I’m not. I support what they stand for and I am here looking out for my neighbor,” said O’Neil.
O’Neil was one of the first to show up to the event, walking around with a picture frame held close to his chest.
When asked of the significance and reason to have brought the item he replied, “I want to present this to Cliven and his family.”
“When it all went down in 2014 at Liberty Camp, I was there,” said O’Neil, as he turned the photo around to show what it was.
“I believed what was being done to him and his family [by the federal government] to be wrong. I did not believe they were being treated fairly and I went to the camp to support them along with many others who felt the same.”
“It’s not right,” were the words used so many times from a range of people in the audience who came from various backgrounds.
“Contempt prior to investigation,” one woman said.
The diversity of the crowd was reflected in the attire worn. Folks in attendance donned everything from camouflage, work boots and wide-brimmed hats to their Sunday best.
Both Cliven and Ryan Bundy spoke to the crowd. The family, which included Cliven’s wife, Carol, was met with a standing ovation when they entered the room. Cliven, and his sons Ammon and Ryan, had charges related to the Nevada standoff dropped on Jan. 8.
They said they attended the Paradise event to support the Ryan family, and by extension, Jake Ryan, for his upcoming case.
Roxsanna Ryan served as a soft-spoken yet firm emcee as she spoke to the crowd of her son’s trial.
Amongst the crowd were two state representatives: Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls who spoke as an invited official, and Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton.
Manzella said she attended not in an official capacity but as “Jane citizen” instead.
“I’m here like many others to get information,” she said.
“You need to hear the information from both sides of the fence. That’s why I am here. To learn, to listen and should after this be done and I go back and consider what was said, yes there could be a consideration to pursuing all avenues available to me [professionally] to petition for this cause against the federal government,” she said.
“Justice, transparency and truth,” is what rang from Fielder.
Fielder addressed the audience closer to the end of the line of speakers. She stressed that she was both a citizen of the U.S. as well as a publicly voted representative who is all about justice, truth and transparency.
“I think the truth is starting to come out. I knew it always would. I had faith that truth would prevail, it’s just a matter of time,” said Fielder before the event started.
“I’m looking for a full and complete investigation and a pardon of the Hammonds. I think the people involved will be completely exonerated,” she added.
Nearly all speakers said that when it comes to Americans and Constitutional rights, everyone should read the Constitution.
“First and foremost we are children of God … I pledge my allegiance to God and no other,” said by Ryan Bundy. “God created man and created this earth … he gave all of what was created to man to use, to enjoy, to live. He also gave men their legioncy, the ability to choose for themselves how to act. This is freedom.”