What if you offered help, but it really, REALLY wasn’t wanted?
That seems to be the situation developing in Burns, Oregon. A father/son pair are headed back to prison next week for the arson of federal grasslands in 2012, but a group of militiamen have promised to contest the pair being taken back into custody.
The strangers carrying the whisper of danger arrived in the vast territory of the Harney Basin just before the holidays.
Ammon Bundy once helped his father repulse the government in an armed showdown on a Nevada desert. He was Tasered for his effort.
Ryan Payne, an electrician from Montana, joined that same standoff and boasted of organizing civilians into sniper squads that drew a bead on federal agents.
And not long ago, Jon Ritzheimer worried the FBI with his threatening rants against Muslims in Arizona and elsewhere.
Now, the men say, they are in Burns to help Dwight and Steven Hammond.
The Hammonds are father and son ranchers, due to report to federal prison on Monday. They were convicted in 2012 of arson for lighting public land on fire adjacent to their ranch land south of Burns. They have been imprisoned once and must return for an additional term after federal appellate judges said they had been illegally sentenced the first time.
Self-styled patriots and militiamen gathering in Burns don’t want that to happen, declaring the Hammonds’ imprisonment illegal under the U.S. Constitution.
They have latched on to the Hammonds as their latest cause to stand against the federal government.
“I am here now trying to empower and motivate the people of this community to take a stand against tyranny and show them that I will gladly stand with them,” Ritzheimer said.
The Hammonds don’t want to be part of the outsiders’ cause, and neither do many in Harney County.
Whatever your feelings about the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff, the Bundy’s at least clearly welcomed the support of the armed volunteers who were willing to lay their lives on the line for what they felt was a principled stand against an overreaching federal government.
That’s not the situation in Burns, where the Hammonds are supposed to head back to prison next week, and don’t want outsiders interfering with their peaceful surrender. Ammon Bundy, Ryan Payne, Jon Ritzheimer, and the other militiamen that they are calling to converge on Burns are not wanted by the men they want to defend, nor the bulk of the surrounding community.
These militiamen seem to be forgetting a key fact: a force opposing government only has a measure of philosophical legitimacy if the people want their support. In this instance, the Hammonds simply want to turn themselves on Monday and finish serving their time.
These militiamen need to stop attempting to hijack the Hammond case in an attempt to stay relevant, and let Dwight and Steven Hammond peacefully turn themselves in and finish serving their time.