The Armed Occupation In Oregon Isn’t Over
Last night, eight members of the group of armed militants that has been occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon were arrested and another member was killed after police made their first move against the group. Among those detained were the Bundy brothers, who have led the group of anti-government extremists that has been occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon for nearly a month. Tuesday night, police stopped the Bundys and four others on a nearby highway and shots were fired, killing Robert “LaVoy” Finicum who was a spokesman for the group.
Tuesday’s confrontation marks the first major action by law enforcement against the group, almost a month after their occupation began and it’s worth repeating the facts. Here’s what happened: The FBI and state police stopped vehicles on the highway north of the refuge, and arrested the leaders of an armed anti-federal government group in a confrontation that ended in the death of the group’s spokesman. And still, the fact that Donald Trump is not participating in tomorrow night’s Republican primary debate is driving the news cycle.
The armed militants first seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2, and were quick to claim they were willing to kill and be killed if necessary. Nevertheless, from the beginning of the occupation the group enjoyed relatively lax treatment from law enforcement and the media, even being allowed to hold daily press conferences. Even without their leaders or spokesman, the militants continue to occupy the building.
And even after last night, the media remains shockingly sympathetic to the militants, with many outlets—from the New York Times to Fox News to the Associated Press—avoiding calling the group what they are, armed militants. Instead, the go-to label for the group has been “protesters.” Much coverage of the occupation has also repeated the militants’ (false) claims that the lands were taken from ranchers by the federal government. The New York Times has claimed that the militants’ views reflect broader concerns among Westerners about land ownership, which is also not true.
The treatment of the armed anti-federal government extremists in Oregon by law enforcement and the way the group has been portrayed in the media stand in stark contrast with the treatment of other recent protesters. For example, despite the fact that Black Lives Matter protests across the country have remained largely peaceful, the group’s events have been labeled a “threat,” and activists have been accused of inciting violence “to the point of hate crime.”
Additionally, law enforcement officials have repeatedly used excessive force against Black Lives Matter protestors. Just last month, a Black Lives matter protest at the Mall of America was met with militarized police and resulted in more than a dozen arrests. In contrast, the FBI and local law enforcement’s measured response to the Oregon standoff in the weeks leading up to last night is an example of how to help avoid escalating similar situations. And while details are still unfolding, hopefully the continued response will result in the rest of the armed militants being safely detained and fully prosecuted under the law.
BOTTOM LINE: The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is an armed seizure of federal property, not a peaceful protest and it should be labeled as such. Comparing this group of armed militants to peaceful protesters downplays the recklessness of gunmen seizing a national wildlife refuge and distracts from the danger of the groups motivating ideas: seizing our national public lands and sparking violent anti-government insurrection.
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