Reactions by law enforcement and the media to a group of armed militiamen who seized a government building over the weekend have critics complaining of a double standard. Several social media users complained that the authorities are treating the militiamen, who are essentially domestic terrorists, with kid gloves. The Washington Post questioned some of the words used to described the Oregon militiamen.
“As of Sunday afternoon, The Washington Post called them ‘occupiers.’ The New York Times opted for ‘armed activists’ and ‘militiamen,’ ” said Janell Ross. “Not one seemed to lean toward terms such as ‘insurrection,’ ‘revolt,’ anti-government ‘insurgents’ or, as some on social media were calling them, ‘terrorists.’ It is hard to imagine that none of the words mentioned above — particularly ‘insurrection’ or ‘revolt’ — would be avoided if, for instance, a group of armed black Americans took possession of a federal or state courthouse to protest the police.”
Harney County Sheriff David Ward told The Oregonian the militiamen intended to replace the government, but stopped short of calling them terrorists. In a press release Ward said that “in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”
The militiamen are part of a revived anti-government movement which is fighting against federal authorities they believe have too much power. They are led by three sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who engaged in an armed standoff with federal agents in 2014. Even though anti-government activists flocked to Bundy’s ranch and pointed guns at federal agents, no shots were fired.
The Oregon militiamen are also protesting the sentencing of Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who were found guilty of arson for torching federal land. But even though the armed militiamen seized a government building and are defending convicted criminals, they are still being treated sympathetically by some media sources. ABC News was widely mocked when it released a tweet, which has since being deleted, describing the Oregon standoff as a “peaceful protest.” Several Twitter users have pointed out the glaring difference in the way the media and law enforcement are treating armed militiamen compared to unarmed Black Lives Matters activists.
“An armed group of people taking over a federal building is called what? TERRORISM. Unless you’re white, apparently,” said Black Lives Matter MPLS.
Media pundit Roland Martin questioned the lack of military response to a group of armed men taking over a government building.
“Did I miss the call for the national guard in Oregon? I recall them in Ferguson and Baltimore,” Martin tweeted.
Art Roderick, a retired U.S. marshal, told CNN’s Reliable Sources the government would likely try to end the standoff peacefully. He said agents would simply wait the militiamen out. However, the militiamen say they have enough supplies to last years and are willing to die for their cause.
Local police responded to unarmed demonstrators in Ferguson with mine-resistant combat vehicles, assault rifles and snipers, but in Oregon they are willing to wait for the militiamen to get tired. Twitter user Igiaba Scego said she was disgusted by the police reaction to white men armed with real weapons, compared to their reaction to Tamir Rice, a Black boy with a toy gun.
“White militia with gun=peaceful patriots,” Scego tweeted. “Black Boy with a toy= gang.”