Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Eastern Oregon Militia Occupation: A Detailed History (Part 2)

After the 1994 charges against the Hammonds were dropped in 1997, it seemed like this small, local controversy would fade into annals of state history as an obscure oddity in the background. However, this would not be the Hammonds' last run-in with the law. In 1999, the Hammonds were given a warning by the Bureau of Land Management that they while they could lease public lands for grazing, they were not permitted to burn anything without authorization.

In September of 2001, they set fire on their property that spread to public lands. They claimed that this was to burn off invasive species, but a teenage relative testified that the intent was not so innocuous. Said teenage had to take shelter in a creek because the flames spread so high and so rapidly. The fire ultimately burned away 139 acres of public land and "took the acreage out of production for two growing seasons." If you're wondering why something like this didn't make national headlines, need I remind you of a certain particular major world event that took place in September of 2001?

In August of 2006, a lightning storm caused several fires near to where the Hammonds grew their winter stock. Steven Hammond responded by setting back burns near the boundary of his land. The problem was that a burn ban was in effect and a waiver was required in order to set a fire legally. Steven Hammond did not seek this waiver.

In 2010, the BLM filed charges against the Hammonds for arson and in 2012 they were put on trial.


Okay, so maybe he didn't say he knows the truth about 9/11 specifically, but that clickbait title got your attention, didn't it?

Trump was in South Carolina, and he was pitching the idea that he would reveal publicly guarded secrets about who really did 9/11 if he was elected President. In South Carolina, Trump said that we went after Iraq even though they didn't knock down the Trade Centers.

"It wasn't the Iraqis that knocked down the Trade Center, we went after Iraq, we decimated the country, Iran's taking over, okay."
Wait, that's not a secret. We've known this for ten years now. Al Qaeda was not affiliated with Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis. And the Iraq War destabilized the region and resulted in a long quagmire that ultimately only served to empower the various Jihadist groups, this is all news from 2006, not 2016. So why is Trump bringing it up now?
"Because they have papers in there that are very secret, you may find it's the Saudis, okay. But you will find out."
 Okay, a lot of the hijackers were Saudis, this is true. But the Saudi Royal Family would be taking a huge financial risk by directly attacking what was at the time one of their biggest oil trading partners. They've certainly backed a few smaller terrorist groups, but openly aligning themselves with the most notorious of these terrorist organizations would be financially disastrous for them. Having the rest of the civilized world turn against you isn't good for your country's economy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Eastern Oregon Militia Occupation: A Detailed History (Part 1)

2016 is off to an eventful start. Near Burns, Oregon (which happens to be the state that I live in), Ammon Bundy of the Bundy Militia has been "occupying" the federally owned Malheur National Wildlife Reserve since the beginning of January. This whole shitstorm started with the arrest of Steven Hammond for starting a fire on public property without a license. That incident happened on August 26, 2006, and was called the Lower Ridge Creek fire. According to this 2012 news article on the incident, Hammond and his father got in trouble as far back as 1999 for illegally starting fires to improve grazing conditions. They also set a fire in 2001 to scare away deer hunters. Because just having a talk with them would have been too difficult, I guess.

On August 26, 2006, Steven Hammond and his father set an illegal fire that threatened to overrun an BLM (Bureau of Land Management) brush engine and its crew. A firefighter named Lance Okeson confronted Hammond at the scene of the fire, according to US Attorney Frank Papagni Jr. The Hammonds were charged with nine counts involving conspiracy and setting illegal fires on federal lands. There's also a count of alleged witness tampering involving a confrontation between Steven Hammond and rangeland conservation manager Joe Glascock.

Looking into the history of Mr. Hammond, I discovered that he and his father actually got in trouble with the law even earlier than I originally thought. A news article from 1994 details a conflict between Dwight Hammond, Steven's father, and Steven himself against the US Fish and Wildlife Service. That particular controversy started when federal officials tried to build a fence around the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to keep the Hammond family's cattle from trespassing on the land. The Hammonds attempted to block them from building the fence and were arrested and charged with interfering in federal operations. 500 ranchers showed up to protest the arrest of the Hammonds and the Oregon Lands Coalition declared their arrest, "A Hostage Situtation." Bob Smith, a Republican politician representing Oregon's 2nd Congressional District at the time, wrote a letter to then US Interior Labor Secretary Bruce Babbitt, declaring his support of the Hammonds and that their arrests had "made his constituents lose faith in their government." This was the middle of an election season, so it was probably just political grandstanding, but it did have an effect. The charges against the Hammonds were reduced from a felonies with a maximum of 3 years in prison and a $250,000 fine to misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. A hearing on the charges had been scheduled in September of that year, but it ended up getting postponed indefinitely.

That 1994 controversy stemmed from Dwight Hammond repeatedly violating the terms of a special permit that allowed him to move his cattle through the refuge at specific times, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This led to his right to graze cattle on the haven south of Berns being revoked by refuge manager Forrest Cameron in June of that year. Hammond also allegedly sent Cameron death threats. He also allegedly sent previous refuge managers death threats in 1986 and 1988. I can see him wanting to protect his cattle and his livelihood, but his behavior makes it hard for me to sympathize with him.

This 1994 controversy didn't gain much news traction outside of Oregon, probably because the National Media was obsessed with the OJ Simpson murder case at the time. In 1995, voters who supported the Hammonds attempted to recall two members of the Harney County Court for not intervening on the Hammonds' behalf, but the attempt failed. The controversy seemingly was over in 1997, when the charges against the Hammonds were dropped entirely.