For Immediate Release
Ballots Not Bullets Coalition Calls for Laws to Be Enforced in Oregon Standoff
WASHINGTON - The Ballots Not Bullets Coalition, a group of organizations from across the country concerned by the increasing use of violence—and threats of violence—to affect public policy in the United States, is deeply concerned about the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and other heavily armed anti-government radicals. In response, the Coalition is calling on federal authorities to enforce the laws and hold the occupiers accountable for their criminal actions.
The refuge is a federal wildlife preserve located in southeast Oregon about 30 miles south of Burns. On Saturday evening, a group led by Ammon Bundy, 40, occupied the refuge building following a protest over the sentencing of two Oregon ranchers—Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and his 46-year-old son, Steven—for crimes of arson on government property. A fire the Hammonds set in 2001 to cover up illegal deer poaching burned 139 acres of land maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The two then set a smaller fire in 2006 that endangered volunteer firefighters attempting to subdue a blaze caused by lightning.
Dwight and Steve Hammond were initially sentenced to three months and 366 days of prison time, respectively, for their crimes. But federal prosecutors appealed to have the two sentenced to a mandatory five years in prison under an anti-terrorism law enacted in the 1990s, and prevailed. The Hammonds are due to report to federal prison today and have indicated they will do so. The Hammond’s attorney, W. Alan Schroeder, has written to Harney County Sheriff David Ward to make it clear that “Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family.”
In regards to his plans, Ammon Bundy has said, “We’re planning on staying [at the refuge] for years, absolutely.” His brother, Ryan Bundy, has laid out their goals as follows: “The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area, then they will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever and the federal government will relinquish such control.” The brothers are calling for armed anti-government activists from across the country to join them at the refuge.
Federal authorities have yet to respond to the occupation of the refuge, and members of the Ballots Not Bullets Coalition are calling on them to take prompt action to enforce all appropriate laws:
“Federal wildlife preserves like Malheur are special places that deserve protection for values that we all hold dear: clean air, water and refuge for wildlife,” said Center for Biological Diversity executive director Kieran Suckling. “Americans, collectively, have decided that these public lands need and deserve protection. That shouldn’t be undone at the behest of men with guns and a dangerous view of how a government should be run.”
“Ammon Bundy and his group of anti-government insurgents apparently believe that their guns supersede our courts and the rule of law,” said Coalition to Stop Gun Violence director of communications Ladd Everitt. “They do not. By unilaterally using force to overrule decisions made by juries, these insurrectionists are taking power away from the American people. That is unconstitutional and the antithesis of democratic government.”
“These men are acting on a perverted definition of the U.S. Constitution to justify an armed takeover of public lands,” said Oregon Wild executive director Sean Stevens. “Their illegal actions and disrespect for the rule of law belies their claim of acting on behalf of the people. I would say I want these out-of-state antagonists to just go home, but I’d rather see them tried and convicted in an Oregon court and sent to federal prison for the crimes they are currently committing.”
“We are happy that no one has been hurt during this standoff so far,” said WildEarth Guardians executive director John Horning. “But the longer this situation goes on, and escalates, the more dangerous it will become. Are we all not equal under the law? It’s time for federal authorities to demonstrate that, indeed, we are.”
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THE BALLOTS NOT BULLETS COALITION is a group of organizations that are concerned by the increasing use of violence—and threats of violence—to affect public policy in the United States.