Oregon Militia: Peaceful Protesters or Terrorists?

4 Jan

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted something political. I bet you’re absolutely giddy!

If you aren’t up to date on what’s going on in Oregon, here is basically what is happening:

Some ranchers set some fires in the early 2000s that ended up burning federal land on a wildlife refuge. They served time in prison for it, but now the judge says that they were supposed to serve more time than they did, and is sending them back. Cue militia. Some other folks with some guns went onto the refuge, and have taken up shop in the buildings. They say they won’t leave until the judge reverses the decision for the ranchers to be sent back to prison and the wildlife refuge land is returned to ranchers.

If you would like to read something other than that brief, extremely vague, synopsis you can get more info here and here.

From this, we’ve seen several meme-like pictures pop up, including this one:

Now then, I’m all for protesting. I’ve always wanted to protest for some cause or other, but haven’t really had the chance (apparently I don’t know anyone that passionate about anything). But when protesting, peaceful protesting and sit-ins are the only way to go. Peaceful protests don’t involve guns. That is where the Oregon militia becomes confusing, and why we are having such a hard time classifying what we are looking at.

First, while this militia group has guns, we have no record that they have used them to take over the buildings they are in, we have no record of hostages, and we have no record that they have forced entry or broken any property. For all it’s worth, that is pretty peaceful, and it points that they only plan to use their guns for defense. Now, according to the Oregonian, the man heading this protest has said they would “not rule out violence” if police tried to remove them (read). I couldn’t find a direct quote, and so I’m a tad skeptical. Assuming our sources are credible, this is a direct move away from peaceful protest. You know…the great part about sit-ins is if you sit and refuse to move, the people being rough trying to get you to move look like assholes and you become the hero. If you pull a gun, you become portrayed differently and as we know…violence begets violence.

We also have to wonder if they have the right to protest. They are trespassing on government property and they aren’t even part of this county. Bundy is from Nevada! Even the Hammonds, who are the people imprisoned for arson, aren’t supporting their actions. Really, one could argue that this isn’t even Bundy’s fight to fight.

Then, looking at this meme, we are drawn to compare minority protests to this apparently white militia. Again, I bring you back to the idea of peaceful protest. If a protest begins without violence, it is no longer peaceful when violence begins. As the protesting group becomes larger, the danger of the group becoming violent increases. From what I’ve read (and as always…please tell me if I’m wrong!), at least Ferguson protests began peacefully enough, and the goal was never to stray from that. But, as I’ve said, when your group becomes larger you see higher likelihood of violence, and once the scale tips, group dynamics cause it to continue. Then, actions like looting are only a step away. That is where these protests have differed from what we are seeing. Oregon appears to be a smaller group, and we haven’t any reports of violence yet. Yet.

Finally, we seem to be ignoring the real issue here. It isn’t whether they should or should not be protesting, it isn’t whether they are terrorists or peaceful protestors, and it isn’t about race. It is however about whether or not the Hammonds should be facing more time in jail, and if this area should be ranched or used as a wildlife refuge. This is a pretty classic and decades-old issue. We are highly dependent on agriculture, and to produce crops and meat we have to have land to do it on. That free-range cow of yours takes a lot more space than a cow housed in a feed-lot (this is not a position statement on cattle). In the same breath, humans are sucking the life out of the planet. We are killing things, and destroying land, and in order to help preserve what we can and fix what we’ve destroyed (habitat fragmentation, anyone?) we have to preserve land, too. It seems that the reasons the Hammonds are headed back to prison is because of a domestic terrorism law. Do I think that their fires were domestic terrorism? No, I really don’t. Do I think they should head back to prison for a sentence that is several years old? No, especially because it was an oversight of our judicial system. I can really, actually, get behind the protesting aspect. I did already say I’m pro-protesting. That will change, however, if violence ensues. As a zoologist, I also struggle with letting go of a wildlife refuge. They are so important for preservation and conservation, that while I don’t think there should be more jail time for the Hammonds, I do think that the wildlife refuge should stay a refuge.

Bundy’s message has been heard. I just hope that it rings true and rises above the race and gun issue, because if it has, and they leave peacefully, then I can see real change happening then.

What is your position on the Oregon militia protest? What do you think the real issue is here? 

One Response to “Oregon Militia: Peaceful Protesters or Terrorists?”

  1. buddy71 at 12:33 pm #

    i did some follow up reading about this and the issue seems to be big government possible over stepping it bounds. it does not seem legal to extend a sentence after it was handed out and they served some time. ranchers have been “fighting” with the government over land rights for a very long time. i feel every one has the right to protest and it seems it becomes the last resort when things crumble. it sort of reminds me of the student protests of the 60’s and 70’s. the new buzz word today is “terrorism” i agree with you i dont think it is terrorism and there should be land set aside for the protection of wildlife and there should be some way to reach a happy medium.

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