Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Brand Thorton, 63, of California, has joined militants at the Malheur National Wildlife headquarters in Burns. In this picture, he can be seen blowing into an African spiral horn. (Photo by Mark Graves, The Oregonian/OregonLive.com)

Brand Thorton, 63, of California, has joined militants at the Malheur National Wildlife headquarters in Burns. In this picture, he can be seen blowing into an African spiral horn.  (Photo by Mark Graves, The Oregonian/OregonLive.com)

Rightwing Terrorism on Display as Militants in Oregon Beckon Reinforcements

"Bundy and his followers are just your average angry white 'freedom fighters,' who use weapons and ammunition to protect the U.S. constitution and American values."

Lauren McCauley

Vowing to resist the "tyranny" of the federal government and defend themselves against law enforcement, armed militants on Monday continued their occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon.

As the group issued calls to ranchers and other supporters on social media for reinforcement, the standoff for many has underscored the unique treatment afforded to white, conservative terrorists.

The group's ongoing occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has prompted local officials to close schools in Harney County for the week after Ammon Bundy—son of notorious Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy—posted a Facebook video late Sunday calling for additional support.

"I know what we did is right, I know the Lord is involved, and I know we are going to see great things come from this," Bundy said of the Saturday takeover of the refuge headquarters.

"But we do still need you," Bundy continued, saying that the occupation "needs more of a defense" so that "no one comes down upon us."

On Monday, Bundy reiterated that threat, telling reporters that those occupying the refuge "would defend themselves against an attack by law enforcement."

Despite these threats, The Oregonian reports that "the scene can hardly be described as a standoff. The 20 or so militants at the refuge come and go as they please. No police were apparent Sunday anywhere between Burns and the 30-mile drive to the refuge."

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said the FBI has been monitoring the situation and is in "close coordination" with the state police and the Harney County Sheriff’s Office.

This seemingly hands-off response to the situation in Oregon stands in stark contrast to what many believe have been excessive reactions by law enforcement in recent years.

The national guard has been deployed against peaceful protests in both Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, among others. And in 2015 alone, police killed an estimated 223 people who weren't even carrying a weapon.

Pointing to this disparity, columnist Wajahat Ali noted with sarcasm that "of course" the militants in Oregon are not "terrorists."

"Bundy and his followers are just your average angry white 'freedom fighters,' who use weapons and ammunition to protect the U.S. constitution and American values from the government and other Americans who want them to abide by federal laws like everyone else," Ali wrote in the Guardian on Monday.

"But if Bundy and his followers were like the 38% of Americans who aren’t white, people across America wouldn’t be watching this surreal, dangerous episode unfold and wondering what they could do to be labeled a 'militia' when occupying a federal area with guns instead of 'terrorists”,' 'thugs,' 'extremists' or 'gangs,'" he continued. 

In fact, Ali argued, if the Oregon gang was comprised of Muslims or people of color they would likely not be alive to grow their ranks and continue to issue threats.

Meanwhile, the muted language used by corporate media to report on the current insurgency has drawn additional scrutiny.

"The descriptions of events in Oregon appear to reflect the usual shape of our collective assumptions about the relationship between race and guilt—or religion and violent extremism—in the United States," Washington Post reporter Jannell Ross wrote Monday. "White Americans, their activities and ideas seem always to stem from a font of principled and committed individuals."

In fact, the impetus for the armed insurrection—the federal government's "tyranny" over land which allegedly belongs to Oregon landholders and ranchers—has drawn critique from Native American groups who say that the land in question had been formally reserved for the Northern Paiute before the tribe was "scattered" in the late 1800's and the reservation slotted for alternative federal use.

Rather being elevated as an act of "anti-government sentiment," columnist Charles Pierce argues that the media and law enforcement should be treating the Oregon standoff for what it is.

"This is an act of armed sedition against lawful authority. That is all that it is, and that is quite enough," Pierce writes. "These are men with guns who have declared themselves outside the law. These are men with guns who have taken something that belongs to all of us."

"These are traitors and thieves who got away with this dangerous nonsense once, and have been encouraged to get away with it again," he adds, concluding: "It does us no good to ignore what is going on in this obscure little corner of the Pacific Northwest. It does us no good to refuse to hold to account the politics that led to this, and the politicians who sought to profit from it."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Utterly Obscene': Just 8 Pfizer and Moderna Investors Became $10 Billion Richer After Omicron Emerged

"Pharma execs and shareholders are making a killing from a crisis they helped to create," said one justice campaigner.

Jon Queally ·


Ilhan Omar Calls Kevin McCarthy 'A Liar and a Coward' for Refusing to Condemn Boebert's Islamophobia

"This is who they are," said the Minnesota Democrat. "And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry."

Jon Queally ·


'Congress Must Act': Bernie Sanders Demands End of Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

"We must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country. And if there aren't 60 votes to do it, and there are not, we must reform the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."

Jon Queally ·


Human Rights Defenders Warn Biden Border Policy 'Quickly Transforming Into Trump 2.0'

Like his predecessor, President Joe Biden now being accused of "using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Jon Queally ·


'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo