Tag Archives: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Should We Expand The War on Terror to Oregon?

By Anya Parampil, Anchor/Correspondent at RT America

As the occupation by a group of armed, militia-style far-right activists led by Ammon Bundy dragged on at a federal wildlife refuge in rural Oregon, some began to demand that the mainstream media label the occupiers as “terrorists.” Commenters like Wajahat Ali at the Guardian and Janell Ross at the Washington Post homed in on the blanket descriptions of Muslims as potential violent extremists and black protesters as “thugs,” questioning why it didn’t apply the same sort of politically charged label to the white militia types carrying out a subversive action in Oregon.

Juliette Kayyem, a Department of Homeland Security Advisory Committee member and CNN National Security contributor, went a step further, arguing that the Oregon occupiers were terrorists “by any definition.” Kayyem did not offer any definition of terrorism, however, nor did she put forward a coherent strategy for flushing out those guilty of such a grave federal crime. While warning against a disproportionate Waco-style raid on the wildlife refuge, Kayyem simultaneously argued for a “show of federal force.” Despite having promoted herself as a “Security Mom,” it seemed that Kayyem had not fully thought through the consequences of designating a motley band of armed rightists as terrorists, or how such a label would lead to a favorable outcome.

Someone who knows through first-hand experience the consequences of expanding the definition of terrorism to advance the state’s short-term political imperatives is Will Potter. An experienced environmental activist and acclaimed investigative journalist, Potter testified before Congress in 2006 about the anti-democratic impact of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which labeled many animal rights activists who engaged in direct action against factory farms and laboratories that practiced animal testing as terrorists. He argued that the law, which was the product of heavy lobbying by the agricultural industry, would do nothing to deter radical animal rights activism while needlessly ruining the lives of committed activists, dooming them to decades in prison for crimes that harmed no one.

On January 6, I interviewed Potter on RT America about the wildlife refuge occupation in Oregon and asked him about the potential consequences of the media, and by extension, the federal government designating Bundy and his men as “terrorists.”

“If there’s anything I walked away with [in writing my book],” Potter remarked to me, “it’s that the term [terrorist] is always used as a political weapon against the enemy of the hour. It’s a malleable term that can be manipulated and distorted based on the whims of whoever is in power… those power systems can change. And when people in power have the authority to label animal rights and environmental activists as terrorists and also label militia groups or others because of their politics it just expands that scope even further.”

“It can redefine people within the prison system,” Potter says of the term, and can lead to them being sent to “experimental prison units for people classified as ‘terrorists.’” Potter has identified the war on terror as a revival of the Red Scare, explaining how McCarthyite tactics are used to identify leftist dissidents and Muslim activists as terrorists— and how they are ultimately jailed together at maximum security federal Communications Management Units. He is the only investigative journalist to gain access to CMUs.

Potter went on to urge journalists to exercise restraint in using the word “terrorist,” rather than expanding it in an attempt to undermine the ranchers in Oregon. Potter explained that “the media coverage of the standoff has failed in the regard that it hasn’t been describing these armed militia groups as what they are,” which he described as “an armed resistance movement.”

Watch my full interview with Potter here:

DONEGAN: Ore. Protest Reaction Shows War on Terror Is Tearing America Apart

As around a dozen armed protesters gathered at the unoccupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon, angry over the federal government’s resentencing of local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond in an arson case related to locally-controversial Bureau of Land Management regulations on land use, the mainstream media cast aside its journalistic responsibility and instead took on the more profitable role of a fight promoter.

The sum of the deceptive click-bait headlines swirling through the news cycle painted the event as that of a 150-man armed militia storming a “federal building” at gunpoint and seizing it, a choice of words that seemed to de-emphasize the fact that the protest was taking place at a small, unoccupied welcome center to a wildlife refuge with no one at the time under any imminent danger and instead called to mind an invasion of a federal building like the one targeted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

[RELATED: Armed Protesters Occupy Oregon Wildlife Refuge Headquarters]

Consequently, the Twitter hashtag #YallQaeda emerged, oddly implying that this distinctly western dispute has something to do with the deep south where the word “y’all” is a part of the common vernacular, with some social media users rallying behind it and implying or directly stating that the protesters are domestic terrorists.

