Ranchers standoff takes deadly turn
BY RAQUEL OKYAY
In an ongoing battle between Oregon patriots defending their property and the federal government protecting its land-grab, police fired the first shots on Tuesday.
In a roadblock arrest near the wildlife refuge that is the center of the standoff, a father of 11 children was killed, one suspect was injured, and six people were sent to jail on federal felony charges of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States. A group of ranchers, including its leaders, had planned to attend a citizens forum in a nearby town.
“I know from my field of expertise, these disputes never resolve themselves,” said Delaware academic researcher, Ismael “Al” Sarmad, an observer of the situation. “History has shown a large percentage of similar disputes end in bloodshed.” When citizens get together to oppose the overreach of their government, he said it is routine for citizens to face blowback from the government in the form of criminal charges or even violence.
Authorities killed Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, the driver of one of the vehicles stopped in the roadblock, in a barrage of bullets on Tuesday. He was among a coterie of ranchers who had taken control of an Oregon wildlife refuge in protest of federal actions the group claimed are threatening the way of life of ranchers.
It is not clear yet what exactly transpired during the shooting. Some eyewitness accounts indicate that Finicum had his hands up in the air when multiple shots were fired at him until he fell to his knees, and then multiple shots were fired at him, again. Others indicated Finicum had defied authorities commands before getting shot. Finicum had promised in earlier interviews that he would fight rather than go into federal custody.
After the shooting, one of Finicum’s daughters posted this statement on her Facebook page: “I want the world to know how my father was murdered today. His hands were in the air and he was shot in the face by the American authorities. Ammon Bundy reported there are six witnesses to this evil.”
UPDATE 1/29: Video released by the FBI appears to show Finicum attempting to reach into his jacket or grab his side. Prior to this moment he had his hands up. Authorities claim he was reaching for his gun, but some supporters have said they believe he was shot while his hands were still up and then grabbed his side to tend to a wound.
Since Jan. 2, III% militia groups from the Western Pacific region have convened at the Oregon wildlife refuge to complain that local, state and federal officials were stealing property from area ranchers. Law enforcement officials have surrounded the perimeter of the refuge but not approached the group, who promised to shoot only if guns were pointed at them first. It is not known how many militia men are still on the inside. Ammon Bundy was quoted in major media as requesting his remaining brothers in arms to stand down and leave the refuge.
“To those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families,” Bundy said in a statement. “This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.”
“We need to step back. Somebody died yesterday,” attorney Mike Arnold told reporters, as quoted by CNN. “Mr. Bundy wants everybody to remember that somebody died, and this is not just about him right now.”
A joint statement issued by the FBI and Oregon State Police revealed an enforcement operation to bring into custody those associated with the occupation of the wildlife refuge. Ammon Bundy, age 40, and Ryan C. Bundy, age 43, were among those arrested. The Bundy family of Nevada had their own standoff with the feds in 2014, as patriarch Cliven Bundy and hundreds of militia men stood toe to toe with federal authorities.
Sarmad, who has a Masters Degree in both Homeland Security and Business Administration, said he began watchdog efforts in this case to highlight the evisceration of our constitutional rights. “I saw the first Bundy standoff over land as a harbinger of things to come, for example; civil unrest and citizen versus government showdowns.” Bloodshed was an outcome he attempted to avoid, he said.
“I have investigated all acts of violence in this nation’s history and in modern times like Waco and Ruby Ridge being the biggest examples, I knew there would be loss of life,” he added. “I attempted to assist in a peaceful resolution between the government and the citizens Oregon.”
Sarmad said he tried to engage Oregon Governor Kate Brown to provide advice from a homeland security standpoint, but he was unable to reach her directly. He proceeded to contact the state police, Harney County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI, again to propose an amicable, without bloodshed solution.
“I advised them I had an exit strategy for all interested parties involved which would be peaceful and without any violence,” he persisted. “I then started working on strategies, dates, timetables and projections related to the plan of drawing down the occupiers’ numbers at the refuge and simultaneously working on a way to diffuse any similar occurrences in the future.” Although the FBI was receptive initially, he said a lack of results proved his attempts futile.
“I wanted a win-win-win for everyone,” said Sarmad, “One in which the people got their proper redress, one where the government did not engage the people in violence, and one where the guilty who are taking people’s land would be made accountable. “
A technology specialist and independent investigative journalist, who requested anonymity, told the Rockland County Times that the corporate media is replete with gross misinformation regarding the goals and intentions of the ranchers, the militia, and the views of Harney County residents. “[The majority of residents] clear demand is that the FBI and the Bureau of Land Management leave immediately, not the propaganda spin we hear otherwise.”
The source said he had begun covering this story when he was contacted by an embedded III% reporter in Burns, OR who needed web support when his news website, Facebook, and YouTube channel were disrupted.
The feds own approx. 65 to 85 percent of Oregon lands which contain valuable minerals, water and oil, he said. “There isn’t much left for We the People and what little we do have left, is only accessible by government permit.”
The militia men had been drawn to Oregon following the widely condemned imprisonment of ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond on “terrorism” charges, related to brush fires on their property that had extended onto federal lands. A judge had ruled the mandatory five year sentence for the father and son ranchers unusual and shortened the term to several months. However, a higher court ruled around the turn of the new year that the lower court judge did not have the authority to make this change and ordered the Hammonds to complete their five year terms.
At this point the Bundys of Nevada and other ranchers and militia members from across the west descended on Harney County, Oregon to commence a citizens grand jury against local and federal officials. At some point the group jumped the gun and took control of the wildlife refuge, prompting the current standoff.