Group formed to protect Cody citizens from rioters

CODY — A local group has been formed by Boone Tidwell and Flint Flesher to protect Park County citizens from outside rioters and looters, and negative economic effects they said these people could wreak on supply chains outside the county, specifically between now and the Nov. 3 general election.

“With the sole objective to be prepared in a worst case scenario,” Tidwell said. “We see it as preparing a multitude of assets to allow the Basin to thrive in case things go south.”

In Tidwell’s presentation to the Park County commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, he said it was not out of obligation, but professional courtesy, to let them know what they have been developing. 

He said he has been keeping Park County Sheriff Scott Steward abreast of their activities and also communicated with him and Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker extensively leading up to the local protest last June 7, to provide law enforcement back-up.

The group of what Tidwell describes as a collection of “like-minded people” got its start working the perimeter of City Park at the Protest Against Racism on June 7. Tidwell said the members continued their communications afterward, and have decided to carry forward many of the actions that took place at the event along with a new economic focus.

Tidwell said many of the members had heard reports of outside forces planning to come to Cody to cause havoc at the rally, drawing alarm from many, specifically in the local business community. Rioting occurring in connection with a protest held in Casper and other locations infiltrated with outside provocateurs throughout the country shortly before the Cody event also caused concern among the group that such acts might take place here.

Tidwell said members of the quickly-organized 60-person membership set up intelligence gathering efforts and surveillance outside town for buses coming in and monitored downtown Cody and the courthouse.

Although there was no credible evidence of outside malevolent forces leading up to or at the event, Tidwell and Flesher did not regret the actions they took.

“There could have been an occasion for disruption and violence,” Tidwell said.

Flesher said their members were on horseback, concealing and carrying firearms.

“We were not going to provoke anything,” Tidwell said. “We were there to assist the local community.”

There were also individuals operating independently from their group who were standing both in the park and across the street with weapons exposed. Flesher said they politely approached these people in the park and asked them to conceal their weapons and move to the periphery.

Flesher said a few abided by this request but certain people could be viewed with guns exposed on the park lawn throughout the entire event.

To differentiate themselves from these independent actors, Tidwell’s group wore pink armbands.

The commissioners had no objections to the actions the group is taking, and commissioner Lee Livingston commended their efforts. He and his son, Wes Livingston, were part of the mounted patrol on June 7.

Tidwell said although they view Park County Homeland Security Director Jack Tatum as an “asset,” they had not yet been in communication with him about their work.

“The big kicker – he is a federal agency (employee),” Flesher said.

Although Tatum is considered a county employee who reports to Steward, his department receives significant grant funding from the federal government.

The group has no name and although Tidwell used the term “militia” multiple times to describe the group during the meeting, he said he doesn’t want it to be considered that.

“It’s a word that’s been bastardized by propaganda and other things,” he said.

Tidwell and Flesher said the National Guard is not a militia and referred to article 17 of the Wyoming Constitution in justification for their organization. 

The article specifically provides for organized militias, but also states a militia must be commissioned by the governor. Unorganized militias are allowed, and consist of “all persons liable to serve in the militia but not commissioned or enlisted in the organized militia.”

“We are in support of the silent majority,” Tidwell said.

Flesher said their organization is made up by retired and former law enforcement, military and security staff in the local community who they said have the right to make citizens’ arrests if necessary. Tidwell is a former police officer from southern California.

A concern Tidwell heavily emphasized during his presentation was of food and materials becoming cut off from Cody if protests and riots continue to wear on, and they are looking for people with expertise on economic and food supply expertise in their organization.

Protests have escalated in recent weeks nationally with violence occurring in Portland, Seattle, Austin, Texas, Sioux Falls, S.D. and Aurora, Colo. Flesher said he has been in communication with friends who served as defense forces at Denver and Billings protest events.

“We don’t expect that to come here, but it has the potential,” Tidwell said.

Although they were vague on details as far as what they would do to solve supply chain and isolation issues, Tidwell said they are reaching out to local agriculture leaders to prepare.

Flesher and Tidwell said they have no criticisms for the organizers of the June 7 protest and view that as having been a successful event. Melissa Maier, organizer of the event, was present at last Tuesday’s commissioner meeting but did not speak.

In a Facebook thread connected with Tidwell and Flesher’s group, there were disparaging comments made about the protest’s organizers following the event. Flesher said he deleted these comments and all following responses made.

“That didn’t need to be out there,” he said.