OPINION — What would happen if a group of heavily armed Muslim extremists took over a federal building in the United States?
How long would it take for the National Guard to be called out to take control? Seconds, I guarantee.
What would happen if a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun was confronted by police while walking near an inner city recreation center in a place like, oh, let’s say Cleveland?
Now, let’s also mention that the 911 caller told police that the young man was “probably” a juvenile and that it was fairly clear that the weapon was a toy.
That child was shot within two seconds of police arriving at the scene by a cop who had resigned from a smaller police department after being found unfit for duty and recommended for dismissal. Oh, yeah, even after decisive evidence, including video surveillance, a grand jury would clear that same cop of any criminal charges.
We’ve seen the police roll onto the scene with armored vehicles, automatic weapons and a host of other anti-personnel military weaponry in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, to use against protesters and media members.
So, why were a bunch of heavily armed white extremists allowed to take over a building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, without much of a challenge?
And, in the name of all that is good and decent, why is the media whitewashing this thing by referring to these people as a “right-wing militia” group instead of calling them what they are: domestic terrorists?
It took no time for the media to describe the two killers in San Bernardino, California, as terrorists.
It took even less time for the media — even those news people not on the scene — to label the protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore as “thugs” and “criminals” way before the situation turned sour.
I think the answer to that is embarrassingly clear.
And, while we’re at it, I must stress that I am not advocating that the police or military should have rushed into that Oregon building and started killing its occupants, loosely called the “Bundy Militia.” Quite the contrary, I always hope cooler heads prevail.
But, I also see this as a bit of extremism equal to that of Middle East terrorists who are quite willing to become martyrs for their cause.
Of course we are familiar with this bunch from when they got into a standoff with the feds in Bunkerville, Nevada, when the feds came after Cliven Bundy for dunning the government on a $1 million tab he refused to pay for illegal grazing. Bundy’s son, Ammon, is the leader of the bunch that headed to Oregon to further its beef with the federal government.
The Bundys enlisted a crew of domestic terrorists to draw down on a federal law enforcement team two years ago when 145,604 acres of federal land in Clark County, Nevada, were temporarily closed for the “capture, impound and removal of trespass cattle” belonging to the family that were allegedly grazing illegally on a parcel called the Bunkerville Allotment.
At first, Cliven Bundy became the poster child for the far right.
He masked his actions in language that resonated with a number of anti-government militia outfits who rushed to his aid, going as far as to take offensive sniper positions against federal officers who had come to shut down access to the land and confiscate Bundy’s cattle that had migrated onto it.
It was a bust, of course, when federal law enforcement officers moved away from the confrontation.
It didn’t let Bundy off the hook as he keeps adding to his tab instead of settling his bill. But, just to put matters into perspective, most ranchers pay their grazing bills.
According to a piece in Portland’s “Oregonian,” excluding Bundy’s bill, the total of all late grazing fees owed nationwide was a paltry $237,000. So, despite all the posturing and propaganda, ranchers weren’t terribly upset about grazing fees.
How it routed itself to Oregon is a result of protests over sentencing for Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond.
In 2012, the two men were convicted of arson for lighting fires on government rangeland in Oregon to cover poaching violations and were sentenced to a year or less in a federal prison. Federal prosecutors argued that the men should have received the mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
Last October, the government won its case and the men were ordered to report to a federal prison in San Pedro, California, Monday to serve the remainder of their sentences.
Protesters assembled in Burns, Oregon, over the weekend and while Hammond and his son seemed to appreciate the show of support, they backed away from endorsing the takeover of the reserve.
After a peaceful march through town, heavily armed militia members separated themselves from the protest and took over the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building.
As a result, the refuge has been closed indefinitely and all land management agencies in the vicinity have been temporarily shut down, with employees being instructed to work from alternative sites or placed on administrative leave.
Officials have also closed the local school district until Jan. 11.
The bottom line is that we all can find reasons to be upset with the government, whether at the local, state or federal level.
We can all find a reason to protest, to feel as if we are not being represented.
But, is this ongoing feud with the government something that should result in repeated armed showdowns between these homegrown terrorists and the law?
There is no excuse or even remote bit of reasoning that can justify the actions of these disturbed minds.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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