The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
As armed men continue to occupy a federal complex in an isolated corner of rural eastern Oregon, refusing to leave until their demands are met, the national spotlight has returned to political groups ideologically opposed to central government.
Decades after early 1990s violent incidents involving the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and the Weaver family in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, the federal government appears reluctant to engage the self-styled militiamen holed up since Saturday at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, 30 miles south of Burns, Oregon.
Authorities may be prepared to wait patiently to end the siege without violence, as happened with an 81-day standoff with the Montana Freemen group that ended peacefully in 1996.
The group at Malheur cites opposition to the reimprisonment of members of the Hammond family — accused of setting ablaze federally managed land on which it had grazing rights, with the fire spreading to 139 acres of public land — as the main reason for its campaign. But the Hammonds have distanced themselves from the militia that has acted in their name.
The group also hopes to call attention to its missions of reducing federal ownership of land in every county and state and promoting what it sees as individual Americans’ rights under the Constitution.
The group’s adherents flocked to southwestern Oregon ostensibly to protect property rights at the Sugar Pine Mine in April 2015. However, one of the mine’s co-owners, Rick Barclay, despite being at odds with the Bureau of Land Management, called for de-escalation of the “spectacle caused by social media and ‘keyboard commandos’ whooping it up.”
Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association
The group seeks to dismantle federal land ownership by advocating “county sheriff supremacy” and recognizing sheriffs as the “highest law enforcement authority,” above and beyond the power of the federal and state governments.
Most legal experts repudiate its interpretation of the law. And so does the watchdog group Center for Western Priorities, which has accused some local elected leaders, such as Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, of colluding with anti-government organizations. Ivory is considered the most notable public official supporting public land seizures.
Across America, the number of local militias has exploded since 2008, when there were only 42 such groups. Now there are almost seven times that number.
In Oregon, armed groups listed by the SPLC include the Oregon Militia Alliance and Oregon Watchmen. In Montana the Militia of Montana and Yellowstone Plainsmen are among the anti-government militias. Groups in other states include the Indiana Sons of Liberty, the Kansas State Militia and the Michigan Patriot Alliance.
Some of the anti-government groups and local citizens’ councils emphasize white, Christian roots. Many vehemently oppose federal environmental restrictions and seek to uphold the Constitution by force. Most oppose what they call the new world order and often fuel Sept. 11 conspiracy theories.