‘Freeman’ free for now after gunpoint standoff with police
KITCHENER — Steven Finney has his own version of what went down before he found himself staring at the business end of a police handgun last weekend.
But innocence isn’t the trump card the Kitchener man plans to play as he faces a slew of charges including assaulting an officer with his car.
Finney — a self-declared Freeman on the Land — just doesn’t think he is subject to the same laws as everybody else.
“They don’t have the jurisdiction,” he said Wednesday after getting released on bail to live with his mother in Woodstock.
Members of the loosely organized Freeman movement — which has origins in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s — believe they can declare themselves sovereign by cutting all ties with government.
After opting out of “contracts” such as health cards and social insurance numbers, their theory goes, they are independent and exempt from government laws.
That explains why Finney, 35, went out for a coffee Sunday morning with homemade “Republic of Kanata” licence plates taped to his 2001 Mercury instead of real ones.
According to allegations outlined in Kitchener court, a Waterloo Regional Police officer spotted him on Westmount Road and pulled him over in a nearby parking lot.
Finney then allegedly refused to provide his driver’s licence, proof of ownership and insurance slip.
Crown prosecutor Tim Edwards said he also declined to identify himself and began videotaping the exchange with the officer, who called for backup.
Declaring himself a member of the Freeman movement, Finney told the officer he had no authority over him and warned there would be consequences for his arrest.
“You will be billed $10,000 a second for detaining me,” he allegedly said.
Several other officers arrived and, fearing he would try to flee, one of them blocked Finney’s car with a cruiser.
When they tried to arrest him, Finney allegedly locked his doors, accelerated and turned towards an officer standing at the side of his car.
The officer had to push himself off the vehicle to avoid getting hit, Edwards said, then drew his gun and pointed it at Finney to stop him from taking another run at him.
Finney was eventually pulled out of the car, forced to the ground and handcuffed after a baton was used to smash his window.
The officer wasn’t hurt and Finney — who appeared in court wearing a black T-shirt bearing the words ‘Just Do It’ — declined medical treatment for minor injuries to his arms and face.
He was happy to get out of custody Wednesday after reluctantly accepting help from a free lawyer, but said he has no regrets about spending three days in jail to make a point.
“If you’re afraid to get arrested, you’re not going to take a stance against the government,” he said in an interview.
Finney, who has a minor criminal record for fraud and breach of probation, first got in trouble at an anti-government protest in July outside Kitchener City Hall.
Ticketed for trespassing after refusing to leave, he was then charged with obstructing police for refusing to identify himself to an officer.
In August, Finney added failing to attend court to his list of charges when he showed up, but wouldn’t answer to his name.
Despite facing much more serious charges now, Finney said he is determined to stick to his principles and is confident they’ll clear him when his case goes to trial.
“What’s better — being a slave under the government, or being free?” he asked.
Insp. Kevin Thaler, a spokesperson for local police, described Freeman on the Land as a “fringe group” not normally considered a threat to public safety in Canada.
In the United States, however, at least 28 police officers have been killed since 2001 during encounters with anti-government extremists or self-declared sovereign citizens.
Finney works cleaning a Kitchener movie theatre. He is due back in court later this month.