The coming showdown between 150+ Patriots who have gathered near Burns, Oregon, is grossly misunderstood by the general public. The following paragraphs shed light on both the history of the present conflict between the Hammonds and the federal government, as well as the current status of the situation. It is the express hope of The Common Sense Show that calmer heads prevail and the present crisis does not end in the loss of life.
The Beginning of the Present Hammond Ranch Crisis
Dwight Hammond and son Steve Hammond were convicted of lighting fires on federal land. Federal prosecutors wanted blood, overreacted, and pursued the two in what could be described as a case of malicious prosecution.
The Hammond family leased land from the BLM for cattle grazing. Steven Hammond started a fire on his own land for noxious weed control. The fire escaped and burned an acre of BLM land that was leased by the Hammond family to graze cattle. The act was an accident, and there was no bad intent on the part of the Hammonds. However, prosecutors sought long prison sentences, despite the fact that the damage was extremely minimal. The latest act of burning on BLM land was only one of three actions committed by the Hammonds, as similar accidents occurred in 2001 and 2006. Then the feds threw the book at the father-son combination. Most people that review the history of this conflict view the Hammonds as reckless, but agree that their actions were carried out without purposeful criminal intent.
Incredibly, the father and son duo was tried and convicted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, created by Congress in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. This represented, to many, a gross miscarriage of justice and served as a shining example of federal tyranny at its worst. Under the Act’s mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, both of the Hammond family members faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. And to remind of the public of why we should mistrust the application of federal law enforcement authority, the U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall was quoted as saying, “The verdict sends an important message to those who think that they are above the law.” It’s not as if the Federal government is not already too big, but one would think that the Federal court system would employ a public relations expert to help guide their comments and actions when it comes to the public perception of the carrying out of their mandated duties.
Fortunately, for the Hammonds, a federal judge, acting with much more common sense in October of 2012—the now retired judge, Michael Hogan—ordered the sentences to be dramatically reduced and the payment of restitution was ordered. Most thought this was a reasonable sentence. However, US Attorney Marshall, not satisfied the sentence appealed the case and a three judge appellate panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the men had to serve the minimum sentence. This was outrageous. These two men were not and are not terrorists. Of course, as many who follow these cases know, the federal government’s standard operating procedure is to label anyone that they don’t like as a terrorist, which exponentially increases the penalties associated with prosecution. Subsequently, in October of 2014, the Hammonds were ordered to surrender, once again, to federal authorities in order to serve out their five year sentence. It is a mystery how this ruling serves justice—it does not. The elder Hammond is 73 years old!
The Situation Goes Critical
After the re-sentencing was announced, over 300 local Hammond supporters protested. This subsequently drew the attention of members of self-identified Patriots, who later organized and began arriving on the scene in December of 2015. Ammon Bundy, whose family faced BLM challenges to their right use BLM land after generations of doing so, two years ago, became the spokesperson for the Patriots involved in the present crisis, which has resulted in the seizure of a federal building in the area. Bundy has stated that he is in this for the “long haul.” Cliven Bundy, Ammon’s father, has stated that he is not involved in the present crisis. The crisis is considered to be so volatile, that local schools are suspended for the week in anticipation of a violent federal crackdown similar to what the country observed over 20 years ago at Waco.
Ammon Bundy summoned “militia members” to the scene and encouraged them to bring their arms. He has stated that violence is not his intent, but self-defense cannot be ruled out. Does Mr. Bundy think that the Federal government is simply going to ignore the takeover of one of its own facilities, no matter how humble the facility is? There will be a confrontation!
The Present Status of the Crisis
Up until the late hours of Sunday evening, I have been receiving communications from people on the scene in Oregon. Then, suddenly, the communications went totally dark and my text messages are going unanswered. There are two possibilities. First, the group could have made a collective decision to not issue statements at this time. Or, the communications of the Patriot group could have been cut off in preparation for an attack upon the seized federal building.
Also, on late Sunday evening, I was in communication with Pastor Butch Paugh. He is scheduled to have Ammon Bundy on his radio show this morning, along with Sheriff Richard Mack. The key question remains, will Ammon Bundy still be alive by air time? Will he be in custody, as federal officials, in force, are arriving at the scene in which Bundy led forces have taken over a federal building. The situation in Oregon is dire. Local law enforcement is demonizing the men who have taken over the Federal building as determined by the following quote by Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward:
“These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.
We are currently working jointly with several organizations to make sure the citizens of Harney County are safe and this issue is resolved as quickly and peaceful as possible. At this time we do not have any information that any other areas in Harney County are in immediate danger.
We ask that people stay away from the refuge for their safety. We also ask that if anyone sees any of these individuals in the area to please contact law enforcement and do not confront the individuals themselves.”
I view this quote from the Sheriff as preemptive and an example of provocative conditioning to get the public to lose all sympathy for the Patriot group and to demonize them in the arena of public opinion. The citizens of this area desperately need a new Sheriff.
This Could End Very Badly
I am making a comparison between what happened at Waco, over 20 years ago, and what is likely to happen in Oregon. What happened in Waco?
In February of 1993, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian cult compound in Waco, Texas, prompting a gun battle in which four agents and six cult members are killed. The federal agents were attempting to arrest the leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, on information that the religious sect was stockpiling weapons. A nearly two-month standoff ensued after the unsuccessful raid.
Eventually, Attorney General (AG) Janet Reno, who strikingly reminds one of present AG, Loretta Lynch, ended the siege by burning out and killing most of the inhabitants at the compound, including scores of women and children.
As Federal Law Enforcement Officials solidify their position this morning, on the scene, does anyone think it is likely that these federal agents are mindful of what happened to four ATF agents at Waco? Does anyone else think that it is likely that the 155 patriots will be given one command, and on command only, to surrender prior to attacking the occupied federal building?
These are the pictures of the four ATF agents that were killed in the original Waco raid. Does anyone else think it is likely that this event at Waco will guide federal LEO actions today in Oregon?
Special Agent Steven David Willis and Special Agent Conway Charles LeBleu were both killed in the raid.
Special Agent Robert John Williams and Special Agent Todd Wayne McKeehan were also honored at a 20 year ceremony, after being killed in the raid. Again, is anyone naive enough to believe that the memories of the fallen agents are not going to guide the actions of federal law enforcement authorities in terms of the level of violence that will be applied in Oregon? Does anyone else think that the federal briefings with its agents include the photos I have chosen to display here?
Oath Keepers Has Withdrawn from the Scene
Here, in a statement by the President and Founder of Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes explains why his organization has withdrawn from the scene in Oregon.
It is clear that the Hammonds do not want these actions to go forward. This is not the hill to die on. There will be a time to take a stand on the gross violation of our civil liberties that are presently under attack. However, without the support of the victims (i.e., the Hammonds), the legitimacy of such an armed rebellion is called into question. Should the federal government be called to task on this? Absolutely! However, if blood is shed over this issue, and without the support of the Hammonds, what does this do to the public perception? The media will paint the Patriots as domestic terrorists and the public will think that any use of force against the Patriots is justified and necessary. Then, who looks like the thugs?
Was the Bundy Ranch event justified in terms of the response generated by the Patriot community? Of course it was. These are two entirely different scenarios.
As a footnote, as we saw in the Bundy Ranch Affair, Chinese mineral interests are beginning to surface. Stay tuned—we are watching history in the making.