The stakes are rising in the standoff in the Oregon wildlife refuge. Seemingly emboldened by the lack of response by the authorities, the militants have used heavy equipment belonging to the federal government to remove fences, no doubt to free the land from the tyranny of government, and even though such removal is against the wishes of the ranchers who actually live in the area. They are also using government computers in the offices to create websites promoting their cause. These are clearly violations of the law.
Schools in the area had been closed for a week but have now re-opened. A tearful student at a public meeting said that she should not have to feel so fearful in her own hometown. A state judge has said that he plans to bill the Bundy group up to $70,000 per day for the costs they are incurring for the county.
The Bundy group meanwhile has brought in their own self-appointed ‘sovereign citizen judge’ named Bruce Doucette, the owner of a computer repair shop in Denver, who says he will convene a ‘private grand jury’ to charge government officials with crimes. Doucette has a long history of charging government officials with crimes and issuing arrest warrants.
The local residents are fed up with these outsiders coming and harassing them.
Fear of the militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and roaming the communities of Burns and Hines sits like a heavy winter fog over the area.
More than a dozen local residents have reported to authorities that they were harassed in the weeks leading up to the occupation and in the days since. Different trucks, SUVs and other vehicles — most with out-of-state licenses — have followed the residents.
Four of the people who filed reports agreed to share their accounts with The Oregonian/OregonLive only if their names and identifying information were withheld because they feared further harassment. Law enforcement sources confirmed each had reported the episodes.
The article goes on to describe case after case of people being intimidated by these militia members and either living in fear or moving their families away until this settles.
I can understand the frustration of local residents who feel that they are helpless in the face of these heavily armed militants and by the fact that the authorities have done nothing about them, allowing them to come and go as they please. I am not sure how long the government is going to tolerate this lawlessness. As has been pointed out by many others, what group other than white conservative men would be able to get away with this kind of behavior for so long?
The Bundy group says that they will announce at a community meeting tomorrow when they are leaving. If they are allowed to go freely and not charged with any offenses, it is not hard to see that this kind of behavior will escalate.
Stephen Colbert has some more thoughts on the Oregon standoff.