Civil Disobedience Or Armed Revolt? Depends On Who You Are

A jury verdict in Portland, Ore., a few weeks ago was all but obscured in the news by the presidential campaign.

That’s unfortunate, because the verdict falls into the same “oh, you’ve got to be kidding” category as the acquittal of O.J. Simpson on murder charges in 1995.

The Oregon jurors found brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five sympathizers not guilty of federal charges in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The 187,000-acre refuge has been assembled through purchases by the federal government since 1908.

There was no question the Bundy brothers and about 25 armed militants took control of the refuge for 41 days in January and February, keeping officials and the public out at gunpoint.

There was no question the mob damaged government property there.

And there’s no question the participants believe the federal government lacks the authority under the Constitution to own and manage public lands in the United States.

But federal prosecutors either failed to adequately present the government’s case against this group of thugs or jurors chose to interpret the evidence to fit their own desired outcome.

There are legitimate concerns the verdict will embolden copycats who believe they are entitled to express their views from the butt end of a rifle with thousands of rounds of ammunition at their side.

The Bundy brothers are no strangers to expressing their anti-government opinions with guns drawn.

Their father, Clive Bundy, led an armed standoff in Nevada in 2014 when federal agents tried to seize his cattle that had been grazing illegally on federal range land for years without him paying the required grazing fees like other ranchers pay.

New York Times columnist Andrew Rosenthal pretty well summed up the lack of public outrage over the takeover in Oregon. “If the ringleader were named Hassan instead of Bundy, the right-wing circus on the presidential campaign trail would have been demanding a nuclear response,” he wrote in January.

Former talk show host Montel William said of the verdicts, “Apparently it’s legal in America for heavily armed white terrorists to invade Oregon. Imagine if black folk did this.”

And Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for president, contrasted the verdict in Portland with the response to protests in North Dakota by Native Americans and environmentalists: “Something is wrong when an armed Oregon standoff faces no consequences and Dakota Access Pipeline protestors are attacked for protecting water.”

There has been plenty of anti-government rhetoric coming from politicians this year. The last thing we need is people who share a view that the government is too big thinking the Oregon verdict gives them a green light to make their views known at gunpoint on federal lands and federal facilities.

The Portland Oregonian, the largest newspaper in that state, said, “The verdict is beyond unsatisfying. It signals to any knucklehead in America that trespassing on government property, and trashing publicly owned facilities and equipment, is an action that can be beat.”

The takeover of the Malheur refuge has led to an increase in the number of assaults and death threats against federal employees in the West. “It’s gotten to the point where we do active-shooter drills,” an administrator for the federal Bureau of Land Management said.

The Bundy brothers and their sympathizers like to portray themselves as patriots who are engaging in civil disobedience. But actual patriots know the Constitution provides a way for people to bring about change. That is through legislation.

If enough people share the view of the Bundy brothers — and there’s no evidence this is true — they can persuade senators and representatives to pass laws to require the federal government to divest its ownership of federal forests and federal grasslands.

Our nation has a history of civil disobedience. Think of the civil rights movement and the protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Disobeying the law, even with the best intentions, carries an understanding that there will be legal consequences.

Thousands of civil rights activists and anti-war demonstrators suffered those consequences — fines and jail time — in their quest to persuade a majority of Americans to view those issues as the activists did.

If protesters arm themselves and signal to authorities that they won’t hesitate to use those weapons, then civil disobedience has morphed into armed revolt. That needs to be punished by our judicial system, the botched verdict in Oregon notwithstanding.

There still is hope. The Bundy brothers and their father will be in federal court in Nevada in February for a trial on criminal charges growing out of the 2014 standoff.

However, there’s no sign the family or its followers are inclined to alter their strategy for bringing change.

Ryan Bundy told reporters, “The government should be scared. The land does not belong to the government.”

Unfortunately, that view, when coupled with the Bundys’ affinity for firearms, means bloodshed is likely to be the ultimate result of this dispute.

Unfortunately, the Bundys’ view of our system of government is seriously warped.


by Randy Evans
Posted 11/15/16
Photo via Gage Skidmore

6 Comments on "Civil Disobedience Or Armed Revolt? Depends On Who You Are"

  • These nincompoops were just smart enough to walk a fine line with the exception of one. Just what the idiot lawyers representing BLM thought by charging them with more serious offences instead of lesser indefectible charges easily proven makes one scratch his head. Where the lawyer’s thinking that if they could make a big case out of this, that it would be good for their own futures, perhaps, and not out of the realm of possibilities nowadays. What should have been a verdict of what you sow, you will reap, for the defendants, turned out to be a loss due to arrogance, and overreach by government lawyers! In the end based on the charges prosecuted the right verdict was concluded. There is a lesson in this for both sides, hopefully the government lawyers learn more than the defendants did.

  • This election result is the final victory of Ronald Reagan, when I first encountered Reagan Democrats as I gave an analyses the election for a Maryland UAW meeting in Baltimore. When we returned to Iowa (Ottumwa) I got my first exercise with modern Iowa politics. I joined the Wapello county Central committee and was confronted with self identified Democrats but had no idea about what the Democratic party was created or core Democratic principles. These so-called Democrats kept espousing Republican principles. I was disgusted.

  • So in response the Democratic Party is sending out is worst and dimmest to riot, burn cars, break glass and beat up innocent citizens. The Democratic Party is supporting BLM when they chant “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Right now!”

    The Democratic Party went to the mat to support Hillary Clinton breaking untold laws with her private email server and the Clinton Foundation. They filled the DNC with corruption cheating Bernie Sanders out of the nomination.

    Stop defending breaking the law!

    • You do know that this country is full of wackos on both sides, and that its up to the saine folks to come together, compromise, and move forward, something we have failed to do for the last eight years. As for our state we are now completely one sided, and history has shown that this makes for poor decisions overall, but its hard, or nearly impossible to fix stupidity!

      • Ken saying there are wackos on both sides does not diminish the damage being done to our youth by this nonsense. The silence by the leadership on the Part of the Democratic Party on the subject id deafening.

        We will see if what Republicans can accomplish. There at least now will be debate in the State Senate rather than dictatorship.

  • We now see President Obama enabling and supporting the violence from Germany. He has embarrassed the US by not calling out the violence, hatred and ignoring the rule of law. As the Democratic Party leader he is setting a horrible standard for our youth.

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