I think that’s the first time I’ve ever titled a post with a news media style header, but somehow I just couldn’t resist composing this one as a lead into what appears to be respectably accurate reporting on events in The Oregonian;
Update at 9:15 p.m.: Statement from Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward: “After the peaceful rally was completed today, a group of outside militants drove to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, where they seized and occupied the refuge headquarters. A collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution. For the time being please stay away from that area. More information will be provided as it becomes available. Please maintain a peaceful and united front and allow us to work through this situation.”
Some of these malcontents have form when it comes to previous standoffs with law enforcement, most notably the Cliven Bundy debacle a while back when an armed band of characters describing themselves as “patriots” caused federal forces to back away from legally holding Bundy to account for freeloading his grazing rights on public land.
Eric Parker from central Idaho aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy are being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Saturday said it had called off an effort to round up Bundy’s herd of cattle that it had said were being illegally grazed in southern Nevada, citing concerns about safety. The conflict between Bundy and U.S. land managers had brought a team of armed federal rangers to Nevada to seize the 1,000 head of cattle.
Now they’ve occupied government buildings—including the Refuge Headquarters—in a Wildlife Refuge which was closed for the weekend, and declared they are going to hold it indefinitely;
The Bundy family of Nevada joined with hard-core militiamen Saturday to take over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, vowing to occupy the remote federal outpost 50 miles southeast of Burns for years.
The occupation came shortly after an estimated 300 marchers – militia and local citizens both – paraded through Burns to protest the prosecution of two Harney County ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who are to report to prison on Monday.
Among the occupiers is Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and two of his brothers. Militia members at the refuge claimed they had as many as 150 supporters with them. …
…”The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds,” Ammon Bundy said.
“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely,” he added. “This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”
These people are nuts and want to drag culture and laws back in the direction of early frontier days; a direction to which they adhere with a zealous intensity of a kind often seen with ISIS and other organizations with a single and conceptual revolutionary goal involving selectively literal interpretations of historic documents.
They have a beef with the legitimacy of Federal authority in the vast majority of its current functions, and they’re armed to the teeth. Now they’ve declared occupation of some territory that belongs to you and me just as much as it does to them, which is another ISIS characteristic.
(btw – I’m not suggesting here that these folks are at anything like the organizational capacity or strength in numbers as ISIS—obviously they’re not—but I am suggesting that little pockets of ideological rigidity such as these are exactly the kind of seeds from which such entities can grow. I don’t think that this bunch will get anything like ISIS traction either, but there is enough actual support that the federal authorities will play this one cool. The last thing this president wants in his final year in office is another Waco bonfire. I’m quite sure it will be a mistake to think the Bundy clan aren’t smart enough to understand the enhanced possibilities for influencing the national narrative in a presidential primary season, too, and this election cycle is especially suited to precisely that. This is something to keep an eye on.)
The whole piece in OregonLive in the link above is worth a look. It all looks to me like a play for some kind of national “leadership” role in the patriot movement on the part of the Bundy clan, a play which for now is taking the form of a nationwide appeal on social media for support (“come prepared” says one Facebook appeal) with what is a fairly high profile and provocative confrontation.
Hard to count accurately how many people in the US have broad sympathies with the perspectives of this so-called patriot-whatever-the-fuck movement, but it’s certainly nontrivial. The numbers who walk around provocatively with guns and who are even willing to have armed confrontations between themselves and federal authorities are fairly small nationally—I’m guessing some several hundreds is most likely—and the picture above of the guy on the overpass pointing his gun in the direction of all kinds of people, including law enforcement, is what they look like.
But there are many, many more than that who will attend the occasional rally or protest. It’s not uncommon out west and in the south to see a few hundred supporters appearing together who have gathered mostly from within perhaps a 50 mile radius.
That said, the following photo shows what most of those people generally look like—a bunch of old farts like me except they look like they’re afraid they’re gonna fall and break a hip at any moment.
Anytime people start looking at each other over a gun barrel, well, sooner or later someone is going to get hurt, then we’ll see how that plays out. It’ll bump up gun sales for sure, and the tired old narrative about the evil forces of collectivist darkness beginning to crush the life out of the last vestiges of individual freedom will be off and running again.
No idea how this will be resolved. If this were the Black Panthers occupying federal buildings, or OWS protesters, or Earth First! activists, I’d guess we’d be seeing the tear gas and APC’s sometime around Wednesday morning at the latest, but it ain’t, it’s white “conservative” folks talking about liberty and god and the constitution and other US flag-wavy kind of stuff, so the authorities will have to think of something else.