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Hammond Pardon Emboldens the Militia & ‘Patriot’ Movement

This is reprinted from a Rural Organizing Project email:
On Tuesday, President Trump pardoned ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr and Steven Hammond, at the urging of Representative Greg Walden (R-OR). The father and son were imprisoned in 2012 for arson on public land in Harney County Oregon. They served an 18 month prison sentence. In 2015 they were then re-sentenced to additional prison time under a federal mandatory minimum sentence for damaging federal property. The armed militia ‘Patriot Movement’ used this event to spark the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January 2016. ROP and human dignity groups and leaders in Harney and Grant and counties across Oregon came together to demand an end to the the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. Below we share reflections on President Trump’s pardon of the Hammonds:
It is significant that neither Rep. Walden nor President Trump mentioned the very damaging trend of Federal and State ‘Mandatory Minimum’ sentences, which disproportionately falls on working class people, especially people of color.
It is also significant that, while Rep Walden was very public about his personal lobbying for a Presidential pardon in this individual case, he has been almost completely silent about Trump’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy towards refugees seeking asylum, and the separating of young children from families at the US Borders. There are currently over 150 refugees being detained in Oregon’s Federal Prison in Sheridan, yet Rep Walden is the only member of the Oregon delegation to remain silent. Additionally, over dozens of immigrants are detained by ICE indefinitely, under inhumane conditions at the NORCOR facility in The Dalles, in Rep Walden’s own District. He has never mentioned the NORCOR facility, let alone sought pardons for the immigrants and refugees detained, despite the fact that hundreds of his own constituents have protested their mistreatment.
The pardon also gives a very troubling green light to armed militia movements and the special interests behind them, who have used the Hammond case to mount an attack on public lands across the West. Ryan Bundy, one of the leaders of the armed militants that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge two years ago, is quoted by OBP yesterday saying: “Today shows we were right, we went there for a good reason, and our efforts have finally come to fruition.”
During the 40-day armed occupation, militia members intimidated townspeople in Burns, damaged public property at the wildlife preserve, and desecrated unceded land of the Burns Paiute Tribe. They never once mentioned prison sentencing reform, but called incessantly for the privatization of public lands, and repeal of agreements between BLM, the Burns Paiute Tribe and local ranchers. If Ryan Bundy is correct, then yesterday was a victory for vandalism, paramilitaries and threats and intimidation, with big help from the area’s own Congressional Representative.
At the time of the armed occupation, residents in Harney County, the Burns Paiute Tribe and Oregonians across the state took a strong line against the take over and against militias, and continue to do so. This move by President Trump and Rep Walden seems to be his attempt to mobilize the militia, “Patriot” and paramilitary movements for upcoming midterms and to encourage their armed tactics that use threats and intimidation to endanger our communities.
During the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation, Rural Organizing Project worked with Political Research Associates to put together this guide on the Patriot Movement in Oregon, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement. Read more about the history and players in this movement and the many ways that rural Oregonians have organized in response for safety and democracy in their communities.
Rural Oregonians across the state are continuing to organize for a real vision of safety, justice and democracy in our communities: a dismantling of the systems of detention and deportation for immigrants; true economic justice in rural communities with fully funded public infrastructure like libraries and schools; healthcare access for all; an end to mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately impact low income and communities of color; and a democracy where those impacted are a part of the decisions being made about their lives.

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