Friday, October 21, 2016

Jury deliberates in Malheur standoff case, as land use questions linger

As the jury began deliberating Thursday in Portland, residents of the region were left wrestling with the political and economic questions central to the Malheur occupation saga – particularly whether the federal government, which owns a majority of the land in Oregon and other western states, should cede more control of these forests and grazing pastures back to the states. Ammon Bundy, who led the ranchers to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was merely protesting what he considered tyrannical federal land-management policies, argued his defense attorney, Marcus Mumford. Last year, some 37 bills favoring local land control were introduced in 11 state legislatures. Assistant US Attorney Ethan Knight, arguing for the prosecution, said Mr. Bundy had broken the law and armed the wildlife refuge as a type of "fortress" from which he pressed a political agenda. Mumford contended that his client was defending freedom. "You are the heart and lungs of liberty," Mumford told jurors during a nearly four-hour-long presentation. "Only you can make clear that Mr. Bundy is not a conspirator and none of these men and women are conspirators." While the ranchers may be imperfect messengers, they highlighted the point that poverty in the west has been rising even as it has fallen in the south – a message that could garner public support, as the Monitor's Patrik Jonsson reported in January:
... the plight of poor, mostly white Americans languishing under the thumb of federal land managers provides a poignant insight into recent economic trends as well as a centuries-old fight over land use in the west, one which could, some say, provide these Western range riders common cause with other groups of marginalized Americans.
The prospect that the occupiers might find a sympathetic audience grew, some observers said, when law enforcement shot and killed LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher who had previously promised not to surrender without a fight, as he reached inside his jacket after police stopped one of the group's vehicles. "The risk here is that you had people who were basically perceived by the public as clowns, and now an incident like this can shift that perception and give them what they wanted, which is the status of martyr and victim," Michael German, a former FBI agent who infiltrated white supremacist groups in the 1990s and is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, told the Monitor in January. Mumford, the defense attorney, cited evidence that nine government informants were present at the refuge during the occupation, providing information to federal law enforcement while also influencing the course of events. He argued that federal officials were trying to manipulate both the occupiers and public perception...more

1 comment:

Dave Pickel said...

The ground is already put to its best land use. The issue is land control not land use.