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On the Militia Takeover in Harney County, Oregon

Posted by Jamee Greer at Jan 21, 2016 07:00 PM |

The political fire of 2016 is off to a roaring start, fueled by state legislative sessions meeting, the anticipation of the Presidential election, and an armed takeover of federal land in southeastern Oregon. The Bundy Militia is just a recent iteration of a decades-long extremist movements. Make no mistake -- this isn’t coming out of nowhere -- this is a movement. What exactly is happening in Harney County? What’s the bigger picture? What else can you do? Click to learn more.

On the Militia Takeover in Harney County, Oregon

"Armed protesters don't belong here," said Charlotte Rodrique, Burns Paiute Tribal Chair. (Image: ROP)

Happy New Year! The political fire of 2016 is off to a roaring start, fueled by state legislative sessions meeting, the anticipation of the Presidential election, and an armed takeover of federal land in southeastern Oregon.

The Bundy Militia is just a recent iteration of a decades-long extremist movements. Their presence in Harney County precedes the January 2nd takeover of the Wildlife Refuge, as Oath Keepers and other Militia members sought to organize local support for their cause of defying federal authority. The situation in Harney County prompts us to better understand the history – and trajectory – of the Militia movement. 

Make no mistake -- this isn’t coming out of nowhere -- this is a movement. They were in Josephine County in April at the Sugar Pine Mine with an armed encampment; they were in Roseburg in April when President Obama came to town; and now they’re in Harney County.

The present day situation has roots in the “Wise Use” and Posse-Comitatus movements that Western States Center researched, exposed, and organized to counter in the mid-1990s. The reemergence of these extremist organizations is a reminder of the deep ideological divides that do go unaddressed when our organizing overlooks entire geographies and communities. History, repeating.

What exactly is happening in Harney County?

Some excellent sources of information are Rural Organizing Project, which has been on the ground in Burns and is working with local community members to address this crisis, as well as the long term economic challenges that Militia organizers saw an opening to exploit. Talking points about the situation are on the ROP website, and there are regular updates being posted on ROP's Facebook page. The Burns Paiute Tribe has been vocal in their opposition to the Militia presence and the irony of Militia connections to the concept of “Sovereign Citizens” while the majority of the country doesn’t understand Tribal Sovereignty. (To learn more about what Tribal Sovereignty is, visit this video produced by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.)

What’s the bigger picture?

For more information about the extremist right movements go to Political Research Associates (directed by former Center staffer Tarso Ramos, who led the Center’s “Wise Use” research). PRA is working to connect the actors in this flash-point across the continuum of the religious, corporate, and political Right. Also check out the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights which has a number of pieces looking more closely at the White Supremacist ties of the Militia movement.

As we have seen a loss of public infrastructure (law enforcement, emergency response, etc.) in rural communities, Militia and “patriot” groups are positioning themselves as the alternative. Regardless of how soon the Militia situation in Harney County is resolved, the economic distress of Harney is typical of rural America. If our economic strategies and organizing strategies continue to relegate rural communities to the bottom of the list, the extremist Right will find fertile ground to organize.

The Center’s history of Fighting the Right is moving us to support conversations about these challenges. If you would like to be involved in those kinds of conversations and strategy sessions, please drop us a note and we’ll keep you in the loop.

What else can you do? 

GIVE.

We encourage you to also give money to the folks on the front lines in Oregon. Your gifts to Rural Organizing Project are incredibly important right now. 

Give online by visiting www.rop.org! 

SIGN.

Also consider adding your name to the growing list of individuals and organizations expressing support for rural Oregonians who oppose the current occupation of the Federal Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center in Harney County, Oregon:

Rural Communities Against the Occupation at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge - Petition (SURJ and ROP)

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