Now that the last of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupiers has gone into federal custody, it is gratifying that no more lives were lost. It seems the FBI has learned important lessons from Waco and Ruby Ridge, and did an admirable job of restraint in dealing with this tense situation. Whether or not the same can be said for the death of LaVoy Finicum remains to be seen.
Now the rest of the story begins. All occupiers have been arrested and charged with federal crimes which carry significant prison time. Most will probably do some. Some may get probation, but no one will get a pass. That includes Cliven Bundy, the father of the Bundy sons occupiers, who has now been indicted for his 2014 Nevada actions for which he was previously given a pass. His need to insert himself into the Burns occupation caused the feds to charge him – something which may not have happened had he stayed away.
It is nearly impossible to successfully defend against a charge of conspiracy in federal court. Many have tried, few have succeeded. Particularly in this case, since the events have been so widely reported, and the attitude of the occupiers so antagonistic, future jurors are sure to have knowledge of at least some of it, and what they know will not greatly assist the occupiers in their defense. The philosophy the defendants adhere to is not likely to fare well in federal court, as federal jurors tend to be mainstream, and generally do not look kindly upon those who take the law into their own hands, destroy taxpayer property, and threaten law enforcement. The unique interpretation of the US Constitution by the occupiers will also not likely be adhered to by future jurors, particularly as the presiding judge will instruct them that the law of the land is interpreted by the SCOTUS, rather than a band of armed cowboys.
I regret that this happened, as it sets the plight of Western stockmen back ever so many years. They have legitimate concerns about the way in which they are treated by the dictates of agents managing federal grazing leases. The have legitimate concerns about the way in which the national government is intent on acquiring more Western lands and, particularly, water rights. But since they eschew the legal system and attempt to make their own, those concerns and legitimate complaints are overshadowed by the lawless destruction and flaunting of the laws which occurred at Malheur. As the Chinese say, “They have but one enemy.”
I have urged before that the Western grazing lease-holders use the court system. Now they will, if not willingly. None of their protest issues will be addressed here, however; only their illegal acts which, if they are convicted, will carry them to more federal property which they will occupy for a period substantially longer than the occupation of Malheur. See the sad tale of the Diamond Bar Ranch Here.
At least now the folks of Harney County can set about patching things up. Perhaps the division which has caused such community tensions will subside and life will return to normal. People can go about their daily business, children can return to school, law enforcement can get some sleep and, in time, the scars will fade if not disappear altogether. Perhaps the indigenous people whose heritage has been damaged will repair and forgive. Perhaps life will go more smoothly now that the occupation is over.
One would hope that the take-away from Burns is that peaceful protest and working within the system which we have established to redress wrongs is the way we do things in the US, and save others from the life-changing futures the occupiers are facing. Similar protests could occur again, but the whole free world knows the outcome at Malheur, and all but the wing-nuts will reflect upon this outcome, and perhaps decide that one has a highly limited ability to change the world by unlawfully occupying public lands, or from inside the federal Bureau of Prisons.