Occupy Malheur and the Bundy boys’ bait

My take on the Oregon standoff, this morning at The Federalist:

As my Cato Institute colleague Randal O’Toole skillfully explained, none of the protagonists in the Oregon standoff really deserve our admiration: the Hammond ranching family misbehaved, the federal government overcharged, and then the Bundy cranks arrived to spray kerosene on the glowing embers….

Unlawful protest occupations of public places and government buildings have long been a familiar part of American public life, and even those not involving arms sometimes have rather serious consequences for the health and well-being of innocent bystanders….

In the ordinary calculations of humanity, events like Waco and Ruby Ridge and the Philadelphia MOVE bombing represent a grotesque failure. Despite the spirit of the mob and the ever-present temptation to shoot first, most such situations in our country are resolved with legal consequences for the wrongdoers but not with loss of life and limb. We should be glad of that.

Read the whole thing here. I’ve covered the earlier Bundy Nevada standoff in this space, as well as the wider phenomenon I call folk law. For more coverage of occupations, blockades, and acts of physical intimidation that were resolved without bloodshed (and sometimes without later legal consequences to those who broke the law) see our tag on selective law non-enforcement, including this from 2011 about how some cheered when unionized Wisconsin police announced solidarity with protesters occupying the state capitol and refused orders to oust them.

More: Randal O’Toole has a new post up on the Hammonds’ actions and punishment.


  • For kicks I looked up the Oregon law and penalties if the Hammond’s fire had burned non-federal land (either state or privately owned.)

    The Hammonds would have been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor which carry a MAXIMUM penalty of 1 year and a $6250 fine. Instead, the penalty they received because the fire burned across a different line on a map was a MINIMUM of five years. Add the five years to the $400,000 fine and I think the penalty is excessive or as the district court said “not proportionate.”.

    I agree with you and others that the people that ascended and taken over the BLM building don’t deserve support, but they in my opinion, they definitely deserve contempt.

    Furthermore, it should be known that some of the people occupying the area are known to have exaggerated or fabricated their military records. It is hard for me (read: impossible) to even consider backing or supporting those who are perpetrators of stolen valor.

  • The remote winter location of this clownishness reminds me of the “Occupy Siberia” protest against Soviet policy in the 1930s. The good-natured Soviet government even gave the protesters free transportation and food.

  • “including this from 2001”

    2001? It wasn’t THAT long ago.

    • Typo, fixed now, thanks.

  • […] Malheur standoff: here come the self-styled “citizens’ grand jury” hobbyists [Oregonian, my two cents on this branch of folk law, earlier] […]

  • […] lands grazing program look like? [Randal O’Toole, earlier on Malheur refuge occupation here, […]

  • […] Les Saitz in The Oregonian examines the constitutional land and sovereignty claims of the Malheur occupiers, which tend to sound in what I have previously called folk law. Many in the group were arrested last night. One final point: the Bundy group can call itself a militia if it likes, but only in the same sense that Dorothy Parker could call herself the Queen of Rumania. Earlier here. […]