Support for the armed activists occupying a federal building in Oregon is shrinking as local residents, other militias, and the jailed ranchers they claim to support all voice their criticism of the armed protesters.
A group of armed militia members has forcibly taken over and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside the town of Burns, Oregon, for days now and public support is dwindling.
The group says their actions are meant to highlight the plight of ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steve who have been sentenced to jail for arson. The pair said they were trying to prevent larger forest fires when they burned 130 acres of leased federal land and also remove invasive plant species.
A group of peaceful protesters arrived in the small town of Burns over the weekend and conducted a peaceful march in support of the two. After the protest, a group of armed militia members took over the federal wildlife building to protest the jailing of the two ranchers.
The father and son ranchers, however, turned themselves into authorities Monday after releasing a statement condemning the actions of the militia members and distancing themselves from it.
The group of militia members calls itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom and is led by Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy who led a successful armed standoff with federal officials in 2014.
Local residents of the rural town of Burns, population 3,000, condemned the actions of militia members as the work of outside agitators with no real connection to the community they claim to be fighting for.
Area resident and retired painter James Arndt told Reuters the actions of the protestors weren’t in line with the residents’ thinking.
“I don’t think it’s right to take over a public building.”
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 6, 2016
Militia groups from across the country also condemned the actions of the armed Oregon protestors, but for a different reason: they don’t support seizing federal property.
Mike Vanderboegh, founder of the 3 Percent Movement, told Yahoo News that Bundy may have made a tactical mistake in occupying the Oregon federal building.
“Here you have a guy who believes he’s on a mission from God. What the Hammonds want and what the community wants is immaterial.”
Other militia groups that also criticized Bundy’s actions as wrong footed and ill timed include the New Mexico Militia, the Oath Keepers, and the Pacific Patriot Network.
How the Oregon militants' revolutionary plan went sideways https://t.co/d0TUrTpbFp
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) January 5, 2016
Twitter briefly suspended Bundy’s social media account Tuesday, but did not explain the action. Once the account was reactivated later in the day, Bundy responded with a tweet, according to the USA Today.
Seditious Conspiracy is a serious federal crime as is aiding traitors #TwitterDidntWannaBeChargedWithTreason.
The armed occupation of the Oregon federal building has also ignited a backlash among civil rights activists who equate the militia members with terrorists. They claim that if armed minorities had seized a building the government would have immediately killed them all.
A series of hashtags including #CowTippingTerrorists and #WhiteISIS spread across Twitter as sarcastic social media users vented their frustration. There’s even an article by the Oregonian entitled “Best snacks to send to an Oregon militia with the munchies,” poking fun at the fact that the armed protesters brought weapons, but apparently no food.
It’s not clear how many militia members remain inside the federal building nor how many weapons they possess. The FBI is working closely with local and state officials for a peaceful resolution.
Local schools in the area have been closed because officials are worried about possible violence.
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer