If you haven’t read my previous post, I’ve decided to write a three part series regarding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff. The first part focused on the Burns Paiute tribe. This part of the series is focusing on the armed militia that has taken over federal buildings at the refuge. Please follow the links that I’ve provided below.
Spokesmen for the militia state that they are “taking it back”. For whom the militia is “taking it back” for remains to be seen; however, it is quite obvious that they are not taking it back for the tribe to whom it belongs. Instead, this area which has been used as a wildlife refuge, is a place that ranchers and others want to exploit for their own private monetary gain. After all, ranchers have been allowed to graze their oversized herds of cattle on land that’s not their own for many years. If it can be had for free, or at minimal charge, which you can choose not to pay for, why not? After all, why pay when you can just take?
According to Ammon Bundy, the leader of this group, the standoff is in response to the sentencing of Dwight and Steven Hammond who were found guilty of burning 130 acres of public land. Bundy claims that the land is owned by ranchers, and they were simply burning their own land. The land that was burned was not currently owned by the Hammonds, nor was it ever owned by the Hammonds. Again, Bundy has claimed that because ranchers want the land, they should be given it.
While armed and occupying the federal buildings in the refuge, the militia has committed numerous felonies. They have accessed federal computers and information, including addresses and phone numbers of federal workers; used for their personal needs federally owned vehicles, bulldozers and other equipment; there has been the removal of federal surveillance equipment from the refuge; removal of fences; the building of an access road for their use within the fragile wildlife refuge; and unauthorized use of prehistoric artifacts. There has been one arrest so far for the unauthorized use of a vehicle.
There have been numerous incidents between the militia members and the members of the community. At various community meetings the town residents have chanted “Go Home” and “Leave” at the militia members who have attended. Harney County Judge Steve Grasty has stated that the cost to keep the people of the county safe is approximately $60,000 to $70,000 per day, and has promised to send Bundy the bill. One militia supporter has been arrested for illegally carrying a concealed weapon. Then there is the story that armed members went along with parents rushing from the refuge to take their children away from their grandparents after the grandparents had called Protective Services in a bid to gain custody of the children. The Grandparents were concerned with the children potentially being pulled out of school to stay at the refuge with their parents. The grandparents also cited another reason – the refuge is full of guns, ammunition and grenades, as can be seen in the background of the many videos that the militia members have uploaded. Even Oregon Governor Kate Brown has asked the federal government to “do something” about the militia.
Do you think that a group of heavily armed people have the right to occupy a federal building, bulldoze a fragile environment, and use federal equipment because they are unhappy with a criminal conviction? If so, then would it be morally sound to do the same anytime anyone is upset with a judicial decree? A political statement? Any decision someone somewhere disagrees with? Let me know your thoughts on this subject. I will conclude this series on Friday.
*Just a note – I’d like to say that I am really sad that someone died in regards to this standoff. I truly believe in non-violence and was upset to hear that during the recent arrests there was gunfire. My heart goes out to the families.*