The standoff in Oregon last Saturday between law enforcement and a group of armed ranchers was just one incident to stem from a recent surge in far-right, anti-government, militia-style movements, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors hate groups and extremists.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has identified 276 militia groups operating in the U.S., a 37 percent hike from 2014 when there were 202 groups. The Oregon incident saw the takeover of the headquarters building at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, led by Ammon Bundy and two of his brothers, sons of Nevada anti-government activist Cliven Bundy.
In 2014, Cliven Bundy led a similar uprising and cobbled together a heavily armed group of several dozen activists to protect his herd of cows, which the Nevada government had announced it would impound, along with charging $1.2 million in unpaid grazing fees.
Due to the success of Bundy’s Nevada protests, along with growth fueled by President Barack Obama’s election, the Oregon standoff was predictable, according to the SPLC.
“We believe these armed extremists have been emboldened by what they saw as a clear victory at the Cliven Bundy ranch, and the fact that no one was held accountable for taking up arms against agents of the federal government,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Center’s Intelligence Project, said.
“When the federal government was stopped from enforcing the law at gunpoint, it energized the entire movement ... The fact is, Bundy is still a free man and has not paid the money he owes to the federal government — and the militiamen who aimed rifles at federal agents have gotten away with it.”
The SPLC typically considers militia groups to be ones that follow extreme anti-government doctrines and promote “groundless conspiracy theories” about the federal government. The center tracked 42 such groups in 2008 and saw a spike after President Obama’s election, peaking at 334 in 2011 before declining again.