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‘This Land Is Our Land’: The Movement Bigger Than The Bundys


The Pacific Patriots Network surrounded the Harney County Courthouse in January, where they met with Sheriff Dave Ward.

The Pacific Patriots Network surrounded the Harney County Courthouse in January, where they met with Sheriff Dave Ward.

Dave Blanchard/OPB

OPB’s Conrad Wilson and the Oregonian/OregonLive’s Maxine Bernstein update us on the last full week of the government’s case against the Malheur refuge occupiers.

Then, we take a look at the so-called Patriot Movement — a loosely connected network of organizations that are united in the belief the federal government has overstepped its authority.

Mark Potok is a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center. His job is to monitor groups that are a part of what he calls the “extreme right.” That includes everything from racist groups like the KKK and to groups like the Bundys, whose concerns revolve around severe distrust of the federal government.

Potok says many people in the groups he tracks believe there is “a secret plan to impose draconian gun control on all Americans” and “those who resist the coming seizure will be thrown into concentration camps that have been secretly built by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

SPLC has identified nearly 1,000 groups across the country with these kinds of beliefs and connects the groups to the philosophies that motivated the Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho; the Waco, Texas, siege; and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Potok says there is a way to curb the movement.

“In the late ‘90s, the FBI made quite an effort … to meet with militiamen, to go out to have coffee to talk to these people about their concerns and fears, and in fact I think there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that was quite effective,” Potok said. “You realize the person you’re having coffee with is an actual human being just like you are.”uge

 

Joseph Rice is the head of the Josephine County chapter of the Oath Keepers — a group that Potok sees as central to so-called patriot groups. But Rice thinks SPLC is uninformed about his group.

“I’ve never spoken to those folks,” he said.

Rice was in Harney County when Ammon Bundy led a group to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but Rice and his group didn’t join the occupation. Instead, he and a group of like-minded organizations known as the “Pacific Patriots Network” stuck around to provide security in town. The group said it was there to prevent another Waco or Ruby Ridge-like incident.

Those incidents, he says, were “lessons in history.” The individuals involved in those incidents “were living their life as they chose to live freely, without impact to others. It was only when the federal government came in they had impact, and that resulted in loss of life.”

Though he didn’t endorse it, Rice insists that the takeover of the refuge was an act of civil disobedience. And while he disagrees with the charges against Ammon Bundy and the other defendants, he does think the incident has drawn attention to issues around the federal control of land, which could be good for the aims of his group.

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