Militia Rideshare Offers Phoenix Crackpots Way to Join Ammon Bundy in Oregon
You've got your camo, AR-15 and night-vision goggles ready, and you're eager to join your fellow "patriots" up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, where former Phoenix resident Ammon Bundy and his armed crew of kooks have taken control of a federal compound in a bid to force the feds to turn over all federal land to county control.
But there's one problem: Your 4x4 is in the shop and you need a ride to the compound's remote address, preferably with a fellow Three Percenter, a term militia types use to compare themselves to the supposed three percent of colonists who fought the British during the Revolutionary War.
Thankfully, supporters of Bundy's group, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, have created the "Oregon Militia Standoff - Rideshare" Facebook page, which is sort of like Lyft for right-wing loons.
The page bills itself as "a dedicated ride share hub for the contiguous 48 states so that Patriots can get to the Burns, OR standoff." It also lists a 24-hour hotline where sympathizers can hear the latest on all the fun to be had at the Oregon occupation.
Sure, it sounds like a Daily Show spoof, but so far the page has garnered nearly 1,900 likes, and comments from a number of folks who seem genuinely interested in making it to Burns, like retired Arizona resident Jimi Sallmen who says he's "all in" to "ride with or drive," and William Fisher, who says he's located "just on the Cali side by Indio" and has a free seat "if someone wants to pitch in on gas." Fisher adds that he's "leaving Friday, hopefully."
One woman in Tucson asked what she could do to aid the cause. Another answered her, writing that supplies were being collected. But when a wag snarkily commented "Snacks!" in the same string, his post was deleted by the page's administrator.
Perhaps the militia folks are a little sensitive, given the near-universal ridicule that was aimed at Arizona wingnuts Blaine Cooper and Jon Ritzheimer, after they asked the public to send “supplies or snacks" to their fellow wannabe revolutionaries.
The page also offers words of advice, warning those coming to be "peaceful but prepared," and not to "wear fatigues or anything that will identify you as a militia member" while crossing state lines. Also, Oregon's gun laws should be followed to the T.
"Don't go out here to raise hell or grabass," the page admonishes. "You will only be hurting the cause."
Grabass? What is this, Brokeback Mountain meets Red Dawn?
Out of curiosity, New Times called the militia's hotline about possibly hooking up a ride to Burns and was told about Bundy's meeting with Harney County Sheriff David Ward on Thursday and that there would be another meeting between the two men on Friday.
Ward reportedly told Bundy that he wanted the group to leave and "respect the wishes of Harney County residents." The sheriff also offered to escort Bundy and his people away. But Bundy said he wasn't ready to leave yet.
The people answering the hotline — a man and a woman — told New Times that it would be best to check back today, when the plans of the militiamen might be better known, before heading to Oregon, as the occupation could be over by then.
As amusing as the snarky labels "Y'all Qaeda" and "Vanilla Isis" (s some refer to the militia men) might seem, what's disturbing is how easily white skin and a cowboy hat becomes a cloak for illegal behavior in this country.
Actually, America's preferential treatment for armed wingnutters goes further than fashion sense and race. Because if the Oregon occupation were the brainchild of left-wing radicals or, say, Islamist terrorists, you can bet that the federal government's response to an armed takeover of its building would be swift and unmerciful.
Since the Anti-Defamation League's specialty is monitoring extremist activity, New Times asked the ADL of Arizona's new regional director, Jake Bennett, how seriously his organization takes the Oregon standoff and the support it's been receiving online.
"Very seriously," Bennett explained via e-mail. "[The standoff] has the potential to escalate to violence and to trigger militant reactions from those sympathetic to the anti-government camp.
"The standoff and the support it has generated online demonstrate a rising tide of anti-government extremism and the effect the Internet has had in helping disparate and perhaps formerly isolated extremists to find each other. This has expressed itself in the `Militia Rideshare' and GoFundMe accounts that have helped would-be protesters to reach the standoff."
While many laugh at these far-right crackpots, and deservedly so, the memory of Ruby Ridge and Oklahoma City and Waco should have a sobering effect.
Ammon Bundy may seem like a paranoid joke of a man, but if our government does not put him in cuffs and charge him and his confederates for their lawlessness, a repeat of such activity is ensured.
After all, there are a lot of federal buildings in the United States, and many more reactionary wackjobs with guns.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.