Citizens for Constitutional Freedom lead by Ammon Bundy, have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, January 2, 2016. They have taken the action because they believe two follow ranchers, farmers and citizens have been unfairly treated by the federal government. The two compatriots were convicted of setting fire to public land to cover up their poaching on the land. The two compatriots, who are now convicted felons and serving their time in prison, said they did it to burn off invasive species on the property. (It is public land and not their decision to make if it was the real reason they set the fire. So, that means, they are arsonists and it doesn't matter the reason.)
According to Wikipedia, the "Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1908 by a proclamation from President Theodore Roosevelt, [Republican] under law which allowed the president to declare game preserves on federal public land. The refuge was named after the Malheur River." (By the way, the river's name comes from a French word meaning misfortune. This is will the group's misfortune.) Not only is this a public game reserve, declared by President Roosevelt in 1908, the land was held by the public before it was declared a refuge. Currently, the property, by an act of congress, is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is clearly public land owned by all United States citizens collectively. We, collectively, have agreed through acts of congress and many elections since 1908 (and before) that this was property is to be operated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the safe, legal and peaceful use by all.
According the website for the refuge, the area is closed until further notice. A notice on the site states, "An unknown number of armed individuals have broken into and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee and public safety; we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident. We will continue to monitor the situation for additional developments."
It is not my concern why the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are occupying the property. Their reasons is not a subject for this blog post. Unless they have a permit from the managing agency, or are the owners of the property, they are there illegally. They should be removed immediately. The authorities should make every effort to end the siege peacefully. Although, force may, after all other options have been attempted, be required. It is more important in the end that the individuals that are involved are prosecuted for their actions and, if convicted, be given the appropriate punishment.
The guiding principle is this, property owned by an individual or a community must be protected and be available to for the quite enjoyment of the owners. In this case, the owners are the citizens of the United States. Right now, according to the statement on the website, none of us are able to quietly enjoy the refuge. So, the occupiers must leave.
But, if you think this discussion ends here, you would be in error. Because this principle needs to be applied to all regardless of the cause. As stated above unless the property is owned by them, or, they have a permit for its use in this manner, it doesn't matter what their reasons are for occupying the property. The only principle is that they are there illegally. Well, so are the Occupiers of Wall Street when they camped out in parks to draw attention to their cause. So are rioters that burned buildings and destroyed businesses over this last summer because of police action they disagreed with. To be balanced here, Black Lives Matter did condemn the violence and understood that it hurt their cause. Perhaps, it could be said that the riots are their "malheur."
Civil disobedience has a long, and perhaps honorable, history in our nation. It was indeed part of the actions that lead to the Revolution against England. The "Tea Party" that took place in Boston harbor was civil disobedience. The people of the Americas had no voice in the laws that dictated their actions. This made their civil disobedience justified.
Currently in the United States we all have a voice in the laws that are made. We have a separation of branches of the government. One of the branches is the Supreme Court. If the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are unhappy with the laws that one branch made; Congress; and another enforces; Executive; then sue and take it to the third branch; The Supreme Court. But, if they rule against you, as they have in many contested cases against public lands held by the Federal government, you must accept that decision. Not just take land that isn't yours.
The people from Citizen for Constitutional Freedom are trespassers. I wonder how they would react if I decided to pitch a tent on their land, that by the way they do own and control by law, with guns and said I am not leaving till you leave my land (collectively with the citizens of the United States), the refuge?
So, in the end, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, get off my land!