Big trouble in eastern Oregon

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I’d like to offer a summary on the standoff going on out in the eastern part of Oregon. It’s complicated but I’ll try to use adequate sourcing.

The central figures are a father/son team named Hammond. Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and Steven Hammond, 46. They were convicted of arson by a jury, sentenced to time, then re-sentenced because the original judge was deemed to be too lenient. Additional claims that they set the blazes in order to conceal vast poaching were also mentioned.

Arson is a felony and carries a five-year minimum sentence. On Monday the Hammonds reported to a federal prison in California. They committed arson and are doing mandatory five years. End of story.

Important to note: The Hammonds were tried by a jury in Pendleton, Oregon. That’s a good ol’ boy Mecca. Not exactly a tree-hugging liberal bastion. I’ve been to the fantastic rodeo up there - the Pendleton Roundup - with my parents and I’d recommend to everyone. But make no mistake: There’s no way a government railroad job could pass through a jury of rancher peers. No f*&#!@# way.

Then recently the ‘militia’ showed up in Burns, led by the Bundys. This is the family you may remember from a flare-up not long ago in Nevada. The family rails against the government and all. It’s fine. But they came to Oregon to support the Hammonds even though no such request was ever made. They just want the attention.

Now they’ve holed up in a federal faciilty outside Burns. They say they’ll stay as long as it takes, alhough no one’s clear what their demands are other than returning all federal land to ranchers. Not sure how that will happen. They’re basically a bunch of anti-government crackpots looking for a spotlight. Hopefully the FBI will quietly cut off their Internet access, deny food, then offer to fill up their gas tanks if they agree to head home. Problem solved.

I know land disputes between ranchers and the government date all the way back to the beginning of the BLM. I don’t have a dog in that fight. But federal land is maintained for the common good and managed accordingly. Ranchers can graze but can’t exercise absolute control in certain matters (water management, controlled burns, etc.). No way the management of public land will work out perfectly to everyone’s liking. But at least let the government manage range land as best they can. Understand that what’s best for you personally may not necessarily be best for all.

Then this evening I had a lively (but civil) exchange on FB with a good friend and the word ‘terrorism’ came into play. He circulated a petition claiming justice for the Hammonds, who it claimed were convicted of secret terrorism charges. Totally untrue. The claim of terrorism - as noted in the AP report my friend presented as evidence - came from an e-mail sent by Ammon Bundy to stir up reactions. Well done, Ammon.

The terrorism claim is cloudy to me but appears to be part of the original charge. It’s not entirely clear the way that article is written. Poor news writing, I’ll admit it could be clearer. But still. The Wikipedia article on this topic has a better breakdown of the terrorist aspect. It has alot to do with commiting felonies on federal property.

So with that I’d like to point out that a whole bunch of armed (entirely white) folks have seized a federal facility in the United States in support of an arsonist duo who have alrealdy reported to prison.

Two questions come from all this. (Todd, this bit is specifically for you):

  • Do you really want to throw your support behind two convicted arsonists? If you want justice, I’d first ask you to explain how it has not already been administered.
  • And how would you react if this occupation of federal property was going on in suburban Kansas City … and the armed folks were black? Would you be so eager to post petitions in support?

Here’s The Oregonian’s collection of articles. Feel free to read for yourself.