Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Traffic Stop Ends in Violence; Oregon Protesters Involved

Ammon Bundy speaking

On Tuesday night, a traffic stop in Oregon took a violent turn, leaving one man dead. 8 others were arrested, all of whom belonging to a militia which has occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since January 2.

The armed militia originally took control of the federal property in protest of the 5-year sentences of two ranchers charged with the crime of burning federal property. At first, the two men were to be sentenced to the 5-year minimum for their crimes, but the judge decided that would be too harsh a sentence. He instead sentenced one man to three months and the other to one year in federal prison. However, the federal government appealed to elongate the sentences to the minimum of 5 years, eventually winning.

Outraged by the treatment of these men, Nevada rancher Ammon Bundy began protesting online, ultimately going to the ironically-named city of Burns to assemble even more supporters.

However, the militia’s protest extends to a more broad issue. The federal government currently owns a majority of land in western states such as Nevada and Oregon, which presents numerous problems to ranchers, who require large amounts of land. For example, ranchers must pay grazing fees in order to use federally-owned land to raise cattle.

Bundy’s father has previously spoken out against governmental control over these land. Ammon Bundy’s militia now demands that western land be given back to local communities.

Incidentally, one of the people arrested on Tuesday was Ammon Bundy, the leader of the protest. While the protests continue, it is questionable that the protest may endure for much longer. Without a leader, and with one member killed, the future of the protest is left to be decided.

My questions for you are as follows:

Does Bundy raise a valid question? Should the federal government relinquish land to local communities?
Did Bundy and his supporters act reasonably by taking the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, or was this too extreme?
Taking into account that an armed militia was involved, should weapons be used in any form of protest? Does the use of weapons help or hurt the cause? How should authorities deal with protests involving weapons?


1 comment:

Justin Chan said...

Thank you TJ for your post. The problem presented in this article between grazing permits and extent of government control has been constantly building during the past few decades. Ranchers don't want to pay grazing permits, while the government wants to ensure the quality of the land for many generations to come. I do not support the rancher's argument that the grazing permits and government control of the land are too much. The intention of the grazing permits is to reduce the ranchers from raising, for example, two times more cattle than the land can support, which would lead to catastrophic reductions of soil quality. Once the soil has become eroded, the process known as desertification occurs, which partially explains the current low production of food in Africa. In addition, if the land wasn't controlled by the government, the vegetation on the land would be free-for-all, leading to many environmental problems and pushing the world deeper into global warming. The connection between land degradation and climate change can be studied more using this link:
The phenomenon that the government is trying to prevent is the Tragedy of the Commons–a principle stating that people are naturally selfish with respect to the amount of resources they use if no one is responsible for these resources. Here is the link to learn more about this principle:

Focusing back on the protest, I believe that Bundy and his supporters have a reasonable aggression since the government appears to restrict their income; however, I do not support the way they protest. Blocking federal property and, more importantly, carrying weapons to promote their cause lower the validity and focus of what they are fighting for–release of government control from these grazing lands. Policemen and legislators now see the protestors as a threat to its citizens, rather than a large group of individuals getting the short end of the stick due to environmental policies. Although I do not agree with Bundy's and his supporters' belief about grazing permits and method of protest, I truly understand where their frustration stems from.

What do you think the government should do about the grazing permits? Should they change, keep, or modify them?
Is the greater good of saving the environment worth limiting the income of these cattle owners?
What is the most effective way for these protesters to protest?

Source of information about grazing permits and environmental damages: