A group of self-described militiamen continue to occupy a federal building in the remote high desert of the US state of Oregon in protest against a prison sentence for local ranchers accused of burning government land.
The armed protesters have triggered a standoff when they stormed a wildlife refuge in Oregon listed their demands at a news conference Monday, while giving their group a name: Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.
Ammon Bundy told local newspaper The Oregonian on Sunday, Jan 3, that he and two of his brothers were among “dozens of men” occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, close to the town of Burns, in Harney county, to show support for the two men sentenced to prison for arson.
“I feel we are in a situation where if we do not do something, if we do not take a hard stand, we’ll be in a position where we’ll be no longer able to do so,” he said.
Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, were convicted of arson three years ago and served time – the father three months, the son one year. But a judge ruled that their terms were too short under US federal law and ordered them back to prison for about four years each.
The decision has generated controversy. In particular, the Hammonds’ new sentences touched a nerve with far-right groups who repudiate US federal authority.
The protest which started off as a rally on Saturday in support of the two men, quickly turned into a platform to raise issues of ongoing land-disputes in the state.
Debates have raged on social media under the #OregonUnderAttack , and newspapers have battled to reach consensus on how to describe the armed men.
“As of Sunday afternoon, The Washington Post called them ‘occupiers’. The New York Times opted for ‘armed activists’ and ‘militia men’. And the Associated Press put the situation this way: ‘A family previously involved in a showdown with the federal government has occupied a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon and is asking militia members to join them,'” The Washington Post said.
Social media users make fun of the men occupying US government building, using variations of well-known armed groups.
#YallQaeda, #VanillaISIS and #YeehawdAs authorities adopted a wait-and-see approach to deal with a group of self-described militiamen occupying a United States federal building in the remote high desert of the state of Oregon, perhaps the strongest reaction to the siege has been on social media.
The group of armed men, holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since Saturday, have been mocked mercilessly over their protest against a prison sentence for local ranchers accused of burning government land and their calls for more armed “militiamen” to join them.
And as US media organisations continued to struggle with ways to best describe those involved in the Oregon siege, a trio of hashtags emerged on Twitter to lend them a hand: #YallQaeda, #Yeehawd and #VanillaISIS.