When the Raw Story visited the Bundy bunch inside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge they were calling for a revolution against the federal government. Rifle-toting supporters said, “ I’m here to fight for freedom and get our Constitution back,” and “I would support this to the death, literally.”
Now eight months after their occupation came to an end the government case has ended in a jury acquitting the two Bundy brothers and five other supporters on all charges but one, including the main one of conspiracy. The government failed to prove the Bundy Bunch “had engaged in an illegal conspiracy that kept federal workers — employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management — from doing their jobs.”
The jury’s logic is not known yet, but it is a double standard that almost certainly turns on race. If a group of heavily armed Muslim Americans or Black Lives Matter activists seized public facilities and land, the government would have rushed in with all guns blazing and anyone who survived would be locked up for life. The record of post-9/11 terror prosecutions is littered with hundreds of cases of entrapment, paid informants, and “fake terror plots.”
For more than a decade the feds have also prosecuted similarly flimsy cases against environmental, animal-rights, and Occupy Wall Street activists, known as the “Green Scare.” Numerous peaceful activists have been sentenced to prison for more than a decade for little more than conversations egged on by paid FBI provocateurs. Even in cases where violence was planned, no one was ever injured and it was often completely instigated and organized by the government.
But when it comes to the Bundys, they actively planned the illegal armed takeover. At least two months before the refuge occupation began Jan. 2, 2016, the Bundys visited local sheriff Dave Ward and warned him to prevent two local ranchers convicted of arson from going to federal prison. According to Ward, the Bundys said they would “bring hundreds of people to town [and] attempt to overpower or overthrow my authority as sheriff.”
Inside Malheur, in a two-hour conversation with Ammon Bundy in his pickup truck, when this reporter pointed out their intent was to spark a violent uprising against the government, he did not deny it. Militia members openly carried weapons on federal land, which is illegal, and the Raw Story witnessed the militia stealing and damaging government equipment, violating the law in tearing up sensitive archeological sites, and building barricades and bunkers for an apocalyptic showdown. The Bundys also set up a kangaroo court to indict, try, convict, and remove government officials from office.
Yet according to the jury the government did not prove a conspiracy. Meanwhile, halfway across the country in North Dakota, a huge force of police and private security are viciously attacking Native Americans peacefully protecting their land from the ravages of the oil and gas industry.
The Bundy case is more proof of the well-documented racial bias embedded in the jury system. The notion that an armed militia with snipers stationed in the watchtower, blockading all road into the refuge and vowing to die for their cause did not impede federal workers from doing their job is as absurd as it sounds and is an indictment of the deep racial biases in America.
The silver lining is the Bundy brothers and their father still face trial for their violent confrontation in Nevada with government officials in 2014 over their refusal to pay $1 million in overdue grazing fees on federal lands.
The Bundy acquittal will embolden violent right-wing militias to seize other public lands, especially West of the Rockies where there is a movement funded by the Koch Brothers to undermine federal control of huge swaths of land.
Undoubtedly these violent militias will be aided and abetted by legions of Trump’s supporters calling for a “violent revolution” if Clinton wins the presidency as expected. The government’s hands-off approach toward the militia movement is a failure. This isn’t a call for more repression as used against Muslims, African-Americans, and left-wing activists. It’s a demand the government protect the public and its lands from the growing threat of right-wing terrorism.
Arun Gupta contributes to The Washington Post, YES! Magazine, In These Times, The Progressive, Telesur, and The Nation. He is author of the forthcoming, Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste, from The New Press. Follow him @arunindy or email at arun_dot_indypendent_at_gmail_dot_com.