As the armed standoff between the “militiamen” at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon drags on into yet another week, the lack of official response or reaction is rather odd. The desire to not give them any attention in the hopes that they’ll disperse on their own terms, without bloodshed, is very understandable, but looking at similar cases in the past, there appears to be a distinct difference in the way protesters of different races are dealt with.
We have already covered how the armed MOVE protestors were dealt with – the city of Philadelphia bombed their own city block, killing many, including children. But how about the case of unarmed black protestors who also occupied a wildlife refuge?
Some forty members of the People Organized for Equal Rights took over a nature reserve in Savannah, Georgia, in 1979. The group were protesting the refusal of the federal government to return the land seized from their ancestors by the military under eminent domain in 1942, for which they were paid a pittance compared to their white neighbors.
The land, which had been given to former slaves after the Civil War, was bulldozed to build an airbase during the Second World War, destroying all the buildings the families had erected over the previous decades. Quite reasonably, the POER protesters wanted reparations for the destruction and the land back – as opposed to the absurd demands of the Bundy milita, the legitimacy of which exists only in their minds.
The federal government, however, had little sympathy and ignored their claims while quickly “forcibly removing” the protesters not three days into their protest and charged them with trespassing, their claims ignored.
While the situations might seem different, it is an astonishing contrast to see the legitimate demands of resettled people ignored so rudely and repressively while these idiot thugs in Oregon play “patriot” with reckless impunity, terrorizing a small rural town while working furiously to incite a shootout, proving their supposed points about the “repression” of the federal government. They have no idea what real repression really looks like.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.