“Armed anti-government protesters have taken over a building in [the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge] in Oregon,” cnn.com reports. “Accusing officials of unfairly punishing ranchers who refused to sell their land.” Amongst and speaking for the 100 to 150 militia men (and growing) involved: Ammon Bundy [above]. He’s the 40-year-old son of Cliven Bundy, famous for his families’ confrontation with the feds over land rights. Ammon and his armed followers have inserted themselves into a local incident involving father and son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond. I highly recommend you click here to read a full account of the decades-long dispute from the conservativetreehouse.com. The short version . . .
The Hammonds were convicted for domestic terrorism for setting fire to about 130 acres of Refuge land in 2001. The prosecutor said they set the fire to cover-up poaching; the Hammonds said they set the fire to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires. The father and son were sentenced to five years in prison. More on that in a moment . . .
Bundy claims the issue is much wider. He says the feds have taken over the space of 100 ranches since the early 1900s: “They are continuing to expand the refuge at the expense of the ranchers and miners.” The background seems to support Bundy’s claim that the Hammonds are the victims of a federal initiative to remove ranchers from their land.
Regardless of the specifics, Ammon Bundy and his followers reckons the Hammonds’ plight is a[nother] hill to die on.
He spoke by phone to CNN on Sunday at 8 a.m. ET. Asked several times what he and those with him want, he answered in vague terms, saying that they want the federal government to restore the “people’s constitutional rights.”
“This refuge — it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area,” he said . . .
He did not explicitly call on authorities to commute the prison sentences for the Hammonds, who are scheduled to report to prison Monday. But he said their case illustrates officials’ “abuse” of power.
“Now that people such as the Hammonds are taking a stand and not selling their ranches, they are being prosecuted in their own courts as terrorists and putting them in prison for five years,” Bundy said.
“People need to be aware that we’ve become a system where government is actually claiming and using and defending people’s rights, and they are doing that against the people.”
I’m not sure Bundy knows what he wants to achieve with what’s now a siege – other than to make a strong anti-government statement and confront the “powers that be” over federal land management. While Ammon Bundy and the rest of the militia holed-up in the Refuge have the full support of hundreds of landowners, the local populace isn’t well pleased. The occupiers don’t care.
“We will be here as long as it takes,” Bundy said. “We have no intentions of using force upon anyone, (but) if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves.”
Ammon Bundy said that the group in Oregon was armed, but that he would not describe it as a militia. He declined to say how many people were with him, telling CNN on Sunday that giving that information might jeopardize “operational security.” . . .
“We are not terrorists,” Ammon Bundy said. “We are concerned citizens and realize we have to act if we want to pass along anything to our children.”
That’s no small point. Both Hammonds are now convicted terrorists who served part of their sentence – until the feds asked a judge to reexamine the sentence. Again, here’s the 411 from theconservativetreehouse.com:
In 2011, 5 years after the police report was taken, the U.S. Attorney Office accused Dwight and Steven Hammond of completely different charges (dropping arson charges), they accused them of being “Terrorist” under the Federal Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This act carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of death . . .
On January 4, 2013, Dwight and Steven reported to prison. They fulfilled their sentences, (Dwight 3 months, Steven 12 months). Dwight was released in March 2013 and Steven, January 2014 . . .
In October 2015, the 9th District Court “resentenced” Dwight and Steven, requiring them to return to prison for several more years. Steven (46) has a wife and 3 children. Dwight (74) will leave Susan (74) to be alone after 55 years of marriage. If he survives, he will be 79 when he is released.
During the court preceding the Hammonds were forced to grant the BLM first right of refusal. If the Hammonds ever sold their ranch they would have to sell it to the BLM.
The Hammonds are due to report to jail tomorrow. There’s no indication that they will fail to do so. Nor is there any reason to believe the Bundy militia will back down. Here’s a highly emotional message from one of their members, who’s clearly prepared for armed conflict.
Regardless of the justification for this action and the passions surrounding it, anti-gun rights organizations used the previous Bundy ranch showdown to portray gun owners as hair-trigger domestic terrorists. That conflict de-escalated at the last possible moment.
If this one tips over into a gun battle between the feds and the militia – and sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com reports that a federal SRT team is staging for a possible confrontation – they’ll do it again. Watch this space. Meanwhile click here for a Twitter feed from a local reporter covering the showdown. [h/t DrVino]