The Oregon Under Attack Hashtag Points Out The Double Standards That Exist When It Comes To Protesting
When armed protesters took over an Oregon wildlife refuge and became known as a "militia" on Saturday and Sunday, the American public had more than a few red flags to raise — mainly because of what didn't happen. The National Guard didn't race to the scene, the media didn't classify the group as terroristic in nature, and the armed protesters weren't hastily attacked by police. Voicing their concerns on Twitter, social media users spread the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack to point out the double standards that they saw between the response to this demonstration and to those that took place over recent years in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities around the country.
On Saturday, a group composed of reportedly 100 protesters marched through the small town of Burns, Oregon. They then headed approximately 30 miles south to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where they stormed the headquarters building while it was closed for the holidays. They've held out there since, all as an effort to protest the sentences that two local men received as part of an arson conviction. Father-son duo Dwight and Steven Hammond are set to return to jail on Monday to serve about four years each for setting a fire on their own property in 2001 that spread to government lands.
By Sunday, the response from government officials and law enforcement agencies remained eerily quiet. On Saturday night, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward acknowledged the activity, but didn't say what course of action would taken to handle it. "A collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution," Ward's statement said. "For the time being please stay away from that area." Twitter users were quick to compare the seemingly understated response to this group of armed protesters with the controversial responses to violence in other cities.
Some members of the public felt that the protesters had been mislabeled by the media. The group is commonly being referred to as a "militia," whereas some see its actions more deserving of the label "domestic terrorism." "Militia," which harkens back to colonial times, seems to have a more positive connotation than "terrorist cell."
As other tweeters explained, pointing out the double standards that could be at work here should be taken less as a criticism of the response to the situation in Oregon and more as a critique on how the previous riots in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore were handled. That is to say, the lack of violence isn't wrong in Oregon, but the excessive use of violence was probably the wrong way to handle other instances of protests.
In reality, the slow reaction to the so-called "militia" could be a byproduct of the location. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is located in a rather remote region of Oregon, whereas other protests that social media users are relating it to took place in large cities, where large police forces and government agencies are already located. (Even Ferguson is just a short distance to St. Louis, Missouri.) The Harney County sheriff's office, which the Los Angeles Times referred to as "already limited," seemed overwhelmed by the situation and the public's response. On Saturday, the office asked the public to stop calling because locals were having trouble reaching emergency personnel.
Ultimately, a peaceful resolution to the situation in Oregon would be ideal. More violence — particularly at the hands of people with guns — is the last thing this country needs. If and when a peaceful resolution is reached, though, it could serve as a model for other protests down the road.
Image: Ken Lund/Flickr