State Rep. Matt Shea is expected to speak Saturday at a gathering of far-right activists and anti-government conspiracy theorists headlined by Ammon Bundy, who led an armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016.
The “New Code of the West” conference in Whitefish, Montana, will be a reunion of sorts for the Spokane Valley legislator and the public-lands opponent, both of whom rail against what they consider systemic abuses of power by the federal government.
Shea made what he called “fact-finding” trips to Eastern Oregon in 2016, when Bundy and other armed militants took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and to Nevada in 2014, when Bundy and his father, Cliven Bundy, led a standoff with federal authorities over cattle grazing rights.
Saturday’s gathering is expected to resemble a “Red Pill Expo” that brought hundreds of far-right activists to the Spokane Convention Center in June.
The Whitefish event has been spearheaded by a Kalispell, Montana, group called This West is OUR West, which asserts on its website that states are “under siege” by federal overreach and sovereign native tribes. Elaine Willman is the group’s leader.
“Up until now, the group has mostly existed online, maintaining a website that espouses an ideology at the nexus of the anti-government, anti-Indian and anti-environmental movements,” the Montana Human Rights Network wrote in a 13-page primer on the “New Code of the West” event. “The anti-Indian movement seeks to eradicate the treaty rights guaranteed to American Indians and uses tactics that amplify discrimination and bigotry towards American Indian community members.”
The human rights network is one of several groups hosting an opposition event in Whitefish on Saturday.
As the hometown of white supremacist Richard Spencer, Whitefish, a resort town on the edge of Glacier National Park, was plagued by racist and anti-Semitic internet trolling and threats in early 2017.
It is the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has drastically increased lease-sales of federal land.
Shea and another man promoted the “New Code of the West” event in a YouTube video posted Friday by an account called “Northwest Liberty News.” In the video, Shea asserts that “folks that want to destroy this country” – namely, communists and the Muslim Brotherhood – have conspired to establish a shadow government he calls the “counter state.”
“These two groups want to establish, essentially, a counter state,” Shea says. “In fact they have established, in great measure, a counter state along Maoist insurgency doctrine, and their entire goal is to have power and control over a mass of people.”
Ted Cummings, who’s challenging Shea as a Democrat in the November election, said Friday he was “speechless” when he learned about the “crazy, crazy stuff” that will be discussed during the Whitefish event. He and Shea are scheduled to debate for the first time Oct. 23 at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley.
Shea did not respond to a request for comment Friday, in keeping with his usual practice of ignoring media inquiries.