To be fair, some of the commentators were equipped with good points: it is undeniably true that people of color face disproportionately higher rates of police abuse. It is undeniably the case that police reforms need to take place across the country to ensure that African Americans, for example, are not assumed to be a threat to law enforcement just on the basis of race.

It is also certainly the case that the War on Terror has driven America to a hysterical level of suspicion towards Muslims, and this has created a civil rights crisis. In setting aside the classification “terrorist” as distinct from all other alleged crimes in how the federal government’s due process rights apply, Muslims have been executed without a trial (in the case of then 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki), denied the right to fly without due process, and detained indefinitely without charges.

However, these are good arguments for ending mandatory minimums in the case of the disproportionate numbers of people of color being incarcerated under the War on Drugs, not an argument for applying mandatory minimums to the Hammond family in the interest of fairness. These are also good arguments for repealing the War on Drugs and the War on Terror and their assaults against the human rights traditions of American jurisprudence, not arguments for strengthening and extending these abuses to additional demographic categories to even the score.

The dream of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement was to extend American freedom and opportunity to everyone, not to expand race-based crackdowns to all Americans.

Conservatives should learn a lesson from what is happening in Oregon. Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem about the rise of Naziism in Germany specifically — and the erosion of civil liberties more generally — warned, “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew… Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

For every meme a conservative shares on social media characterizing Black Lives Matter protesters as thugs or local Muslims attempting to break ground on a new mosque as terrorists, it must be assumed that there will be an equal and opposite number of people subsequently calling for open carry protesters or pro-lifers to be shot on sight or incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay.

The government could very well referee this conflict by some day giving both sides what they want.

On the other hand, in supporting the application of mandatory minimums to the Hammond family against a judge’s objections and characterizing protesters gathering on federal property and refusing to leave as an insurrection, many left-leaning commentators are by precedent calling for an undoing of the hard work that has been done so far to affect criminal justice reform in this country and are putting future Black Lives Matter protesters who might want to make their point by gathering on federal property and refusing to leave at risk of being victimized by state violence.

Instead of looking for more reasons to define more people as terrorists, all Americans should be working together to restore due process rights. This division among the American people might have been exactly what bin Laden wanted in attacking the U.S. in the first place.

Armed Protesters Occupy Oregon Wildlife Refuge Headquarters

A group of armed protesters have occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, in support of two ranchers who are scheduled to begin serving prison sentences on Monday for arson charges.

Dwight Hammond, 73, served three months and his son Steven Hammond, 46, served one year in prison after the two were convicted of arson in 2012 for lighting fires on the refuge in 2001 and 2006. The Hammonds stated that they started the fires to “reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires.”

While the Hammonds were able to argue in 2012 that the five-year mandatory minimum sentence that usually comes with charges of arson on federal land was “unconstitutional”, Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled in Oct. 2015 that the Hammonds must each serve the mandatory five years.

Ammon Bundy, the son of rancher Cliven Bundy of Nevada, took to the Bundy Ranch Facebook page on Thursday asking supporters to come out to the refuge and encouraged “patriots” to “stand up not stand down.”

“I am wanting to talk to the individual, to the patriot,” Bundy said. “This is not a time to stand down. It is a time to stand up and come to Harney county. We need your help, and we’re asking for it. No matter what your leader says, no matter what they’re saying, you need to draw your own conclusions. You need to get to Burns on the second or before.”

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward issued a statement Saturday night claiming that following a “peaceful rally” during the day, a group of “outside militants” seized the refuge headquarters, which is federal property managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After the peaceful rally was completed today, a group of outside militants drove to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, where they seized and occupied the refuge headquarters,” Ward said. “A collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution. For the time being please stay away from that area. More information will be provided as it becomes available. Please maintain a peaceful and united front and allow us to work through this situation.”

Also on Saturday night, during a telephone interview from inside the building, brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy told the Oregonian that they had as many as 100 supporters with them, and they were not looking to hurt anyone. However, they said that they “would not rule out violence if police tried to remove them.” 

“The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds,” Ammon Bundy said. “We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”