In 2001 and 2006, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven started brush fires on federal property, which they claimed were attempts to combat invasive plants on their property. The two were convicted of arson and served time in prison: 3 months and one year, respectively. This year, they were summoned for an additional four years to meet minimum sentencing lawsIn 2001 and 2006, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven started brush fires on federal property, which they claimed were attempts to combat invasive plants on their property. The two were convicted of arson and served time in prison: three months and one year, respectively. This year, they were summoned for an additional four years to meet minimum sentencing laws.
The response was a protesting group led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who believe that our government is exceeding its boundaries in regards to land possession. The group has since occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building in Burns, Oregon and –due to their aggressive behavior– are being called a militia. Regardless of their claims, the methods they employ and the hostility they express will not solve any problems and only create them.
While they have quarreled with the government and have the right to express their opinion on the matter, a virulent use of force is completely unnecessary: members of this group have the ability to continue protesting peacefully, as well as the undeniable right to petition the government, remaining in the confines of the law and avoiding harmful disputes while being able to share their perspective.
Instead, they have presented themselves as a potential threat to our nation’s stability and peace. This only harms their pursuits, as any chance of compliance with the government has dissolved, and their desires will be drowned by a public perspective of terror.
Furthermore, their actions have yielded a negative response. Their prolonged occupation instilled a fear of their presence, prompting Harney County School District 3 to close until Jan. 11, revoking their students of the safe environment that furthers their education. Social media has, mockingly or not, associated them with terrorism, and some have even declared them as such. While this may not have been a goal of their venture, their antagonistic conduct has illustrated this view.
It is apparent that the group has not utilized violence, nor have been explicitly malevolent; one could even argue that they are not harming others. It is true that they have yet to use violent force, but they are harming the community around them.
The schools aren’t the only victims: the employees of the occupied building are inhibited of work, the city of Burns is tired of their presence impeding their way of life and the everlasting connotation their city will garner, and law enforcement is having to progress slowly to avoid an escalation to a deadly confrontation.
The final conflict shows how the potential for violence is manifested in their demeanor. Whether or not they truly wish to remain peaceful is irrelevant, their disconnect from the government and their show of occupation makes them a group with uncertain capabilities, and if their animosity does not reach violent means, then their influence could easily persuade others to act radically. Unless they vacate the wildlife building and protest lawfully, they are a peril we do not need.
Thus, we must continue to make it indubitably known that their occupation is not welcome and criticize their actions. Yet, we must also allow them to retain their expression by providing alternatives that will not cause such intolerable calamity. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino attacks and the other conflicts we face today, there is no desire for another issue to be added onto our list when it could be settled without terrorizing a nation that has enough to recover from. Our unity and the tools at our disposal can end this matter peacefully: whether it be counter-protests, social media, news, or television. With these actions, we can make our exhaust heard the way they should have. If one part of our country is under unlawful, threatening occupation, then the entirety of the United States is under occupation, and we must say no more.