Phil Lyman civil disobedience
Photo by Dallas Hyland

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman was convicted along with one other person on May 1 of this year for misdemeanor charges of conspiracy and driving on public lands closed to motorized vehicles.

His sentencing was moved forward two months to September 15 to accommodate what appears to be the hiring of new counsel for an appeal. 

He faces up to one year in jail, $100,000 in fines and possibly restitution for damage caused by him and one hundred or so other protesters to archaeological resources in Recapture Canyon.

His social media campaign to stage the protest was well-documented, and on the heels of the standoff between militia members and the federal government earlier in the year near Cliven Bundy’s ranch, he likely felt emboldened to mount his own version of the now-infamous insurrection. Ryan Bundy even came to support it and rode through the canyon touting an American flag on his four-wheeler and a pocket constitution sticking out of his shirt.

Lyman now seems to be claiming he did not know what he was doing was against the law and that he feels he was somehow given permission by the Bureau of Land Management to do it.

I have to call bullshit on two fronts here.

The first is that he knew damn well and good that what he was doing was illegal, and he as much as said so when he addressed the crowd before the ride began. He appeared to be waffling a little, but then Bundy took the stage and stoked the flames, saying, “I came here to open a road.”

But what really stands out is the lack of conviction this man has. He contends the federal government is illegally blocking access to the road. Great. He stages a peaceful protest. Great. He follows through with his protest. Sounds downright all-American to me.

But then he gets charged with a crime, and suddenly his story changes.

Civil disobedience is as much a part of the American heritage and lineage as apple pie and baseball. The countless people who have stood their ground on principles they deemed true who have been arrested and even served severe jail time prove this. 

And when they do follow through, their cause is emboldened sometimes, because you know what? People believe them.

With Lyman, it’s safe to say no one is going to believe him, because he did not even believe himself. When faced with the consequences of his actions he pleaded ignorance.

He should have pleaded cowardice. That would have been believable.

See you out there.

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