The militiamen standoff in Oregon is not about ranching, arson or public land that never belonged to them
“We’re planning on staying here for several years,” said Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, in a video posted to Facebook Saturday. “We’re calling people to come out here and stand… We need you to bring your arms. And we need you to come to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.”
Ammon, along with two of his brothers and an untold number of militia members from different regions seized a Federal Wildlife Refuge building in Burns, Org. over the weekend. It started out as a simple protest march to show disapproval in the re-sentencing of two convicted arsonists, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven.
The Hammonds, two ranchers who live near Burns, are supposed to head back to prison on Monday. In 2012, a jury convicted them of arson for setting fires on federal land in what witnesses testified was an attempt to cover up an illegal deer slaughter. Prosecutors said the government spent $600,000 fighting the blazes.
A judge originally sentenced the ranchers to short prison terms, but the government appealed the sentences. The Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 obligates the Hammond’s to serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.
The militiamen now occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a splinter group that broke off from the larger protest. Led by the Bundy Brothers, Ammon said “The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds.” What that tyranny is exactly, he did not elaborate on.
It should be noted that the Hammonds lawyer said “Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family.” Dwight Hammond told the AP that he and his father intend to turn themselves in on January 4 as ordered.
The goal of the occupation according to the group is for the Hammonds to be released and the federal government to hand over federal lands to local ranchers, miners and loggers. What I call a government handout… by force.
The land however, was never owned by white rednecks in Oregon or Oregon itself. The name “Malheur” comes from the Maiheur Indian Reservation for the Northern Paiute established in 1872. Eventually the Paiute were forced to leave and settle at a smaller location. As everyone knows, Aboriginal affairs is a federal matter.
Regardless, the land was never privately owned by white guys or properly controlled by the state of Oregon. Quite frankly, if anyone should be screaming for their land back it’s the Paiute.
So to recap, the standoff is not about ranching; cattle was never involved, just some illegal deer hunting. It isn’t about the Hammonds who did not want to be associated with the Bundy family and it isn’t really about land because it has always been aboriginal land or federal land (sometimes both). So what is it about?
According to Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward “These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of miitia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives, to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”
Judging from the rhetoric coming from the occupiers of the wildlife refuge, it’s not hard to see why the sheriff would get that impression. As quoted above, Ammon Bundy basically called for “armed US patriots” to join him in his struggle against an oppressive American government. The groups demands are also unrealistic to say the least.
“We’re going to be freeing these lands up, and getting ranchers back to ranching, getting the loggers back to logging, getting the miners back to mining where they could do it under the protection of the people and not be afraid of this tyranny that’s been set upon them.” – Ammon Bundy
Blane Cooper, who appears in the video with Ammon dressed in military fatigues, all but called for a country wide rebellion:
“It doesn’t have to stop here. This could be a hope that spreads through the whole country, the whole United States. Everybody’s looking for this hope because the government has beat us, and oppressed us, and took everything from us; they will not stop until we tell them no.”
Ryan Bundy claimed that “What we’re doing is not rebellious. What we’re doing is in accordance with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.” As Quiet Mike reported during the Cliven Bundy standoff, what the militiamen are doing is not constitutional, it is in fact the opposite.
While the situation is stable for now, you have to wonder about the legality of taking a federal building by force of arms, occupying it and making demands. On top of it all, threatening the federal government with violence and self-sacrifice should the Feds move to retake their property.
Ryan Bundy told The Oregonian that the militiamen are “willing to kill and be killed if necessary.” Meanwhile Jon Ritzheimer, another militia member and anti-Muslim activist, posted a video to YouTube saying “I am 100 percent willing to lay my life down to defend against tyranny in this country. We need real men here… Americans who have the intestinal fortitude to come here and take a stand and say enough is enough.”
The recent history of the right-wing militia movement in the United States is violent and hate filled. To top it off, they have new spokespersons who just happen to be running for president.
It’s not yet clear what local and Federal Authorities plan on doing to resolve this act of armed sedition, but if there’s any true justice in America, the militiamen occupying the reserve will be arrested, tried and convicted under any number of charges. Trespassing and treason for starters.
The Bundy Family better hope they’re right when they claim there is no justice in America.