Locals voice concern over new state movement

(By Brandon Hansen/Chewelah Independent)

Matt Shea, other movement leaders respond to questions over liberties in proposed state…

While leaders of the State of Liberty movement have said their focus is on returning to constitutional law in eastern Washington, others have publicly leveled some criticism at the movement’s attitude towards religion, marijuana and gay marriage.

In the Statesman-Examiner, Stevens County resident Ian Pickett has already penned two columns critical of the movement after his initial experience with the group’s Facebook page. His particular concern was that if the state was known as Liberty, would it support liberties like people of all religions or religious, gay marriage and the use of marijuana.

“I’m not saying I condone certain actions, but if they’re calling it Liberty, I wanted to see what their idea of liberty is,” Pickett said.

After asking what the state would do about these topics on the State of Liberty Facebook page, Pickett said he was met with confrontational responses from both movement leaders and people in the group.

“I was almost immediately responded to with confrontation and name calling full of homophobic labels mixed in with diatribes with God’s will and law,” Pickett said in his column in the Statesman-Examiner.

Several people also posed questions on the movement’s Facebook page with some saying they had similar responses.

“Many questions are met with rudeness, dismissed as trying to stir up trouble,” Dusty Stark stated on the Facebook group page. “As someone who is not a Christan, I cannot support a group who won’t treat everyone equally, regardless of religious beliefs. As a human I can’t support a movement who treats people different based on race, sex, sexual preference ect. I believe that many here feel the same way. However, it seems the leaders of the group take issue with asking these questions.”

Spokane Valley State Representative Matthew Shea responded to some of these allegations with a post on the Facebook group. He mentioned that the Colville 51st State event a few weeks back began with a prayer from a black reverend, there was a song by a former spokesman for medical canabis and that the main presentation said that you can be atheist in Liberty.

Shea called those that thought the state movement was against freedoms was fearmongering and lacked integrity when they made allegations of racism, Christian tryranny and the banning of medical marijuana.

“This was a favorite tactic of the KGB,” Shea said in the post. “If it acts like antifa, talks like antifa, uses the same tactics of antifa…what’s the difference? Let’s get on to actual and credible business. Ignore the liars, fearmongers and communists. Obviously, they don’t want Liberty they want to disrupt it,” Shea said.

Pickett said he took offense to being called these things for simply asking questions about what liberties the new state would have. He also attended the Colville event and to him he said it appeared the new state would be a Judea-Christian state and said the event seemed more like a church service.

Some handouts also circulated around the internet that people claimed were from the event. In these handouts ,things like “no property tax, no recreational marijuana, no gay marriage, no Department of Ecology” were listed along with Bible verses.

Matt Shea said in a Facebook group post that “a two month old flier from another group for the sake of discussion does not mean those are the views of this group. People that continue to say that, are lying and trying to divide.”

One of the State of Liberty Facebook group moderators, Leland Smith, said the handouts talking about gay marriage and marijuana use were not official statements and were from a different local group. “When I was given a copy at the meeting, I assumed it was official, and I’m sure others thought so as well. It was also pointed out that it may be premature to start claiming policies like these as official. We are really too early in the movement to try and ratify any policy as official,” he stated on Facebook.

Shea stated in a Facebook post that he has been an outspoken proponent of CBD and medical cannabis. He also addressed posts concerning a Christian state.

Neither Stark, nor Pickett, who are both regulars in other Stevens County Facebook groups are sold on the 51st state movement. Pickett is a retired law enforcement officer and currently working for Habitat for Humanity in Colville. The Independent looked at threads on the movement’s Facebook page and there was indeed people debating the use of religion in government, gay marriage and marijuana usage.

Pickett said since bringing up questions, he was informed by an anonymous source that he has been “targeted” by movement leadership. Pickett said this means they are continuing to monitor his posts and check his background to find something to discredit him.

Starks said he wasn’t getting any answers from the State of Liberty movement group.

“Someone who can answer the vision, someone who can look me in the eye and assure me that Liberty will be a state that would afford all people the same treatment, that won’t just be a state with another agenda that keep half of the citizens down. If your group doesn’t have such a person, or does not want to address these questions with real, honest answers, that is fine. Just state that, and I will move on, and let others know,” Stark said in a post on the Facebook page.

Both Stark and Pickett said they understand the frustration of the east side with the actions of the west side and said they were just curious as to what the new state would offer.

“The event in Colville seemed to take advantage of legitimate frustrations by people and sell them this story,” Pickett said. “They seem to want to make this a religious thing.”

When The Independent talked with local movement leaders in a recap of the Colville meeting last month, leaders stated that it’s not the intention of the movement to be a religious state but rather a return to the rule of the Constitution.

Inquiries to Matthew Shea and other group leaders to talk about the movement for the State of Liberty were not responded to.