- Adam Rosenlund
On the evening of Jan. 6, violence broke out at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burn, Ore., where Ammon Bundy and his supporters have staged an armed occupation. A member of Veterans on Patrol, which supports Bundy’s complaints against the federal government but objects to the standoff between Bundy and Oregon law enforcement, was taken to a local hospital with a black eye after being punched in the face during an attempt to enter the compound, The Oregonian reports.
The occupiers, who’ve held the refuge since New Year’s weekend, have been called everything from patriots to "Vanilla Isis" and on Jan. 6, Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, speaking to The Hill, called what Bundy's group is doing a “peaceful” act of “civil disobedience.” Not every member of Idaho’s congressional delegation agrees, however—such as Sen. Mike Crapo.
“What Crapo has said is that people have a constitutional right to free speech, but he would draw the line in terms of illegal activity,” said Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern. “It’s in the eye of the beholder in terms of what’s going on in Oregon, but we do have concerns about public safety for people who are not necessarily involved in this dispute, and people can make their feelings known in ways short of breaking the law or taking over a public building.”
Crapo has experience working with stakeholders on federal lands. In 2008 and 2009, he worked with ranchers, recreationists and local officials to make 500,000 acres in the Owyhee Canyonlands a federally recognized wilderness area. In March 2009, Pres. Barack Obama signed their combined efforts into law.
The occupation of the wildlife refuge headquarters grew out of protests against the treatment of Dwight and Steven Hammond, two men convicted of starting a 2011 fire on federal land. Their case attracted attention from patriot-movement groups because it touched on federal land use in the west and mandatory minimum sentences.
Numerous groups from around the west participated in demonstrations against the Hammonds' treatment, including 3 Percent of Idaho. The group arrived in Burns, Ore., to support the Hammonds and initially expressed reservations about Bundy's occupation of the refuge headquarters. In a press release dated Jan. 2, 3 Percent of Idaho wrote Bundy and his supporters actions "do not mirror our vision, mission statement, or views in regards to upholding the Constitution, the Rule of Law, or Due Process."
The tone changed Jan. 5, when the group released a second statement comparing the occupation of the refuge headquarters to a "sit in protest at a college." On Jan. 8, 3 Percent of Idaho announced on its Facebook page it had issued a call to action to its members to "secure a perimeter around the Wildlife Refuge, its occupiers, and the citizens of Harney County."