The Siege of “Y’all Qaeda”: Standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

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To understand the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by armed militia members, the first place to look is Nevada. There, when the Bureau of Land Management attempted to confiscate cattle illegally grazing on Federal land, the cattle belonged to the Bundy family, who put out a call for help, claiming that the land should be public, and that the government was oppressing them. Several militias responded, and the Bureau of Land Management backed down, fearing a fight and the martyrdom of the militia members.

Thus emboldened, when two ranchers were arrested for arson of Federal land in Oregon, the Bundy family and several armed militia members participated in a protest, and then seized control of the nearby wildlife refuge. The occupiers claimed they were prepared for a long siege, only to ask for “snacks” on Facebook a few days later.

In the midst of this, the government responded cautiously to the takeover, fearing another Waco. The government, at first, let the occupiers come and go, while attempting to negotiate. After several weeks, the FBI moved in and set up a trap for the leaders of the occupation, who were on the way to a community meeting.

Upon being pulled over by authorities, the occupiers stayed in the van for three minutes, finally deciding to make a break for it. After running into a roadblock, the driver, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, jumped out of the van with his hands up, but when he dropped his hands towards his pockets, he was shot by an officer with a rifle, while the others were captured.

The remaining occupiers have stated that they will not leave and are not afraid to die, and soon after the arrests, the FBI cut off all communication and transport in and out of the refuge. Ammon Bundy has called for the remaining occupiers to surrender, but it seems likely the siege will go on until either the occupiers capitulate, or the FBI decides to take decisive action.