Sunday, December 11, 2016

Armed Protesters Handled with Kid Gloves

Late last week the Bundy brothers and five of their anarchist brethren were found not guilty of conspiracy in their armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon last year. We may never fully understand how such a crime can go unpunished since there was live television coverage of who was involved and what was done. Federal prosecutors are at a loss to explain it but I suspect that the charge of conspiracy to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs was the problem.
The trial lasted for six weeks that alone tells me that the prosecution got deep into technical issues of the charges given that no one disputed that the men were there so there was no effort to break alibis or use forensics to prove their presence. It would seem the jury viewed the term conspiracy very concretely and since the Bundy gang didn’t verbally discuss preventing wildlife refuge staff from entering their offices there was no conspiracy.

One of the Bundy gang testified that they organized some friends and supporters telling them we’re going to take over the wildlife refuge for awhile until the feds give up and turn it over to the state of Oregon to manage and we’re going bring our guns so they don’t arrest us right away. How would you as an employee react if you found dozens of armed yahoos at your work place and they stopped you and demanded you identify yourself and checked you for weapons? Are you going to just continue on to your desk and start work? I don’t think so.

Not only were they found not guilty of conspiracy; the judge instructed the jury that without conspiracy they couldn’t find the gang members guilty of weapons charges either. How do you think a bunch of armed Latinos would be treated here in Texas if they decided to take over the Alamo and chased out the park rangers? Those folks would be lucky to walk out alive, let alone walk out of a courtroom as free men.

The saddest part of this farce is that while the trial was going on hundreds of unarmed protesters in North Dakota were being arrested by police in military body armor carrying automatic weapons. The peaceful protesters supporting the Standing Rock Sioux weren’t violating federal laws or attempting to take over a federal facility. The protesters are there to prevent the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline from destroying sacred burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts. Just as important to the members of the Standing Rock Sioux they are trying to prevent contamination of the Missouri River which is the only source of safe water in the area.

The Sioux have an 1851 treaty supporting their claims while the Bundy’s had nothing. It remains to be seen how the protest will be resolved and how the arrests will be adjudicated but if there is any justice in this world it will turn out even better for the Standing Rock Sioux than what the Bundy’s got away with.

Published in the Seguin Gazette November 4, 2016

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