What to make of the showdown at the wildlife refuge in Oregon [With Comment by John]

A group of men armed with pistols and long rifles are occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The group is led by Ammon Bundy. He’s the son of rancher Cliven Bundy, a key player in a months-long 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada. Ammon reportedly was tasered by the feds during that confrontation.

Predictably, some on the left are insisting that the occupiers be deemed terrorists. The problem is, they have not engaged in terrorism as that term has always been understood.

However, the occupiers are criminals, or soon will be if they continue the occupation. As such, they do not have my sympathy.

This isn’t to deny that there may well be legitimate grievances in play. The immediate grievance relates to Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond. They are ranchers convicted of arson on federal property, and are due to report to prison today to serve five-year sentences.

The Hammonds say they set the fires on their own property, once to prevent the spread of an invasive species of plant and once in attempt to prevent the spread of a wildfire. The fires, they contend, accidentally burned onto public lands. However, prosecutors say the fires were set in an attempt to destroy evidence that the Hammonds had been illegally hunting deer on the federal lands.

Patterico provides a good sense of the big picture grievance that has animated the Bundys and their followers. Quoting from the trial judge in the Hammonds’ case, who wanted much shorter sentences, he also shows that the defendants probably are sympathetic figures. (They are not part of the group occupying the headquarters).

Understandably, the Hammonds have widespread support, and a protest of their sentence drew a large crowd. Only a small sub-set of the protesters appears to have gone along with Ammon Bundy’s decision to convert the peaceful rally into an unlawful occupation.

An armed occupation — or indeed any unlawful behavior — is an inappropriate response to an unjust outcome in a legal proceeding. This is true whether the outcome occurs in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland, or rural Oregon. It makes no difference whether the unjust outcome connects with broader grievances, as is apparently the case in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Oregon.

We need not engage in name-calling (e.g. “terrorists”) to recognize that the occupation in Oregon is wrong and must eventually be ended, hopefully through a peaceful resolution.

JOHN adds: I agree with everything Paul says. I would only add that leftists who praised Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter for their blocking of bridges of roads, occupations of parks and other public facilities, etc., are in no position to criticize the peaceful occupation of an obscure federal building in Oregon.