EMMETT, Idaho — In a warehouse in southern Idaho over the last several weeks, Ammon Bundy and a group of supporters have discussed ways to defend Idahoans amid a “stay home” order aimed at curbing the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.
Bundy has led at least several meetings in Emmett, where he lives, since the order was announced by Gov. Brad Little on March 25.
The order requires everyone in the state to self-isolate at home if possible. It applies to all citizens, not just those who are sick.
Healthcare workers, public safety workers, and other “essential” workers may still go to work, and people will be allowed to leave their homes to obtain or provide essential services.
The U.S. has more than 368,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 11,000 deaths as of Tuesday morning. There have been 13 deaths amid at least 1,176 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Idaho.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Bundy and his family have been involved in multiple standoffs with the federal government, including one on patriarch Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada in 2014, and the 2016 Oregon standoff where Ammon and his brother, Ryan, led a group of supporters who demanded that two Oregon ranchers be freed from prison. President Trump pardoned those ranchers in 2018.
The New York Times, along with other publications, have reported on Bundy’s recent meetings in southern Idaho.
In a video of one meeting posted on Facebook, Bundy pledges to help provide legal, political and physical defense to Idaho residents who are pressured to comply with the statewide “stay home” order.
“I will be there,” Bundy said. “I will bring as many people as we can. We will form a legal defense for you, a political defense for you, and we will also, if necessary, provide a physical defense for you, so that you can continue in your rights.”
One of the most recent videos of a meeting posted to Facebook on Thursday, April 2, shows more than a dozen people in attendance.
This likely violates the state’s “stay home” order, as residents have been instructed to limit travel and gatherings with people outside of their household.
Bundy posted on Facebook on Saturday that he and his supporters are also looking for a place that holds 500 to 1,000 people in the Boise metro area for an Easter Sunday service.
“Please help us find this venue so those wanting to worship and honor God on this eventful day, can do so. We are willing to pay for the use of the building, if it is not donated,” he wrote.
Bundy also wrote that he has set up a line where people can text the word “rights” if they want to join the group.
“We must stand together in times such as these,” Bundy concluded.
KREM has reached out to Gov. Brad Little’s office for a response to Bundy’s gatherings and his plans to hold an Easter service in the Boise area, but has not yet received a response.
On Monday, Bundy posted a 49-minute Facebook Live video where he said he has received what he called “hate messages” and death threats for “helping a church group find a place to have Easter service.”
Other Idaho leaders speak out against ‘stay home’ order
Bundy is not the only prominent Idaho resident who has spoken out in opposition to the “stay home” order.
The Bonner County Sheriff and other North Idaho leaders called upon Little last week to reconsider it.
In a letter, Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler asked the governor to “call up the full Idaho Legislature and assemble them for an emergency meeting in Boise” to discuss points that he outlines within it.
“I do not believe that suspending the Constitution was wise, because Covid-19 is nothing like the Plague,” Wheeler wrote.
In a discussion with KREM’s Mark Hanrahan last week, Wheeler said he would like to “see a peaceful transition to normalcy here in the state of Idaho.”
To end the letter, Wheeler brings up the Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to sign an executive order to reopen churches.
“You can request those that are sick to stay home, but, at the same time, you must release the rest of us to go on with our normal business,” Wheeler wrote.
Rep. Heather Scott echoed his concerns in a post on the Idaho Legislature’s website.
Pastor Tim Remington, a North Idaho representative who first made headlines in 2016 after being shot outside The Altar Church in Coeur d’Alene, said last week that church gatherings act as an essential service and are necessary for some worshipers during times of uncertainty caused by coronavirus.
The church hosted a church service with roughly 45 people in attendance after two of its members tested positive for coronavirus.
In a reversal, the church later announced on Facebook that it would temporarily suspend in-person church services.