While Randy Weaver captured the national spotlight Wednesday, folks in Naples and Bonners Ferry, Idaho, hardly noticed.
“What hearings?” asked a waitress at the Kootenai River Inn, standing below a blank television.
“What are you looking to watch, the U.S. Open?” added a customer sipping coffee.
Many residents didn’t know Weaver was telling his side of the standoff on Capitol Hill. Others just plain didn’t care, nor did they want to rehash the ordeal.
Naples’ Deep Creek Resort, which bustled with journalists, cops and curious residents during the standoff three years ago, was empty Wednesday morning.
The new owners speak mostly German. But the woman understood two words of a reporter’s question - Randy Weaver.
As soon as she heard the name, she ordered a reporter and photographer out the door.
“The interest in Randy Weaver has really waned for people up here,” said Kinley Nelson. He watched the hearings on two televisions at Taft’s Variety Store where he works.
“I’m doing it more out of curiosity. I wanted to see what the big city take is on all this.”
Before the start of the hearing U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, shook hands with Weaver and his lawyer Gerry Spence.
Chenoweth observed the Senate hearing from the gallery. Afterward, she remarked of Weaver:
“I think it showed the courage of a common American citizen. It took a monumental amount of courage to do that.”
She also questioned why some of the senators on the committee were even asking about Weaver’s racial, religious and political views.
The freshman congresswoman said she believes the First Amendment gives every American the right to his or her own political and religious beliefs.
‘A real tragedy’
Here’s what some subcommittee members had to say:
Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., ranking Democrat on the panel: “The events on the mountaintop of Ruby Ridge, Idaho, are a real tragedy in the loss of human life. I believe they mark a sad chapter in the history of American law enforcement.
“Randy Weaver and federal law enforcement officers both made mistakes. But a man like Randy Weaver can make mistakes and our country will survive. When federal law enforcement agencies make mistakes as serious as the ones they seem to have made at Ruby Ridge, and afterwards, then we have to pause and ask some very hard questions.”
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, invited to sit as a non-voting member of the subcommittee: “The great majority of North Idaho residents are law-abiding citizens who don’t deserve the stigma brought on by the 11-day standoff between Randy Weaver and federal law enforcement agents.
“This senator believes the problems point to arrogance and a lack of accountability by law enforcement.”
Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.: “It seems that every one of our institutions are under attack these days, and our law enforcement agencies are rapidly rising to the top of the list, at a time when we need strong law enforcement as never before. Therefore, I approach these hearings with some feeling of regret that they will further contribute to the tarnishing of the image of law enforcement and especially our federal law enforcement agencies.
“Yet, what choice do we have? With regard to the Ruby Ridge incident, we are faced with allegations of activities by law enforcement agencies that, if true, are indefensible. They include the targeting of individuals, entrapment, grossly excessive force, and the employing of illegal and unconstitutional means which may have been responsible for the deaths of two people.
“Even more troubling are the allegations of possible perjury and coverup” by the FBI.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Compiled by staff writers Kevin Keating in North Idaho and Bill Morlin in Washington.