In 2014, on a ranch in Nevada, rancher Cliven Bundy, assisted by a cadre of armed supporters, clashed with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The cause of the dispute was Mr. Bundy’s failure to pay more than $1 million in fees for grazing his cattle on public lands and his defiance of a court order requiring that he remove said cattle from said land.
From the onset, the Bundy faction made it clear that any attempt to enforce the order or collect the fees would result in an immediate armed response. Consistent with this threat one of the Bundy supporters was photographed, lying in a sniper position on a highway overpass, with the business end of his military assault rifle positioned between the slit of two concrete slabs, his weapon trained squarely on law enforcement officials.
Perhaps fearing another Ruby Ridge, the BLM eventually relented. To date, Bundy has not paid the grazing fees and fines he’s racked up and his cattle continue to graze on federal lands.http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/05/462022130/as-oregon-situation-unfolds-heres-a-quick-update-on-cliven-bundy. More troubling, none of the law breakers, including the Highway sniper have been brought to justice.
Flash forward two years later and we have a similar standoff, this time in the Pacific Northwest. Again objecting to the federal government’s ownership and management of western lands otherwise known as the Sagebrush Rebellion and upset about the incarceration of rancher Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven, both of whom were duly convicted of arson, another group of armed militants have seized and now occupy the federal owned Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Not surprisingly, the group is led by Ammon Bundy, the scion of Cliven Bundy.
Bundy and his followers have every right to protest and petition the government for redress. They may travel where they wish, associate with whom they please and gather wherever they desire.
However, the Oregon militants have no legal standing to interject themselves into the dispute. They do not reside in Oregon, neither own nor lease property in the state, have little or no history there, are not parties in interest to any legal proceeding and were not asked to intervene. These are public lands that are managed and preserved for the benefit of all Americans, not just the militants, farmers or ranchers.
Nor are they legally permitted to seize and occupy a federal facility, the legal consequences of which constitutes theft, criminal trespass, criminal conversion, disorderly conduct, breaking and entering, obstruction of justice, resisting arrest and criminal conspiracy. They may not bear arms during the commission of a crime, the Second Amendment not withstanding and may not claim the right to self-defense against law enforcement officials attempting to prevent said crime. Consider the absurdity of a bugler arguing that he is not only constitutionally entitled to use a firearm to burglarize someone’s home but is authorized to shoot and kill any police officer who attempts to stop him.
We are further struck by the sheer hypocrisy of the militants. They complain incessantly about welfare and government overreach yet benefit immensely from tax breaks, set asides, low-interest federal loans, grants, subsidies, disaster relief and cost discounts. Few receive more government handouts than farmers and ranchers.
Even more galling is their equating their illegality to the civil rights movement. According to Ammon, like Rosa Parks “he and his followers are standing up against bad laws which dehumanize and destroy their freedoms”. Http://www.msm.com/en-us/news/us/oregon-standoff-leader-were-prepared-to-efend-ourselfes.
There is however no freedom to break the law. Moreover, Rosa Parks was no carpetbagger; no interloper from afar. She was instead a resident of the community in which the dispute arose. She was not armed, posed not threat to anyone, did not threaten violence and was not aided and abetted by an armed posse.
More importantly, Rosa Parks engaged in no criminal trespass, seizure or occupation of a federal facility. She inhabited but a single seat on a public bus whose sole purpose was to transport her and other residents of her community to their respective destinations.
Simply stated, the Oregon occupation is not the legitimate exercise of a constitutional right and does not advance the cause of freedom. It is instead the temper tantrum of a group of vigilantes who believe that their grievances entitles them to break the law, lay claim to that which does not belong to them, exploit the constitution, intimidate their opponents and threaten violence in order to achieve a political end.
The militants are neither patriots nor followers of the constitution. They are instead armed thugs engaged in a form of domestic terrorism that would never be tolerated if committed by a group of armed Native Americans, aggrieved over the theft of their lands, Hispanic Americans angry over the loss of Texas and other Southwestern states, Muslims Americans upset about our multiple incursions into the Middle-East or African-Americans demanding their promised 40 acres and a mule. Go figure.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum