The acquittal of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five other members of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, has resonated through the antigovernment extremist movement in unsettling ways. And the Bundy family is warning the fight might not be over.
Less than a week after a federal jury in Oregon acquitted the leaders of the antigovernment occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Ryan Bundy told The Washington Post that other militant actions would be justified if President Obama follows through with plans to build a national monument on land abutting the Bundy’s family ranch.
Bundy’s concerns center around a fear that Obama may use his executive power under the 1906 Antiquities Act to impose new restrictions on the Gold Butte, a 350,000-acre parcel of desert wilderness just south of the Bundy’s family ranch. With Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid describing the monument designation as one of his final goals before retiring this year, the concerns are once again simmering with undertones of revolt.
“Read the Declaration of Independence,” Bundy defiantly told paper. “It says right there that if the government becomes abusive, it’s our right and our duty to abolish that government. If the government won’t restrain itself, whatever happens is their own fault.”
The comment comes in the wake of the surprise verdict in Oregon, where Bundy and his brother, Ammon Bundy, led a 41-day armed occupation that days after police arrested the leaders at a roadblock on Jan. 26 that left one occupier, LaVoy Finicum, shot and killed.
As many have feared, the acquittals have once again emboldened the antigovernment movement, which has supported the Bundy’s confrontation with the federal government for years.
“The Feds should be real worried right about now,” one commenter using the name Bluelovedress wrote on the Oath Keepers website. “The rabble are sensing that Goliath is not a giant but has only remained in power because good people who have tried to not resort to violence to change our corrupt system. I think those people are waning in patience and Hitlerly [a pejorative nickname for Hillary Clinton] win will push the needle across the record.”
Another user, Karl P. Koenigs, team leader at the Wisconsin Tea Party Committee on State Sovereignty, posted an even more ominous warning Facebook. “JUSTICE is Coming my friends. … And, HELL is coming with us!”
While the antigovernment movement has plenty of reason of late to celebrate, it’s also got some unfinished business, with many having eyes on the future.
“Now it’s game on,” B.J. Soper, founder of the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, promises on a Facebook post after hearing word of the acquittal. “Justice for Lavoy is next. Proof LAVOY was murdered just came out from the jury in PORTLAND.”
Other reactions from the radical right claim jury nullification – a practice tied to antigovernment “sovereign citizen” ideology that claims a jury has the right to dismiss a law itself as arbitrary, and find a defendant not guilty despite evidence to convict.
“Juries should always be fully informed as to their historical role and powers, especially their right to nullify bad laws and bad applications of the law. Many government entities actively suppress free speech related to jurors' access to this extremely important feature of our justice system,” a forum user named “sargon” said on the hard-line conservative freerepublic.com. “The Revolution is ON! Vote Trump!“
There seems to be little evidence for that, however. One juror in the trial detailed the logic behind the decision to acquit the occupiers in an email to The Oregonian.
"It should be known that all 12 jurors felt that this verdict was a statement regarding the various failures of the prosecution to prove 'conspiracy' in the count itself – and not any form of affirmation of the defense's various beliefs, actions or aspirations,” the juror, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
Perhaps most surprising, antigovernment extremists aren’t the only one’s celebrating the acquittal. White nationalist Brad Griffin, who runs Occidental Dissent, took the occasion to mock some critics of the trial’s outcome who have claimed the verdict would have been different had the defendants been African-American.
“Whitey Found Not Guilty!” Griffin wrote.