At least two of the Arizona-based militants occupying a federal building on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, are reporting that the Arizona Department of Child Safety has “kidnapped” their children.
Blaine Cooper and Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, two of the more outspoken and social media savvy of the militants, are telling reporters that the DCS’ actions are part of an FBI conspiracy against the occupation.
Finicum and his wife run a Catholic Charities-licensed “professional service” for troubled youth out of their Arizona ranch, and according to Finicum, the DCS removed the foster children living there as retribution for his actions in Oregon.
The Daily Courier reports that Finicum is convinced that the order to remove the children “came down from the Governor's Office” and that he “[believes] it was the federal government [that] put pressure on the Governor's Office” to do so.
Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for Governor Doug Ducey, says Finicum’s allegations are “absolutely false” and a misrepresentation of how the DCS operates.
"The governor does not play a role in foster-care placement decisions. Those decisions are left to professionals at DCS, and they are made based on the best interests of children,” Scarpinato told reporters.
Finicum, who did not respond to a request for comment, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the four boys “were ripped from his wife,” despite their good “track record” as foster parents and that the loss was not only emotional but financial:
“That was my main source of income . . . My ranch, well, the cows just cover the costs of the ranch.”
OPB also reports that tax filings show the Finicums were making more than $100,000 annually fostering children.
“I hope people are seeing the sacrifices we’re making here,” he told reporters. “I want to show what my government is doing. You need to understand the cost being paid by many people.”
Blaine Cooper, another Arizona militant participating in the occupation, apparently understands that sacrifice all too well.
In a video posted to Facebook, Cooper says:
“[The DCS], believe it or not, because of what’s going on out here, went and kidnapped my kids. My brother-in law has them right now, but [the DCS] is threatening to take my kids from me because of the stand we’re making here.”
According to Cooper, his two daughters were “staying with a trusted friend,” while his wife was visiting him in Oregon, and the DCS “came in just to take them because of my political stance . . . They want to sever my [parental] rights without due process. Because of this going on in Oregon.”
The Daily Courier reported that the children were placed with Cooper’s brother-in-law, Chris Trinka, but that Cooper’s wife, Melissa, left Oregon to retrieve the girls late Sunday night and that they’re now in Missouri with family.
New Times cannot independently confirm this information, and Cooper did not respond to a request for comment.
In the same video, Cooper asks for people to pray for him and his family and makes an appeal for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who he heard was supporting the militant’s cause, to help the situation.
Cooper, Finicum, and the rest of the militants — many of whom are from Arizona — have been occupying a federal building in Oregon for 18 days as part of a protest against the federal government.
The occupation began after two local ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, were ordered by a federal judge to serve out their full jail sentences for arson, but has since become a more general protest against what participants call an over-reaching and “tyrannical” government.
The militants have vowed to stay until all the federal land in the area is divided among local ranchers.
While the local government repeatedly has asked the militants to leave, the federal government, particularly the FBI, has been very quiet about the occupation.
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Militants accuse the agency of spying on them, and in a series of recent videos uploaded to social media, show themselves dismantling what they say are FBI surveillance cameras worth thousands of dollars.
The group members say the protest so far has been very successful, that they’ve uncovered scathing information about government conspiracies, which they vow to reveal to the public soon.