There is a lot of talk today about both the standoff that happened in Oregon by the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom and the NoDAPL standoff in North Dakota.
The Oregon standoff was an effort to bring attention to the Steven and Dwight Hammond case which Ammon Bundy and a large group of ranchers occupied a Federal BLM building in Harney County Oregon (The Malheur Wildlife Refuge), because the so-called leaders of the standoff were exonerated and found not guilty by a jury of their peers in federal court. The case that they were protesting involved a rancher family that the federal government has been attempting to purchase their land in Harney County Oregon for over a decade, and after many declines from the Hammond family, the BLM decided to charge them of a crime of arson after they set controlled burns on their property and then spread to a small piece of land on federal property. It was said that the fire was set to control fire, and to prevent invasive species on their grazing land, which is a practice that is used by both ranchers and the federal government. The fire that ended up on federal land was decided in court actually increased the value of the federal land, and no actual damage was caused. The Hammonds controlled the fires, and put the fires out themselves. Regardless, they were charged with arson, charged a $400,000 fine, and sentenced to roughly a year in prison, which they served. The federal government waited until the statue of limitation had almost expired, and then demanded that the Hammonds be re-sentenced to serve a full 5 year minimum in prison. Which to many attorneys it appeared to be an illegal case of double jeopardy. The case was complicated and drew a lot of outrage, to which point before the Hammonds turned themselves in for prison (again), a group of ranchers from all over the USA arrived in Harney county to petition Sheriff Dave Ward to protect the Hammond from the federal government. This is what led to the standoff after the request fell upon deaf ears. The ranchers held a meeting, and organized a peaceful protest in Burns Oregon, and afterwards several of the ranchers including Ammon and Ryan Bundy decided to occupy the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The standoff lasted for 41 days, and came to an end after being infiltrated by roughly 15 paid FBI informants, one of which was driving the Jeep that Ammon Bundy was in when he was arrested, his name is infamous in the case Mark McConnell, and in court recently, more information came out that there was up to 14 more informants of which the names have not yet been released, however many people have their suspicions of who these informants are. During a trip that the Sheriff of Grant County invited them to a meeting, the driver of the other vehicle Robert LaVoy Finicum was murdered with his hands in the air by the FBI. It was predicted by many that the government would prevail in the case against the protesters, and many of the protesters who were charged took plea deals and will serve many years in prison as a result. On October 27th 2016, the so-called leaders of the occupation (Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan, Shawna Cox, David Fry, Jeff Wayne Banta, Kenneth Medenback, and Neil Wampler) were found not guilty on all charges.
The other major subject in the news today is the Dakota Access Pipeline protest otherwise known as NoDAPL, which hundreds of tribes from all over the USA have gathered to attempt to prevent the Dakota Access pipeline from being installed under many bodies of water including major rivers and lakes in four states.
The protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline has drew thousands of protesters who have camped at the site which is adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Two days ago on the same day that the Oregon protesters were exonerated in Federal court, 117 arrests made as North Dakota cops remove pipeline protesters from private land, protesters were shot and tased, and a horse was killed by police according to many reports. There have been many arrests over the past month, and here have been some high profile people from the media and even a presidential candidate charged with serious crimes such as inciting riots, trespassing and other lesser charges. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now went to the protest to report on the events, and after leaving the site a warrant came out for her arrest for inciting a riot. A judge later rejected the prosecutors charges on the matter. Presidential Candidate Jill Stein and her vice president candidate running mate Ajamu Baraka were charged with trespassing on private property and criminal mischief for spray painting construction equipment. As of now I can not find that there has been any resolution to this case. Another absurd arrest of two filmmakers Deia Schlosberg and Lindsey Grayzel are facing charges of up to 45 years in prison for similar charges as what Amy Goodman was charged with. As of this day, those charges have no been dropped. So-called “water protectors” (NoDAPL protesters) are citing the 1851 treaty of Ft. Laramie declaring the area in North Dakota that is currently in dispute as sovereign tribal land of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The treaty that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is citing, and the protection of land and resources is what ties these two groups closely together. The cowboys cite grazing rights that were purchased with the land that is in dispute in Harney county, and also in Nevada many generations ago, which act similarly as a deed does.
The treaty for sovereignty that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cites via a treaty that was signed in 1851 which is around the same time frame that the ranchers grazing rights had been established is similar to the claims on the land as one another. These rights are worth fighting for by both groups. Both groups are risking their lives and their freedom to stand up for these rights.
My thoughts is that instead of screaming about “white privilege” or “who has it better”, and being divided against each other. That we as humans, stand together against oppressive forces, and reclaim our right to feed ourselves. The ranchers who are fighting for grazing land that they have had deeds to for over 150 years, and tribal land and water rights that the Native tribes are fighting for, is a similar purpose, and the oppressive forces that are working against both groups should be the focus of the change that both groups are seeking.
I made a video presentation about this claim of “white privilege” and I dispel that idea that the Bundy verdict is a sign of white privilege. The ranchers gave up their freedom since January of this year, which is nearly 10 months, they lost jobs, businesses, and endless amounts of financial resources to fight for their fellow ranchers. Robert Lavoy Finicum gave his life to stand up for the Hammon family.
Is it fair to call Ammon Bundy’s verdict of NOT GUILTY “white privilege”? People have said on my social media connections that this verdict is a prime example of white privilege. I disagree and I bet that Lavoy Finicum’s family feel that this is no privilege. Also the 19 defendants that have dealt with all of the court and jail processes, and who have been locked up for the better part of a year, and have suffered sever financial set backs. I bet they don’t feel this is white privilege.
I contest that what these men did was not illegal and the jury agrees. Even if they were found guilty, I would still feel that what they did was legal. So getting exonerated for doing something that is legal, is not a sign of white privilege.
Beyond the privilege issue. I also proved that this activity of going to a public property, such as a state capitol, is not illegal. I had a protest at the Maine State House on the day of Lavoy Finicum’s funeral, on February 5th 2016, and I had my rifle with me at the State Capitol, police confronted me, but did not arrest me. I did nothing wrong and neither did those cowboys.
Reference a letter from Rusty Hammond about the case involving the protesters in Harney county and the Hammond family who they were protesting for. Rusty Hammond declares that the federal government had threatened the Hammond family to disassociate with the Bundy family during the court case.