Brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five followers charged over a 41-day armed takeover of the Malheur federal wildlife sanctuary in Oregon last January were today acquitted of federal conspiracy and weapons charges.
All seven are free to go at it all over again, should they choose to, and perhaps inspire other disgruntled white guys with guns to stage militant takeovers of other public property.
The verdict brings to a close a case that gripped the nation earlier this year with its public debate about government powers, public lands and constitutional rights.
There was a Wild West quality to the episode, with armed men in cowboy hats taking on federal agents in a tussle over public lands and putting out a call for aid, only to see their insurrection fizzle.
In a monthlong trial here, the defendants never denied that they had occupied and held the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters for nearly six weeks, demanding that the federal government surrender the 188,000-acre property to local control. But their lawyers argued that prosecutors did not prove that the group had engaged in an illegal conspiracy that kept federal workers — employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management — from doing their jobs.
And from Reuters:
In an emotional climax to the trial in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ammon Bundy's lawyer, Marcus Mumford, was tackled to the floor by U.S. marshals as he became involved in a heated verbal exchange with the judge over the terms of his client's release.
The verdict came hours after a newly reconstituted jury, with an alternate seated to replace one panelist dismissed over questions of bias on Wednesday, renewed deliberations in the case. Jurors previously had deliberated over three days.
White guys really can get away with just about anything they want to in America.
Also known as White Dudes Getting Away With Crazy Shit—Case #5,000,000,000,000,000 https://t.co/oBTuBWASYV
— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) October 27, 2016
The coincidental timing of the Standing Rock raid and the Malheur acquittal emphasizes the continued power of settler colonial enclosure.
— Jacob Remes (@jacremes) October 27, 2016
Worth noting that the leaders of the Oregon takeover were acquitted, but 11 others have pleaded guilty already https://t.co/q1BC2wqLDd (1/2)
— Mark Berman (@markberman) October 28, 2016
Armed militia Oath Keepers suggest members patrol polls incognito, perhaps in Bob Marley T-shirts or Carhartt pants: https://t.co/N4mR4BG4cx
— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) October 28, 2016
Luckily this doesn't come right at a time in our nation where antigovernment extremists might be emboldened to do some other bad things.
— J.M. Berger (@intelwire) October 27, 2016
— The Daily Edge (@TheDailyEdge) October 28, 2016