Occupations of buildings are fairly typical in campus protests, although that doesn’t make what is happening at the Malheur refuge any less distasteful. Justifying the occupation, Ammon Bundy says that “it is the people’s facility, owned by the people.” True enough, but so are the Smithsonian, the Department of Health and Human Services, and NORAD, which doesn’t mean it is right for aggrieved groups to take over any of them.
More sinister is the talk from Ryan Bundy, another of the family’s brothers, of potentially resisting by force if law enforcement tries to remove them. One hopes that this is self-dramatizing bluster, which is an occupational hazard of the kind of people who establish revolutionary enclaves. Last year, the Bundy ranch protesters were riven by rumors of imminent government drone attacks — having evidently mistaken southeastern Nevada for the badlands of Yemen.
The federal government’s overweening policies in the West, and the related injustice apparently done to the Hammonds, are serious matters. The proper remedy in a free society of laws is, as always, to be found in peaceful agitation and persuasion, and ultimately the ballot box. Play-acting a revolution will only bring derision — and should anyone take it too seriously, much worse.