The current standoff at a federal building in Oregon touched off intense social media debate about how news outlets and the government react to anti-government protests when the demonstrators are white and armed, instead of predominantly black, unarmed and carrying protest signs. Ammon Bundy, a leader of a “ranchers’ rights” group of protesters that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in rural southeastern Oregon on Saturday, said there are commonalities between his aims and the protest movements seen over the last year against police brutality in communities of color.
Bundy, who admitted not knowing much about Black Lives Matter, a national social justice movement that grew out of police use of lethal force against unarmed minorities, has been leading a protest over the rights of local ranchers to use unoccupied land in Burns, Oregon, according to NBC News. He and his brother, protest co-leader Ryan Bundy, want the federal government to turn land over to local authorities for uses that include logging, mining and recreation.
“I don’t know as much as I probably should about [Black Lives Matter],” Ammon Bundy told CNN’s Sara Sidner, in an interview that aired Monday morning. “I would imagine there is probably some similarities.”
He added: “Really, the government is for the people. The government should not be doing anything but encouraging the people to claim their rights, encouraging them to use their rights, and then protecting and defending the people as they live freely.”
— Sara Sidner (@sarasidnerCNN) January 4, 2016
The Bundy family last year made national news when they staged an armed protest with their father, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, over cattle grazing rights on public land. The action drew dozens of armed supporters to the elder Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014 and 2015.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests and terror attacks carried out by Islamic extremists, some social justice advocates scoffed at media descriptions of the Bundy family and those participating in the standoff as a “militia,” instead of “terrorists.” The word "terrorist" is so quickly applied to Muslim suspects after violent acts, and some black protesters are unfairly called thugs and looters after protests turn to riots and civil unrest, the advocates said.
They also complained about how Black Lives Matter-led protests and leaderless civil unrest seen in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore in the last year were met with aggressive response from police and the National Guard. Although the FBI said Monday it is seeking a peaceful end the Oregon standoff along with state and local law enforcement, no one has talked about assaulting the federal building where the Bundy family and others are holed up.
CNN analyst: White militiamen aren’t a threat like black protesters because ‘they’re not looting anything’ https://t.co/O6zZIbBZHX
— deray mckesson (@deray) January 3, 2016
Social media discussion about the Oregon standoff caused “#OregonUnderAttack” to trend nationwide on Twitter starting Sunday.