This past January, a group of heavily armed white militiamen stormed the federally owned Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon and threatened to “occupy” it indefinitely as a form of protest over what they perceived to be the government’s unconstitutional “taking” of public land.
The militia, led by rancher Ammon Bundy, was eventually arrested, charged with multiple felonies, and taken to court. During the subsequent trial, federal prosecutors explained to the jury how Bundy, his brother Ryan, and five other men holed up in the wildlife refugee were armed to the teeth with over 16,000 live rounds of ammunition and more than 30 different guns. When asked why he and the other occupiers needed so many weapons (but forgot to bring food,) Bundy testified that they carried guns with them at all times as a means of protecting themselves if and when police authorities attempted to remove them.
Despite the fact that the militiamen had no legal basis for their occupation and that their actions led to a shootout with local police that left one person dead, an Oregon jury on Thursday acquitted the seven defendants of conspiring to block federal workers from doing their jobs.
“It’s stunning. It’s a stunning victory for the defense,” Jeff Banta, one of the defense attorneys, said. “I’m speechless.”
Despite the honestly shocking decision from the jury, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford threw a literal fit in the courtroom when U.S. District Judge Anna Brown explained that she couldn’t release his client from jail immediately. While Bundy had been acquitted of his involvement in this particular incident, he’s still being held for the role he played in a 2012 shooting that took place on his father Nevada ranch.
Officers in the courtroom were forced to tackle Mumford to the ground and taze him after he began to yell and scream at Judge Brown that Bundy should be released.
While both of Bundy’s lawyers have expressed their pleasant surprise at the jury’s decision, others present, like executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity Kieran Suckling, were deeply troubled.
“The Bundy clan and their followers peddle a dangerous brand of radicalism aimed at taking over lands owned by all of us,” Suckling said. “I worry this verdict only emboldens the kind of intimidation and right-wing violence that underpins their movement.”
While there is a lot about Bundy’s spectacle that’s chuckleworthy including (but not limited to) the dozens of dildos and gallons of lube that people sent to the militiamen mocking their protest, remember that these men took over a public building and threatened to kill anyone who attempted to oppose their occupation. The fact that these men will walk free without consequence despite their use of terror tactics and breaking the law has to make you wonder if the same would be true if they weren’t white.