Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Eric Parker’s Brush with the Law Leads to Political Bid
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Eric Parker and his wife Andrea have four children ages 14, 8, 3 and five months.
   
Saturday, October 10, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Eric Parker’s first contact with members of the Idaho legislature came after he had been charged with assaulting and threatening a federal officer during the 2014 standoff between Cliven Bundy and Bureau of Land Management officers.

A few years later, some of the legislators who had cheered him, including Idaho’s lieutenant governor,   asked him to run for a legislative seat. He declined, saying he was more interested in spending time with his family. They asked again this year, noting that Dist. 26 Sen. Michelle Stennett was running unopposed, and he accepted.

“The basis of our democratic process is to have a choice,” said the Republican Parker, who is challenging Stennett for her seat on Nov. 3. “They thought I had a solid understanding of the way things are because of my interactions with the Department of Justice. They said they knew I wouldn’t fold on my principles.”

Parker said he decided to stand up for his principles in April 2014 when he read about the BLM rounding up 400 head of cattle owned by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The BLM said Bundy owed the American taxpayers more than $1 million for illegally grazing public lands because he had not obtained a permit or paid the required fees to use the land.

Parker, then 30, grabbed his Saiga .223 semiautomatic rifle, kissed his wife Andrea and children goodbye and drove 12 hours to the Bundy ranch near Mesquite.

“The citizens of the United States fought the toughest, biggest Army in the world in 1776,” he posted. “Do not think we can’t do it again.”

A Clark County official warned that anyone coming to support the Bundys should have plans for a funeral, the Hailey electrician recounted. So, he donned a tactical jacket. He said he arrived at the scene thinking he was going to watch Bundy’s cows get released. But he heard one of the law enforcement officers threatening to use force if protesters continued walking towards them.

So, he said, he decided it was in his best interest to take a defensive posture.

He knelt on a bridge, his semiautomatic pointed down to the pavement as he watched the protesters in the sparsely vegetated wash below. Then he laid on his stomach pointing his weapon through a crack in concrete highway barriers.

As he did, a Reuters photographer snapped a picture that went viral and earned Parker the label of “the Bundy sniper.”  A West Virginia University professor who wrote about the event called it “a stark and disorienting” picture, “like wartime images from a Third World hot zone.”

“I was still there when my aunt called and told me it had just run on Fox News,” Parker said. “Reuters took a picture and my life changed.”

Parker was charged with assault, using the threat of deadly force and threatening a federal officer, felony charges that could have earned him several years in prison. But he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction and served one year of supervised release.

“I think really your motivation is your own self-interest, grandstanding, notoriety,” U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal article. “I think Mr. Parker is doing this to be a hero.”

A couple years later, in 2018, Parker founded The Real 3% of Idaho to “serve, protect and defend the constitution, as well as the American people and our way of life.”

His personal Facebook page and that of the Real 3% of Idaho was among those removed by Facebook in August as the social media platform attempted to delete nearly 2,000 movements and organizations allegedly tied to violence or the right-wing conspiracy movement QAnon.

Parker says, however, that his statewide group of 2,500 members—inspired by Colonial Days when 3 percent of farmers and other colonists said they would fight for the Declaration of Independence--is not a militia.

And he personally declined to join Ammon Bundy in occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, even though he later accompanied Bundy to the home of an Orofino family being evicted from their ranch (Bundy backed off upon learning the family had missed multiple opportunities to reclaim their property).

Rather than “prepare for a war that may or may not happen,” he says, his group works on policy, reviewing legislation and suggesting changes when they find language that could lead to Idahoans losing their rights.

One such case was Marsy’s Law, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have ensured victims be notified of opportunities to be heard at their perpetrator’s release, bail, plea, parole and sentencing proceedings. It would also have given them the right to be notified if the accused was released and the right to confer with the prosecution.

“They were trying to establish a change to the Constitution to protect victim’s rights, which sounds warm and fuzzy. But I realized that some changes would occur that would take away some of the rights of the accused,” Parker said. “We approached the sponsors with our concerns and the bill went on to die in the Senate.”

Like Stennett, Parker is adamant about preserving public access to public lands.

He points to a case where the Forest Service placed boulders across an old road that made it impossible for a friend of his to drive up to remove fallen trees for for firewood—an act he said would have cleared flammable material off the ground.

“When the Forest Service or BLM says they don’t have funding to maintain a road, I feel they need to come up with the funding--figure it out,” he said. “They tore up Owl Creek Road so we couldn’t use it. Where did that money come from?”

Parker said he would prefer to find ways to attract new industries and earmark money from new industry to fund education, rather than funding it through property taxes.

And he chafes at the idea that the legislature can’t pass legislation allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp in Idaho. He points to a house built of hemp atop Trail Creek Summit and hardwood floors in a house in Fairfield as reasons why hemp should be cultivated.

Oregon and Nevada have used taxes from the sale of pot to fund schools, he noted.

“So, Idahoans are funding other states’ schools when they go over the border to buy marijuana,” he added. “I’m not saying we need to legalize recreational marijuana. But we need to look at this method of funding.”


 

 

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