Things are actually pretty calm in Oregon, where Ammon Bundy and federal authorities are facing off over the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The biggest news is a group which claimed to want to de-escalate the situation was told to leave by Bundy’s group. Pacific Patriots Network showed up Saturday to meet with Bundy’s group on being a security detail for the perimeter. But Bundy’s group told reporters later the group was told to go away. Via The Oregonian:
Todd MacFarlane, a Utah lawyer acting as a mediator, said occupation leader Ammon Bundy doesn’t want the armed visitors there.
Bundy’s message: “We don’t need that. We don’t want it and we’re asking you to leave,” MacFarlane told reporters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
MacFarlane said he had just met with Bundy and other leaders of the occupation.
They’re “alarmed” by the arrival of Pacific Patriots Network members, some carrying rifles, and concerned about the perception they convey.
“This was the last thing in the world they wanted to see happen,” MacFarlane said.
Bundy didn’t request the presence of the network, he said, and has “tried to put out the word: ‘We don’t need you.'”
Pacific Patriots Network has a slightly different opinion of what went down. Again, via The Oregonian:
Joseph Rice, a spokesman for the network, told reporters that his group presented occupation leader Ammon Bundy and other protesters with “articles of resolution.”
He didn’t say what was in the document, but noted that his group wants to move the sides to an end to the standoff.
There are a few tea leaves to sift through on this. For one, PPN had been publicly claiming for a few days they wanted to put the perimeter together to make sure there wasn’t a repeat of the Waco siege from 1993. PPN also claimed it wanted to make sure they didn’t elevate any tensions by showing up in military or tactical-style clothing. The problem is, they may not have been able to accomplish this. The Oregonian posted pictures of some people on the perimeter, who appeared to be wearing tactical-style harnesses for their rifles. PPN even admitted to having people in full kit in a post on 3% of Idaho’s Facebook page (emphasis mine).
Due to threats to members of our network and local residents, and as a deterrent to fringe groups that may have malicious intent, we arrived at the refuge in numbers, with our security teams openly armed and in full kit for everyone’s safety. Our presence is strictly to ensure peaceful resolution to the situation, and serve as a neutral mediator between parties. We offered the Proposed Articles of Resolution to the occupiers of refuge and encouraged them to seek open dialog with all pertinent agencies to begin the process of bringing this situation to a peaceful conclusion. After delivering the proposal, our teams withdrew from the location, and will remain off site. We are not part of the Malheur occupation.
From the refuge we proceeded to the FBI outpost and again, advised open dialog between the FBI and those occupying the refuge.
The process was repeated to the sheriff, as well.
So it appears PPN showed up uninvited, and possibly screwed up by being all decked out in full kit. One thing Open Carry Texas was good at doing during the push for open carry in Texas was NOT showing up in tactical garb and just carrying around their AR-15 and other rifles. That’s a lot less threatening than being in a full kit. So PPN made a tactical error (pun intended) by showing up fully armed and decked out. It would make sense for Bundy’s group to say, “No, no, we’re fine. Go home,” if they’re trying to keep things calm and copacetic. It could also mean Bundy doesn’t agree with the articles PPN drew up. But it doesn’t mean everyone involved in what’s going on are freaking out. III% Idaho (which is part of PPN) had a pretty normal conversation with the FBI on Saturday, where they presented their articles of resolution to them (video on YouTube is here). One thing which is interesting is it doesn’t appear any of the group were carrying weapons. It doesn’t mean they weren’t (based on the title of the video they were) but the FBI agents were the only ones visibly armed.
It’s also important to remember Bundy seems to want to keep this a low-key event. Yes, his group is armed, but we have no idea how many are carrying and what kind of weapons are there. Bundy told reporters on Friday his meeting with the Harney County sheriff went well, and they have an understanding on what’s going on. The III% Idaho YouTube video shows the FBI is staged and armed, but they aren’t acting like “evil government agents” and are just monitoring what’s going on. The Idaho 3%-ers are talking about wanting an open dialogue and aren’t being confrontational either. So this is a good thing. There’s no real stress, no real tension, and both sides are being respectful.
It’s possible one reason these things were so calm is because of all the cameras and smart phones. This situation is as much of a PR fight as it is a “fight” against the federal government. If one side appears more confrontational than the other, then they lose in the court of public opinion. So for everyone to be having a good dialogue, even if they disagree, is a good thing and pushes back against the idea Bundy’s group (and groups like it) is just a bunch of anti-government crazies. This is probably why Bundy told PPN to leave because it makes it appear like they’re ready for war, when they’re not. It also pushes against the idea the FBI is cocked, locked, and ready to storm where Bundy and his friends are. This is why it was important for law enforcement to not storm the refuge when Bundy’s group occupied it. They’ve learned the lessons of Waco and Ruby Ridge, and are letting things play out. This doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t being made, but at least they’re minimal at best. Bundy is dug in and not leaving. Law enforcement is waiting and both sides are talking. It doesn’t mean everything is going to go to hell eventually, but it’s nice they haven’t yet.