UPDATE–a more relevant photo meme just out after the local sheriff had a hand-shake with Ammon Bundy.
Assuming you’re paying attention, you’ve heard that self-styled ‘militia’ have swept down on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and taken it over, vowing to not move ‘for years’. There’s a breakdown of the various stances on Vox, which is fast becoming my go-to source on current events (based on their recent article on the reasons we don’t have any logic in the arguments over gun control). Basically, Dwight and Steven Hammond. two Burns, Oregon locals, were convicted of arson several years ago for setting fire to a 130 acre tract of federal land in order to cover up poaching of deer (though they claimed it was to stop invasive species). There was a mistake in their original sentencing, which included a mandatory minimum sentence for ‘terrorism’, one of the charges they pleaded guilty to. They are on their way back to prison because an administrative judge has decided they need to serve out the mandatory minimum on the terrorism charge, which was not included in their original sentencing. The Hammonds became a cause celebré for the militia/Patriot movement, even though they’ve now agreed to go back and serve out their extra time. Ammon Bundy, son of the infamous Cliven Bundy (who owes the Feds over a million dollars for grazing his cattle on federal land in Nevada), decided to ride to the rescue of Oregon. Bundy Senior got the militias to organize on his behalf in 2014, and there are videos of his militia buds putting federal and state authorities in the cross-hairs of their Second Amendment playthings. The fact that the Feds backed off in 2014 (and STILL haven’t gotten the grazing money Bundy owes) has emboldened the militia movement.
This is a story that is loaded with ironies. Cliven Bundy damaged his own cred back in 2014 by mouthing off about race relations in all the wrong ways, claiming that black people were better off under slavery (for example). Practically none
None of the people in the militia gathering are locals–the junior Bundys (Ryan and Ammon) are also from Nevada, and most of the rest of the folks are from outside Burns, Oregon. The spokespeople for the standoff are mouthing bromides about ‘government tyranny’ and detractors are wasting no time in finding examples of militia mooching federal dollars. Poor Daniel Brewer was caught lamenting in a post that he couldn’t proceed to the militia gathering because he hadn’t received his unemployment $300 Disability check– and has been catching hell for it ever since. Ammon Bundy is so oppressed by the feds that he’s gotten a $530K small business loan from the US gummint. The militia’s lack of preparedness is best exemplified by their tweets asking for sympathizers to send food and other supplies to them VIA THE US POSTAL service. And much of the federal land Ammon Bundy wants to claim already belongs to someone else, the Native tribe Burns Paiutes). Bundy and friends are saying the land should be turned over to ranchers, loggers and mining interests. For Free or next to free. That has caused some 40 million bird-watchers to weigh in on the side of the wildlife refuge (the militia has taken over a longtime Bird sanctuary).
The hits keep coming.
There’s also more than a little bit of angst/anger/righteous indignation from other activists. Oh, sure. We will all enjoy making fun of the Burns militia as they beg supporters to mail snacks and cry about liberty while ‘liberating’ land from native groups in order to enrich mining and lumber businesses.
And there’s the funny little hashtag nicknames for the Militia:
And this lame call for assistance.
And there’s been some outrage from activist groups such as the remnants of Occupy Wall Street and the Black Lives Matter folks. Militarized police came in busting heads and squirting pepper spray on unarmed protesters from those particular organizations. And more than one media outlet has said that if the Militia were people of color, the shooting would’ve already started. Specifically, if the Oregon Militiamen were black, they’d be dead by now. In a country where police and their apologists have absolutely no problems with most of the country’s white communities when they kill a person of color for non-existent reasons, that’s a hard argument to refute.
Still, from an anarchist’s perspective…
I have been performing this funny little play about non-violent revolt in the US over the past four years. I have some interest in this case because there has long been a delusional sense among groups like the Patriot movement that a small scruffy band of Second-Amendment loving misfits can take down the Gummint. I find that pretty laughable (the government has all the cool weapons and the ‘Patriots’ have alienated a bunch of potential allies), and I’m here to tell you that Gandhi didn’t need no Second Amendment to kick the British Empire out of India. And remember the funny little union called Solidarity? It did not have a single pop-gun to its name when it drove the Soviet Union out of Poland. So first-the premise is wrong. If you can reach consensus on government as the cause of your problems, all you need to change things is a massive agreement for people to agree to not cooperate with said government. And that won’t happen with what the militia folks are up to.
And–That’s part of the problem, right? The people in charge of this country are extremely lucky that the disparate groups calling for revolution don’t like each other. If the Militia movement weren’t in bed with white supremacists and libertarian ideologues, they could probably have aligned themselves with potential allies in BLM or the remnants of Occupy Wall Street. But planning doesn’t seem to be their strong suit (“send snacks”). There is great anger in this country about the loss of middle class jobs and the end of prosperity for working people. the Permanent government can sleep soundly at night when the folks with guns are blathering on about being ‘patriots’ fighting ‘government oppression’ as they wait for the Cheet-ohs and vienna sausages to arrive at their ‘compound’.