White Militants Seize Federal Building, No Response from Government

A gun rests on a leather carrier.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons

On Saturday, January 2nd, an armed group took control of a federal wildlife center in Oregon. Calling themselves “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom,” the group of white militants had split off from a larger, peaceful protest against the federal government for the imprisonment of two ranchers convicted of arson on federal lands.

The group is lead by Ammon Bundy, whose father engaged in a standoff against federal authorities in 2014, which led to the government backing down and not pursuing legal action against the ranchers and their supporters. In this case as well, the FBI has stated that they want to deescalate the situation and end things peacefully, and no federal law enforcement officials had arrived at the center by the following Tuesday morning. They want to avoid violent situations like in Waco or Ruby Ridge back in the early 1990s.

The Internet response has been critical of the government’s response. Twitter has been abuzz with hashtags comparing the militants to Islamic terrorists, which in itself is problematic, and with many sharing their concerns about the lack of media coverage of the situation or of a federal response.

At the root of those criticisms are the fact that a group of armed white men took over a federal building, an act that can certainly be qualified as sedition, terrorism, insurrection, or treason, and nothing has been done about it. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black boy who was playing with a BB gun, was killed by police within seconds of their arrival at the scene, without even an attempt to ascertain the situation. That officer was acquitted and won’t stand trial.

Critics have also noted that a recent, legal Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America was met with overwhelming police presence, but there has been no response to these militants. The racial element seems quite obviously to be at work here, which reinforces the dangerous, racist precedent that white men can do whatever they want, while people of color are seen as dangerous no matter what they do.

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