Oh, what a grand way to start an election year! With a bunch of militia loons holed up in a federally owned building, in defense of convicted criminals, demanding to start a new American Revolution against federal tyranny! It’s this winter’s second-biggest sequel, starring three of Welfare Cheat Rancher Cliven Bundy’s sons, who along with an unknown number of armed supporters have occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near the town of Burns in eastern Oregon.
The militia guys are there to restore freedom by preventing the imprisonment of two local ranchers, Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr., 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46, who were convicted of arson on federal land. In 2001, the Hammonds set fire to 139 acres that they leased from the BLM for grazing, to cover up evidence of out of season hunting they’d been doing on the land; after losing an appeal, the Hammonds are supposed to report to prison Monday, January 4. And don’t you go calling this domestic terrorism, since they’re only trespassing, breaking and entering, and illegally occupying a federal building. So far. However, as Oregonian reporter Ian Kullgren notes, that could change:
The Hammonds’ supporters insist that the BLM land was totally theirs to do with as they please, not the U.S. Government’s, because as the Bundy wackaloons argue in an online manifesto, the Constitution forbids the federal government from owning land, duh. Maybe no court has ever agreed with them, but it’s right there in the Constitution, if you look at it through your rifle scope just right.
Following a march by about 300 Hammond supporters in Burns Saturday, a portion of the marchers broke away from the “peaceful protest” and headed to the wildlife refuge:
They said they took over the refuge headquarters, which was unoccupied for the holiday weekend. They also have blocked the access road. Indications are that this has been planned for some time. Accounts of how many militia are at the refuge range from their own claims of up to 150 to accounts from reporters at the scene that there may be no more than 15.
Among the militia luminaries at the wildlife refuge are Ammon Bundy and two of his brothers, Mel and Ryan, plus several other wingnut celebrities:
Other key militia leaders have joined him, including Ryan Payne, an Army veteran from Montana involved in last year’s armed standoff in Nevada with federal agents; Blaine Cooper, an Arizona militiaman who also participated in the Nevada standoff, and Jon Ritzheimer, who made headlines last year for anti-Muslim rhetoric. Days before the refuge takeover, Ritzheimer posted what struck some as a farewell video to his family.
Ritzheimer, you’ll recall, is the Patriot who organized the big Yell At A Mosque event in Phoenix last year, then tried to raise $10 million dollars to protect himself from killer Muslims or at least sell his motorcycle to buy guns (he later claimed his Facebook account had been hacked and he’d never tried to ask for money); more recently, he sent himself off on a Sovereign Quest to arrest and try for treason every Senator who failed to block the Iran nuclear deal, as one does. And now here he is on YouTube, tearfully pledging to give his life For America and the sacred principle that arson is OK if you say public land really belongs to you:
As he does every time he so much as buys a Snickers bar, Ritzheimer holds up a pocket copy of the Constitution and says he’s willing to die to defend it: “I am 100 percent willing to lay my life down to defend against tyranny in this country.” Remember, that’s the “tyranny” of two guys going to jail for five years for setting fire to 168 acres, endangering firefighters in the process, on federal land.
So what do the loonies want? Pretty much an end to the federal government owning land in the West, because the special version of the Constitution these guys have says that it can’t:
Ammon Bundy has said in several interviews that the occupiers want federal land returned to Harney County ranchers and loggers. They say the federal government has oppressed local people with its ownership and control of land. Payne and others have insisted that under the Constitution, the federal government has no legal right to Harney County land.
Bundy’s own thinking on the matter, as posted in a December 7 manifesto, is, to put it mildly, creative:
Let us go to article IV sec. 3 of the Constitution which states: The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States … This section of the Constitution grants Congress the power to make needful rules and regulations while the land is still a Territory (capital T) and grants Congress the power to dispose of the land. It does not grant unto congress the power to retain the land, only to dispose of it. This means that the federal government does not and never will OWN the land, which is a Territory. They can make the rules while it is a Territory, but they have the obligation, duty and authority to dispose of it. In other words, the people OWN the land and have charged the Federal government to be administrators until it can be disposed of.
So the part that actually says “Property belonging to the United States?” Just ignore that part. It’s probably about forts and stuff.
As of yet, the law enforcement response has been what you’d have to call “careful and muted,” seeing as how the building was unoccupied, nobody’s being held hostage, and while the militia guys reportedly have a generator and food, they’re not (yet) endangering anyone but their own fool selves. The Oregonian reports that since the occupation is on federal land, the FBI is in charge, with backup from the Harney County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police. Or at least they say it’s on federal land — show us where in the Constitution the government has the power to protect wildlife, huh? Here’s hoping the idiots don’t start tearing up protected wildlife habitat just to prove that We The People have dominion over migratory birds.
As to the media, it is being the media:
Doesn’t that sound like a bunch of hippies held a candlelight vigil for some owls and shit?
Needless to say, Yr Wonkette will keep you up to date on the latest stupidity. In the meantime, you should probably all go buy guns, because everyone needs guns for the coming Revolution, don’t they?