Oregon Militia Standoff: Why The Government Can’t Make Them Leave

Oregon Militia Standoff: Why The Government Can't Make Them Leave

Currently, there’s a group of militia members occupying a federal building in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which is in Oregon. The group is led by one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, Ammon Bundy. The armed group is there in protest of a judge’s recent decision to send Dwight and Steven Hammond back to prison.

The Hammonds, father and son ranchers, were convicted of arson. The pair were convicted of setting fire to public land, allegedly to cover up poaching. The criminal duo were sent to prison and served their time, but a judge then decided that the punishment was too light and ordered them to return to prison.

Those in support of the Hammonds argue that they were not trying to cover up poaching. The attorney for the Hammonds argued in federal court that the arson statute, with which the prosecutors were charging the men, was designed to punish terrorists, not ranchers maintaining land.

The Oregon standoff is similar in some ways to the Bundy standoff two years ago. In 2014, there was a large scale militia protest near a Nevada ranch owned by Cliven Bundy. Bundy had been grazing his cattle on federally managed land without paying grazing fees. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) told Mr. Bundy to get his cattle off of the public land and pay the goverment $1 million in grazing fees.

Bundy did not comply with the order to move his cattle. The BLM eventually showed up in force to remove Bundy’s cattle and began removing the animals off of the public land. After the BLM began the huge task of seizing Bundy’s cattle, militiamen from all around the country began to pour into the area.

The heavily-armed BLM agents eventually backed down and stopped their operation. It appeared as though the militia had won. The BLM agents left the area and Bundy’s cattle–which were still grazing on federal land–were no longer being rounded up.

It’s been almost two years since the Bundy standoff, and the BLM still has not returned to remove Cliven’s cattle. Mr. Bundy is still definitely running his cattle on the federal land near his ranch.

oregon standoff
As the former director of the Bureau of Land Management — Patrick Shea — told the L.A. Times, the two Bundy situations are difficult for the government to deal with.

“The two [Bundy standoffs], I think, are indicative of a problem, and that is: When you have people who are publicly proclaiming their defiance of the law and doing it in a potentially violent way, how do you deal with it?”

The reason the government didn’t initiate force in the past Bundy standoff is the same reason they won’t now — they don’t want to create another tragedy. The militia groups know that the government doesn’t want violent confrontations, so they use that to their advantage.

The government is desperate to not create another blunder like the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents of the 90s. Because the government was so harshly criticized for both incidents, they now try to keep another, similar incident from happening.

A confrontation with the militia in Oregon could very quickly turn violent. Instead of conducting a raid and forcefully removing the militia members, the government will likely try to wait it out.

A sign referencing Ammon Bundy and his brother, who are the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, hangs on a tree in front of a home Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Burns, Ore. Ammon Bundy, the leader of a small, armed group that is occupying a remote national wildlife preserve in Oregon said Tuesday that they will go home when a plan is in place to turn over management of federal lands to locals. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Playing the waiting game may not work very well, though. Ammond Bundy has told reporters that they’re prepared to occupy the federal building for years.

Not only does the government want the Bundys to leave the federal building, but locals also want to see the militia get out. Many of the people that live near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have voiced their displeasure with the militia being in town.

It’s unclear how, or when, this latest standoff will end. If things stay as they have been, the goverment will likely opt to not remove the men.

[Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP]