Oregon standoff: ‘Feds escalated violence’

An amoured vehicle is seen at the police perimeter around Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon January 27, 2016 © Jim Urquhart
The US government has escalated the violence in the Oregon standoff killing the de facto spokesman for the militia group, investigative journalist Patrick Henningsen told RT.

Through his lawyers, Oregon militia leader Ammon Bundy is urging his followers still holed up in a wildlife refuge to leave. Bundy's statement comes after the FBI arrested eight protesters on Tuesday after a member of the armed militia was killed by gunfire. The man shot dead was identified as Robert Finicum - one of the leaders of the Bundy group. Initial reports say he was killed in a shoot-out with federal agents. However, one supposed eyewitness claims the death was unprovoked.

RT: Will you be surprised if these claims are proven to be true?

Patrick Henningsen: I wouldn’t be surprised actually because if you look back at history, especially regarding the Federal government and any sort if similar controversies, there have been many examples where federal agents have been trigger happy and people have died, unfortunately. And innocent people have died, too. So, history is not on the side of the Federal government in this case. But what we have in America, there’s been almost a complete media blackout today on the mainstream media interestingly about this issue. And it might have something to do with what transpired yesterday.  

RT: From what you know, do you believe the authorities have acted legally?

PH: That’s all the matter of interpretation. According to the federal government, they always act legally but whether they act lawfully – that is another question altogether. So, it seems like according to reports especially by this one witness whose account we’ve read at 21st century wire, it looks like a federal ambush. You have multiple federal vehicles, dozens of agents, snipers in the woods, red lasers all over the passengers in the car when they came out. So, this was preplanned, prepositioned. This was a serious operation. They knew exactly they were coming through a remote rural stretch of road, stopped them and what happened was very unfortunate – a man has died. And this is a game changer. The fact that someone has died and that someone had their hands up would be a huge change in the narrative. And it would have very serious repercussions. Let’s hope that there is no more loss of life in this situation because there are still eight to 10 protesters holed up at the wildlife refuge.  

RT: Ammon Bundy called on his followers to stand down. Will that end the stand-off do you think?

PH: I am not sure. There is still some dispute of whether Ammon Bundy actually made that statement or this is made by the attorney which I believe is a public defender. And it is not actually being retained by the family. So, there is still some controversy that the family is altogether confident that Ammon Bundy made that statement. And simply you have to remember some of these people are very committed. This isn’t like the ‘Occupy Wall Street’; this is a generational confrontation and conflict where the federal government has to do with the generations of family farmers, not just throughout the western states but all across the US. They are really shrinking, becoming an endangered species in part of society. So, this is a seriously committed issue for a lot of these people. And I think that the media underestimates this. One of their own the ranger LaVoy Finicum has been killed possibly unarmed, definitely with his hands in the air according to this one witness. That’s huge in terms of people will rally behind that. It will harden the resolve in some cases. Let’s hope though that this is not another armed confrontation and that no one gets hurt. That would be unfortunate. But in this case the federal government has escalated the violence. Because it has been twenty days, no injuries, no one has been killed. All of a sudden, days after the governor of Oregon Kate Brown said the federal government must do something to stop these trouble makers…then this happens. So, clearly the federal government has been the one who has escalated the violence according to the reports that we have right now.  

RT: Why did federal agencies take so long to act?

PH: This is an issue that federal government absolutely will not negotiate. Clearly, they don’t want to negotiate with anybody making a political or economic stand. And the fact that there is a lot of militia involved… Sadly, there are people who, for reasons of self-promotion have inserted themselves in this controversy and maybe are not so on board with the deep core issues here which is public land rights. But the media in the US has used a militia aspect to demonize the public lands issue and to demonize small farmers or anybody who is protesting on their behalf. It has been a really messy situation in Oregon from the media point of view, from the protesters point of view and also from the federal government’s point of view. It is going to be really hard to clean up now after this.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.