Law enforcement agencies are remaining mum about plans to end militiamen’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.
What would coppers do if this militia was Black or Hispanic or – gasp – Muslim?
A splinter group of militia in town to support a local ranching family took over the federal office Saturday afternoon in a development that stunned the community and visiting militia.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said in a statement late Saturday that “a collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution.”
Here’s a summary of key elements of this unfolding story:
The backdrop: Militiamen from several states came to Burns to protest the impending imprisonment of two Harney County ranchers. They participated in several community meetings and organized a rally and protest march that occurred without controversy on Saturday. The march lasted about an hour and involved about 300 people – a mix of militia and local residents…
The occupation: Some time after the rally, key militia leaders broke off and drove across the high desert basin south of Burns to the wildlife refuge. They said they took over the refuge headquarters, which was unoccupied for the holiday weekend. They also have blocked the access road. Indications are that this has been planned for some time. Accounts of how many militia are at the refuge range from their own claims of up to 150 to accounts from reporters at the scene that there may be no more than 15…
Who’s involved: Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, is acting as the leader, conducting a steady stream of media interviews. Other key militia leaders have joined him, including Ryan Payne, an Army veteran from Montana involved in last year’s armed standoff in Nevada with federal agents; Blaine Cooper, an Arizona militiaman who also participated in the Nevada standoff, and Jon Ritzheimer, who made headlines last year for anti-Muslim rhetoric…
Law enforcement response: During Saturday’s rally, not a police officer was visible. And so far law enforcement agencies have not approached the refuge or blocked access to the territory. The FBI is in charge because the refuge is federal property. The Harney County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police are engaged as well…
What’s next: Because the refuge is so remote and no government employees are at risk, law enforcement isn’t likely to immediately confront the militia. But law enforcement will be under great pressure to act because of the Bundys’ confrontation in Nevada. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management retreated from that confrontation and has yet to publicly act against the Bundys to collect $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. That retreat has emboldened militia members as they now face the prospect of another standoff.
And as I said up top – not likely this would be the case if armed militia composed of Black Americans, Hispanic Americans or Muslim Americans attempted occupation of a federal building. Rightwing nutballs from Trump to Cruz would have been screaming for the Air Force to nuke the wildlife refuge. Tea Party superpatriots would have enlisted in the nearest militia or Klavern to put down such an “insurrection”.
Because these are good old white boys rolling out the usual NRA blather about 2nd amendment rights — local, state and federal coppers will tippytoe around until the militia initiates whatever they choose to be the end of the confrontation. Some will want a glorious Waco conflagration. No doubt. Not especially distinct from any other jihad. I’m not certain if the rest will be satisfied with the level of free publicity our Trump-tamed Free Press is accustomed to providing.
I’d suggest staying in touch with the Oregonian or the Guardian who actually have folks on the scene.
Thanks, Ursarodinia and many others
I especially appreciate Ursa’s “We don’t have enough weirdos here in Oregon; we have to import them from Nevada?”