BURNS, Ore. — Clad in boots, cowboy hats and camouflage, a small band of antigovernment protesters stood in the snow and subfreezing cold on Monday at a federally owned wildlife sanctuary they have taken over, called themselves defenders of the Constitution, and declared that they were at the vanguard of a national movement to force Washington to release its hold on vast tracts of Western land.For its part, the federal government appeared content, for now, to monitor the situation and wait out the protesters.The armed group, which said it had adopted the name Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, has occupied a handful of buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near here since Saturday and says it does not plan to budge until its conditions are met.
The group is small — an exact number is hard to pin down — but claims to have the backing of a long list of antigovernment groups. Its goals are ambitious: The protesters want “the federal government to give up its unconstitutional presence in this county,” said Ammon Bundy, one of the leaders, at a news conference on Monday.
Heidi Beirich, the director of intelligence with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who oversees the center’s tracking of extremist groups, said that there was a danger to under-reaction, and that the last Bundy standoff had set a bad precedent.“They were emboldened by their ability to run federal officials off at the point of a gun,” Ms. Beirich said. “Now, a year and half later, there have been no prosecutions whatsoever. Pointing a gun at a federal officer is a crime.”
Kind of ironic, if you think about it: the issue is framed as a Constitutional power grab or 2nd Amendment matter, when in reality, it's just another way the power-elite screw the masses by scaring them into plonking down millions more $$ on guns and ammo they don't need. P. T. Barnum, we hardly knew ye.