German Lopez · Thursday, October 27, 2016, 10:06 pm
They armed themselves and took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon. They were found not guilty.
The verdict is completely absurd.
Eight months after the nation watched an armed militia take over a wildlife refuge in Oregon to protest federal land ownership, a jury has come back and said that they’re “not guilty.” This includes not guilty of a charge that describes what everyone knows these militants did, considering that they live streamed themselves doing it: conspiracy to prevent Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife employees from doing their jobs at the wildlife refuge.
Again, this is literally what they did. They armed themselves and took over wildlife refuge, preventing federal workers from going into the facility and doing their jobs. Ammon Bundy, the militants’ leader, even participated in interviews in which he called for more people to join him in his cause.
In fact, the militants staged their protest because they want to get federal employees out of these lands. The Bundys and other militants would like to see the federal government give up federal lands to locals. This, they argue, would free the territory of environmental regulations that they see as burdensome — but are meant to preserve endangered animals and nature — and enable more exploitation of the lands’ resources by allowing, for example, more unfettered farming, mining, and hunting.
The defense argued there was no intent to keep federal employees off the refuge. But come on. An armed group occupied a federal building. Your imagination doesn’t have to stretch very far to realize what was happening.
Yet a jury found them not guilty.
It is impossible to ignore race here. These were a group of armed white people, mostly men, taking over a facility. Just imagine: What would happen if a group of armed black men, protesting police brutality, tried to take over a police facility and hold it hostage for more than a month? Would they even come out alive and get to trial? Would a jury find them and their cause relatable, making it easier to send them back home with no prison time?
One doesn’t have to do much imagining here, either. The social science is pretty clear: People are much more likely to look at black people and see criminals and wrongdoers. They don’t get the privilege of innocence in the same way white people — including these militants in Oregon — do.