Like most folks, I had to look up the reason for why the white militia members took over the wildlife refuge. It honestly seemed like a joke to me. It apparently started when heavily armed anti-government zealots were protesting the arrest of Dwight Hammond and his son who were arrested for arson. For some inexplicable reason, the armed white militia members took over the refuge, even when the Hammonds asked them not to. Apparently, the anti-government protesters are against what they feel is government overreach when it comes to land use. Though they have been regularly asked about the reasoning for their protests, their answers have been mostly ambiguous and based in their belief that their constitutional rights are being taken away.
I am sure the anti-government protesters are sincere in their beliefs, but I also will say I have absolutely no idea how taking over a wildlife refuge is supposed to restore their constitutional rights. I respect people taking action, but they have expressed their dissatisfaction in a way that is abhorrent and illegal and are now falsely crying martyrdom because they have willfully broken the law for nearly a month with no accountability for their actions.
I have no problem with civil disobedience to draw attention to injustices. I was arrested twice to protest the Obama Administration’s horrific systemic deportations of immigrants. I paid the fine and accepted the culpability of breaking the law for a higher purpose on both occasions. Civil disobedience is a powerful and strategic tool in the movement for social change. I feel our civil disobedience efforts have helped to mobilize the faith community to more strident support for immigrants and also helped to highlight the governmental indifference to the plight of immigrants who daily face state-sponsored terrorism from the Obama Administration.
But during neither of these efforts did we ever consider openly carrying weapons, or did we threaten law enforcement with violence, or did we illegally occupy government property for almost a month. If we had, there is no doubt in my mind that we should be guilty of major felonies and certainly incarcerated for months if not years.
But the white militia members have done all of this and are now being told by local and federal law enforcement officials that if they just go home they will face no penalty whatsoever. That’s right, it is ok to openly carry arms, threaten the lives of law enforcement officials, and illegally occupy a government building – costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in having to pay the law enforcement to keep watch round the clock outside the refuge. It is ok to do all of this, but by no means will society allow someone who perhaps might be suffering from addiction, or face over 50% unemployment in their community and so turn to selling low levels of drugs to people. Threatening to overturn the government is accepted, but we must imprison nonviolent, low-level drug dealer to, in some situations, decades of prison time. As you can guess, this is where I am utterly lost.
I can’t figure out what is more bizarre with this story – a group of heavily armed white militia members taking over a national wildlife refuge and crying about the make-believe encroachment of their constitutional rights, or the nonchalance of law enforcement officials at the breaking of some fairly serious laws.
What the media has not raised, but what is obvious to everyone except the pseudo-martyrs inside the refuge, is the simple fact that if the white militia members were people of color, there would not have been a month-long standoff. There is clearly an enormous difference in how people of color are treated by law enforcement from that of even armed white militia members. People of color who act in this fashion would be deemed terrorists and society would not stand for a month-long standoff – probably not even a day. Where are the politicians who seem to have no qualms about long sentences for people of color in the use or selling or small amount of drugs calling for law and order to be reinstated in eastern Oregon?
If anyone ever had any question about the implicit racism of this country’s criminal justice system, they only need to look at this bizarre story of the brazen actions of armed white militia members who, if they can take a minute to suppress their fantasies of governmental persecution, will have committed major crimes and are now being the chance of walking away scot-free while young black men have a greater chance of winding up in prison than in college.