Ryan and Ammon Bundy were trying to make a thing of it. They believed they could replicate their 'success' in Nevada with other disputes.

Not Entirely How the West was Won

The Oregon Standoff happened five years later.

I happened to be in Oregon in the Spring of 2015. A year after the standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada. A local man who had picked me up at the Medford Airport to drive me through the Grants Pass area. Along the way, he pointed up a side road. The Bundys were up there.

Ammon Bundy Oregon Standoff

Here? What are they doing here?

Some guy who had been mining a creek bed in the national forest had been denied permit renewal. Ryan and Ammon Bundy were trying to make a thing of it. They believed they could replicate their ‘success’ in Nevada with other disputes.

Within 8 months the Bundy brothers turned up further north in Harney County, Oregon. They went to protest a federal judge requiring more jail time of the Hammonds. Dwight Jr. and his son Steven had set fire to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2001. Although the Hammonds rejected the call for organized protest. So the Bundys led an armed takeover of Malheur with the same ilk of extremists that turned out in Nevada. Again there was an armed standoff between them and federal law enforcement officers. The Oregon Standoff continued 41 days.

Oregonians and Americans who were aware watched via social media. Oregon Live called it “America’s first social media occupation”. Especially from January 26, 2016. Law enforcement stopped two trucks of occupiers, including Ryan and Ammon. They were en route to a meeting with the sympathetic county Sheriff. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum reached many times toward his hip, shouting, “Just shoot me!” Then a State Trooper did. Officers arrested the remaining passengers.

Sixteen days later, the last four occupiers were surrendering on a live stream. 70,000 riveted listeners. I was like Chandler on Friends in that one where he ignores Monica for a high-speed car chase on TV. It was fascinating and frightening. The #OregonStandoff occupiers could not hear the voices outside their own heads. They scolded Americans for not showing up to support them. They saw this showdown as Americans’ big opportunity.

Sure it begs the question: if you’re out there alone, is it because the rest of us are “asleep” or “brainwashed”? Or are you so fringe and dissociated that you no longer resonate with the rest of us?

But the truth is, radicals do not get traction where there is no cause.

Unbridled extraction on one hand and preservation by top-down intimidation on another has folks between a rock and hard place. And that’s unfortunate.

During the Malheur Occupation, I lived in Westchester, NY. Twenty minutes outside New York City. I assured New Yorkers that Western Americans are not generally “yeehawdists.” Quite the contrary. Sure, cowboys, ranchers, loggers, farmers have their perspectives on land management. Environmentalists and liberals have different perspectives. You have to go beyond headlines and news tickers to find the true mettle of an American, cowboy or tree hugger. I find most to be respectful and cooperative with land managers and law enforcement.

The Bundys and their brand were an exception. Now they are case law. Click here to read how the Bundys Walk.

Click here to read OregonLive’s chronicle of the Oregon Standoff.

Click here to read about Cliven Bundy’s ‘success’ in Nevada.


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