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Our View: County is wrong venue for honoring rancher involved in standoff

November 13, 2017 GMT

There’s a certain sympathy in Mohave County for western ranching families and their supporters who’ve long railed against the federal government’s policies regarding public lands.

So it’s no wonder that there’s a push to remember LaVoy Finicum, whose family has worked the lands on Mohave County’s northern edge for generations, after he was killed during last year’s standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Finicum was, by many accounts, a good man. He was remembered as a good father and foster father, a faithful member of his church and a staunch and fervent patriot. The problem is, Finicum became a symbol of something else the minute he joined the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom at the Oregon refuge.

Finicum was killed in the waning days of the standoff when authorities pulled over a vehicle he was riding in. Despite video evidence, there’s still much disagreement about the circumstances that led up to his death. It’s a story that continues to play out in the media and in the courts. It’s premature at best to start honoring Finicum or any of the men involved in last year’s standoff.

The only thing Mohave County Supervisors accomplished by naming a 2-mile stretch of road after Finicum last week is unnecessarily inserting the county and its residents into a political firestorm. Supervisor Hildy Angius, who introduced the proposal, said Finicum’s views made her “proud to make the motion.”

“I believe LaVoy Finicum died defending the Constitution in a manner of his own choosing,” she said.

Sorry, Supervisor Angius. It’s one thing to be sympathetic to a cause. It’s quite another to take an official action on behalf of the county that will be viewed as support for a group that rose up against the government.

Finicum and the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom knew they were doing something illegal when they took over the refuge, and they did it to make a point. They certainly accomplished that. They also knew the likely repercussions of their actions.

And let’s be honest: If it had been a Mohave County facility and not a federal one at the center of an armed standoff, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Most of us understand that we live in a nation of laws, and there are processes in place — the courts, and legislative checks and balances — to address most of them.

— Today’s News-Herald