Terrorist is the New Thug, Character Assassination in Oregon

A father and son, ranchers from Burns, Oregon, are scheduled to report to federal prison on Monday to serve more prison time on top of the time they already served.

Dwight, age 73, faces nearly five additional years in prison. His son Steven, age 46, faces up to four more years.

Now land-rights activists have seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in order to take a stand against the unjust additional imprisonment of Dwight and Steven. They are also protesting how much land the federal government owns.

How much land does the federal government own?

A shit-ton.




What did the Hammonds do?

The Hammonds were convicted of arson in 2012.

According to reason, the ranchers set fire to their property to deal with an overgrowth of invasive juniper trees and sagebrush and make room for grasses for cattle feed according to OregonLive.

Oregon ranchers claim that the Bureau of Land Management has refused to conduct the mandatory environmental studies to deal with invasive weeds and juniper that ruin grazing land. To protect their livestock, it appears the Hammonds decided to act. The fire got out of hand, spread to adjacent federal lands, and required the government to spend $600,000 fighting the blazes.

Why are they going back to prison?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to re-sentence them on antiterrorism charges, arguing that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 required the Hammonds serve mandatory minimum sentences of 5 years. The feds won, and last year, a second federal judge ordered the Hammonds to return to prison on January 4, 2016.

“The verdict sends an important message to those who think that they are above the law,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall.

What’s the takeaway?

Let’s not let who is involved distract us from what’s happening.

Some of the activists occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are racists. They are armed. I’m not saying armed racists should give anyone warm fuzzies.

But remember how every time a black boy is shot in the back his mugshots go up on national news? Some teacher is always called upon to talk about what a “thug” the deceased was. The victim is described as “no angel,” as if only angels deserve to be arrested alive.

Now the media is doing the same to these occupiers. CBS News is calling them terrorists.

We can admit that if they were unarmed, urban black folks the National Guard would already be there.

But that doesn’t mean their cause is unjust. Non-angels deserve freedom and property rights. They deserve not to be imprisoned twice on trumped-up charges.

Character assassination is character assassination. It’s a distraction from the cause, it’s ad hominem, no matter who does it to who or why.

Wise words from Ed Krayewski:

Left-wing Twitter, of course, didn’t label this protest, say, #OccupyMalheur, but #OregonUnderAttack, which implies, incorrectly, that the protesters at Malheur were being violent against the residents of Oregon. There have been no reports of any casualties, clashes, hostages, or deaths. There appears to have been nobody at the outpost the protesters occupied. Bundy told the media he and the protesters plan on occupying the outpost “for years,” and called on like-minded activists, or “patriots,” to join them, but it’s unclear that the protesters have the resources to accomplish a sustained occupation. The local sheriff said multiple agencies are “currently working on a solution.”

You can expect endless “think pieces” and “hot takes” around the idea that the government should crack down on the armed protesters with extreme prejudice—either in the service of equality of police violence or out of a disdain for activists who exercise their Second Amendment rights, as well as calls to identify the protesters as “terrorists” for having the audacity to use guns in their demonstration. (Semi-related: as a student at Columbia, Eric Holder participated in an “armed” takeover of an ROTC office.)

Such arguments, as always, only serve to provide legitimacy for future acts of government violence. Self-proclaimed people of conscience interested in reducing and even eliminating excessive state violence should not make exceptions just because government violence might satiate their sectarian desires or partisan agendas, because those exceptions easily become the rule by being exploited by other sectarians and partisans.


I think we should call out double standards. On both sides. Occupation isn’t violence. It’s speech. It wasn’t violent when it was Wall Street and it isn’t violent now.

Let’s talk about unfair imprisonment, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

But most of all, we can’t stand by afraid and let fear lead to violence. The Federal Government must stand down and work with the protesters. We have to avoid another Ruby Ridge.


  1. Patrick PH

    “But remember how every time a black boy is shot in the back his mugshots go up on national news? Some teacher is always called upon to talk about what a “thug” the deceased was. The victim is described as “no angel,” as if only angels deserve to be arrested alive.

    Now the media is doing the same to these occupiers. CBS News is calling them terrorists.”

    The equivalence ends at the point you realize that, luckily, none of the racists have yet to be shot. Thus, calling them racists is not used as implied justice for why their dead would be okay.
    It’s used to justify what they deserve: arrest. Vigilantism is among the most undemocratic things there are. If you disagree with the law, you don’t resort to this kind intimidation to overturn it regardless of if you’re BLM protester or a Bundy. An armed occupation added with the threat of lethal force if anyone tries to drag you out from where you don’t belong is intimidation. Using intimidation to achieve your political aims is at least half the component of what terrorism is.

    • Josh

      A large majority of government is never elected. The BLM, the board, the policy decisions are all made completely independent from electors. Your argument falls flat.

      Government is the essence of intimidation. Why is one better than the other? And if one is better than the other, why is it the one who intimidated first?

      • Patrick PH

        “A large majority of government is never elected”

        The part that passed the laws relevant to this case were.

        “Why is one better than the other?”

        Because in one of them you at least have some democratic input. We might disagree on exactly how much, but it is unarguably more in one that than it is in the other.

  2. “According to reason, the ranchers set fire to their property to deal with an overgrowth of invasive juniper trees and sagebrush and make room for grasses for cattle feed according to OregonLive. … The fire got out of hand, spread to adjacent federal lands, and required the government to spend $600,000 fighting the blazes.”

    According to both that OregonLive article and the US Attorney’s Office, the 2001 fire was set on Federal land. The Hammonds were leasing the land from the Feds, but that doesn’t make it “their property.”

    So it seems like Reason magazine was spinning this story to make the Hammonds look better than what they are.

    I agree with you that calling these folks terrorists is unjustified.

    On the other hand, they’ve said that they’ll defend themselves violently if anyone tries to arrest them. That makes them different from the BLM protesters. It’s not unreasonable to consider protesters who threaten violence different from protesters who don’t.

  3. If you get 100 people together, regardless of their races, you’re bound to have some racists in the bunch. There is no reason to believe that this group is any more (or less) racist than the general population. Their numbers include people of color, according to pictures I have seen. Race is completely unrelated to anything going on there. And if you look at Clive Bundy’s “racist” statement, what he said was that the government treats black people badly, and that it is “perhaps worse than slavery”. The media painted him as a racist because he was Conservative, and the media will, if possible, cast any Conservative or Libertarian as a racist, regardless of the truth of that proposition.

  4. Clint O

    There’s nothing wrong with protesting stupidity like mandatory minimums or trumped up charges for the fires they started.

    But to seize property that’s not yours and attempt to justify that? That sort of screams, “Two wrongs do not make a right.”

  5. Mike

    The government has never accused the Hammonds of terrorism and they are not being resentenced under antiterrorism charges. The federal law that covers arson is the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. That’s the statute you have to use to bring a federal arson case (unless it’s maritime related) and neither means you’re charging anyone with terrorism or sentencing anyone to death. This isn’t a misuse of antiterrorism legislation, it’s using the appropriate statute to bring the charges based on the crime that was committed.

    Also, your piece ignores the fact that in 1999 after they set their first fire that burned public land, the BLM sent them a letter warning them that they would be held responsible for future negligent burning that resulted in damage. Even if we take the Hammonds at their word that they were just clearing land rather than trying to cover up a crime, the 2001 fire that got out of control was already their second offense. The third fire in 2006 was set on public land, during a burn ban, and in an area that directly threatened firefighters. Regardless of the intentions, at the very least that fire alone was criminally negligent.

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