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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Analysis: A tipping point in Oregon

It is becoming increasingly difficult to take the militiamen in Oregon seriously.

After two weeks of the Oregon militia’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the first arrest has been made — a move that will certainly influence how the federal government continues to approach the situation. 

Kenneth Medenbach, 62, was arrested Friday after driving to a local grocery store in a government vehicle from the wildlife refuge, officials said.

Alongside news of the militia’s continued plea for supplies, their anger at the “gifts” of sex toys sent via the Internet and the group’s recent plans to announce their departure schedule, the arrest seems to have solidified their future. 

It is only a matter of time until these men are held accountable. Medenbach’s use of the government vehicle qualified as a felony, and legal experts have claimed that the leaders of the militia could face up to 10 years behind bars for “knowingly converting” property of the federal government for their own use and destroying property on federal land. The question is no longer whether they will get what they want — something increasingly opaque — but how long until they give up?

And just what is it they want? 

The militia began as a means of protesting Dwight Hammond Jr.’s prison resentencing, one that arose due to a series of fires started by the Hammonds. They claim the fires were purposeful, used to clear out wild plant life in preparation for a possible wildfire. But prosecutors argued the fires were a means of covering up illegal poaching done by the Hammonds. Regardless, both father and son were sentenced to five years, so a remaining objective for the militia seems to be the release of the Hammonds. 

But the militia and its leader, Ammon Bundy, whose father, Cliven Bundy, had a similar standoff with the federal government over grazing rights in 2014, are much more vocal about their other objective — securing federal land for commercial use. 

It doesn’t help that the rhetoric of their leader obscures his motivation. Bundy claims the militia stands to combat federal overreach, a sentiment easily resonant with libertarians and republicans who advocate for smaller government, yet he draws his inspiration not from the U.S. Constitution, but from the Mormon Bible. Bundy claims it was God that planted in him the idea to organize a small-scale rebellion against the federal government. 

Of course, this was all under the guise of assisting the Hammonds. But now that the Hammonds have officially distanced themselves from the militia, their sustained occupancy is misguided at best, and pointless at worst. 

Where do they go from here? As their supplies and willingness wane, expect the militia to make final pleas to both their supporters and the government before the situation fizzles out. There’s no telling how long they will continue to hold out or how their situation will influence the political climate, but it’s safe to say the federal government won’t bend over backwards anytime soon. 

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