A sympathetic backgrounder on the Malheur NWR protest

I have near zero sympathy for ranchers; their business is built on exploiting public land -- land that belongs to all of us, not just to residents of one state. It's built on externalizing costs and is incompatible with ecological sustainability. Animal agriculture is going to have to go extinct the same way coal mining is, that's just the fact.

And this backgrounder is from an obviously far-right web site, take the details with salt. And the comments section is the usual hive of scum and villainy.

On the other hand, even when people's way of making a living is destructive to the ecosystem, you can't take it away without transitional plans. And I have little tolerance for overreach by federal bureaucracies or for the constant aggressive expansion of federal power into the lives of citizens. Once you understand the evils of our national drug policy -- and I mean "evils" quite literally, there are few things in this world to which that term is more accurately applied -- you never look at government power and criminal justice the same way again.

The very important takeaway here is this: two men, almost certainly over-charged as is the standard federal practice these days, already did their time as convicted and sentenced. The feds, in apparent violation of the double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment clauses, have decided they need to be put back in jail for more time on those same charges.

That authoritarian overreach justifies some disruptive protesting, so long as no aggressive violence is used. It is of a piece with broader concerns about criminal justice reform. It's a shame that just as this far-right website doesn't grasp that, and has a whole section dedicated to slandering and vilifying African-American victims of state violence, many progressives and folks on what's left of the American left will not get the point either.

Full Story on What's Going on In Oregon - Militia Take Over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge In Protest to Hammond Family Persecution... (The Last Refuge)

By the 1970’s nearly all the ranches adjacent to the Blitzen Valley were purchased by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and added to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge covers over 187,000 acres and stretches over 45 miles long and 37 miles wide. The expansion of the refuge grew and surrounds to the Hammond’s ranch. Being approached many times by the FWS, the Hammonds refused to sell. Other ranchers also choose not to sell.

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(a4) By the 1990’s the Hammonds were one of the very few ranchers that still owned private property adjacent to the refuge....

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(c) In August 1994 the BLM & FWS illegally began building a fence around the Hammonds water source. Owning the water rights and knowing that their cattle relied on that water source daily the Hammonds tried to stop the building of the fence. The BLM & FWS called the Harney County Sheriff department and had Dwight Hammond (Father) arrested and charged with “disturbing and interfering with” federal officials or federal contractors (two counts, each a felony). He spent one night in the Deschutes County Jail in Bend, and a second night behind bars in Portland before he was hauled before a federal magistrate and released without bail. A hearing on the charges was postponed and the federal judge never set another date.

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(i) In the early fall of 2001, Steven Hammond (Son) called the fire department, informing them that he was going to be performing a routine prescribed burn on their ranch. Later that day he started a prescribed fire on their private property. The fire went onto public land and burned 127 acres of grass. The Hammonds put the fire out themselves. There was no communication about the burn from the federal government to the Hammonds at that time....

(j) In 2006 a massive lightning storm started multiple fires that joined together inflaming the countryside. To prevent the fire from destroying their winter range and possibly their home, Steven Hammond (Son) started a backfire on their private property. The backfire was successful in putting out the lightning fires that had covered thousands of acres within a short period of time....

...Both Dwight and Steven were booked and on multiple Oregon State charges. The Harney County District Attorney reviewed the accusation, evidence and charges, and determined that the accusations against Dwight & Steven Hammond did not warrant prosecution and dropped all the charges.

(k) In 2011, 5 years after the police report was taken, the U.S. Attorney Office accused Dwight and Steven Hammond of completely different charges, they accused them of being “Terrorist” under the Federal Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This act carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of death....

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(o) Federal attorneys, Frank Papagni, hunted down a witness that was not mentally capable to be a credible witness. Dusty Hammond (grandson and nephew) testified that Steven told him to start a fire. He was 13 at the time and 24 when he testified (11 years later). At 24 Dusty had been suffering with mental problems for many years. He had estranged his family including his mother. Judge Hogan noted that Dusty’s memories as a 13-year-old boy were not clear or credible. He allowed the prosecution to continually use Dusty’s testimony anyway....

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(q) June 22, 2012, Dwight and Steven were found guilty of starting both the 2001 and the 2006 fires by the jury. However, the federal courts convicted them both as “Terrorist” under the 1996 Antiterrorism Act. Judge Hogan sentenced Dwight (Father) to 3 months in prison and Steven (son) to 12 months in federal prison. They were also stipulated to pay $400,000 to the BLM. Hogan overruling the minimum terrorist sentence, commenting that if the full five years were required it would be a violation of the 8th amendment (cruel and unusual punishment). The day of the sentencing Judge Hogan retired as a federal judge. In his honor the staff served chocolate cake in the courtroom.

(r) On January 4,, 2013, Dwight and Steven reported to prison. They fulfilled their sentences, (Dwight 3 months, Steven 12 months). Dwight was released in March 2013 and Steven, January 2014.

(s) Sometime in June 2014, Rhonda Karges, Field Manager for the BLM, and her husband Chad Karges, Refuge Manager for the Malheur Wildlife Refuge (which surrounds the Hammond ranch), along with attorney Frank Papagni exemplifying further vindictive behavior by filing an appeal with the 9th District Federal Court seeking Dwight’s and Steven’s return to federal prison for the entire 5 years.

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