Arizona’s infamous anti-Islam leader, Jon Ritzheimer, is hunkered down with about a dozen other armed “patriots” in buildings on a federal wildlife refuge as part of an armed protest against the federal government.
He says he’s been in Harney County, a rural ranching area in eastern Oregon, for at least a week and a half to fight for the freedom and constitutional rights of all Americans.
“You see, [I] swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which is blatantly under attack. But the only way to defend it is to actually take a stand and defend it,” Ritzheimer says in a new video he posted on social media to explain his actions.
“I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching up here. And I’m with good people who have also had to do a lot of soul searching – some people that have been doing this soul searching for years.
“And I am 100 percent willing to lay my life down to fight against tyranny in this country.”
What exactly is Ritzheimer willing to die for?
SHARE! MARINE Jon Ritzheimer and Patriots! In Oregon! Jon Ritzheimer's Plan! Israel Torres Eric Ej Parker Blaine Cooper Oregon III% has been working with other Patriots to coordinate a peaceful"I stand with the Hammonds and Harney county" support rally and march.Saturday Jan 2nd 10:00am (date has changed from the 4th) -Those wanting to travel together will rendezvous at Wilco in Bend on hwy 20 ( Wilco, 2717 NE Hwy 20, Bend, OR 97701)Patriot Convoy from Bend to Burns- Meet at the Safeway in Burns.(Safeway, 246 W. Monroe St., Burns, OR 97720) arrive around 12:00pm.Bring flags, flowers, banners and homemade signs.We'll march from Safeway, north on past Sheriffs office,head east to downtown main street (Broadway) and stop by the Hammond's home, drop off flowers in front of their home.For those who want to participate,contact your Zones/County leads to plan a sign making event in you respective areas between now and the 2nd of January, so you can talk with your people in person about the event. We should have a good turn out, support our neighbors, and rally once again.We will be calling media outlets to let them know that Americans will be gathering in Burns to support the ranchers that are being treated like terrorists.Pleas wear civilian clothes, follow state laws, and carry concealed if possible,contact me or your local Zone leaders to schedule car pooling.Please contact BJ Soper or Jeff Roberts for all questions.Posted by Blaine Cooper on Monday, December 28, 2015
Quick recap: This all began with two Oregon ranchers who served a short stint in federal prison for arson after they admitted to setting fires on federal lands illegally.
Steven Hammond, 46, and his father, Dwight Hammond, 73, were ordered to return to prison by a federal judge who ruled that the two must serve more time because of a 1996 law that mandates acts of domestic terrorism receive at least a five-year sentence.
This announcement, suffice it to say, ignited the entire national right-wing, anti-government militia movement.
Ritzheimer and other “patriots” across the country are infuriated by the judge’s decree and see it as one more instance of a tyrannical and overreaching federal government taking advantage of “the people.”
As far as they’re concerned, the Constitution says federal lands belong to the local people so the Bureau of Land Management, which maintains jurisdiction over the land in question, has no right to be there.
Legal arguments aside, Ritzheimer and a large group of armed right-wing militiamen promptly went to Burns, held a demonstration, and then took over an unoccupied federal building on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Original reports stated there were close to 150 armed protesters inside the building, but the number now is thought to be closer to a dozen.
In an FBI statement, agents said: “Due to safety considerations for both those inside the refuge as well as the law enforcement officers involved, [they] will not be releasing any specifics with regards to the law enforcement response.”
So, as far as we know, Ritzheimer still is one of the men there. (He did not respond to multiple requests for comments but has been posting regularly on social media.)
“When [the Constitution is] being infringed upon, you come together and you make a stand: you defend it,” Ritzheimer says. “The oppression and the tyranny that’s taking place here in Oregon, we know it’s taking place across the U.S. – the Bundy Ranch was prime example.”
(Ritzheimer is referring to the 2014 armed standoff between the federal government and protesters in Nevada who rallied around rancher Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay grazing fees for using federal land and thus became a a symbol of perceived federal overreach. Bundy’s sons are current leaders in this new Oregon standoff.)
But before joining his “fellow patriots” in the armed takeover, to show how seriously he takes this situation, Ritzheimer uploaded what may be his most emotional video yet: a goodbye message to his wife and daughters.
With tears in his eyes – and a few rolling down his cheeks — he holds up a pocket-sized Constitution and explains to his daughters: “Your Daddy swore an oath. He swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. And that’s why he couldn’t be with you on Christmas – that’s why I can’t be with you on New Years.”
Later in the video, Ritzheimer says forcefully: “I want to die a free man.” He then sniffles, looks away from the camera, and adds: “More than anything, I want to be with my family. I do not want to be up here having to deal with this.
“But if you do not spearhead this and take a stand, it’s going to set a new precedent around the U.S. They” – presumably the federal government – “get stronger and continue to think that they can go around and bully ‘we the people.’”
According to Ritzheimer, “this Hammond family has been so oppressed” and the situation they are in is such an egregious violation of everything the U.S. stands for, that it’s worth dying for — “Does that mean I want war? Does that make me some sort of a warmonger? No!” he says.
According to the New York Times, lawyers for the Hammond family say the two men do not welcome the help of the protesters and have agreed to return to prison.
But Ritzheimer goes on to explain that there’s a conspiratorial smear campaign against him and his fellow patriots, as rumors spread across the country that the people of Harney County don’t want them there and feel harassed by their tactics.
Don’t believe those rumors, Ritzheimer says: “We’re out here trying to win the hearts and minds of the people of Harney County.”
He and other protesters have vowed to maintain their ground for as long as necessary.
“When you unite and you take a stand,” Ritzheimer says, “there’s no stopping us.”
Watch Ritzheimer's latest video:
SHARE MESSAGE FROM Jon Ritzheimer.History will be made here in Burns, OR. 2016 will be a great year for America. God Bless America and God Bless those willing to stand for freedom. We are not asking for money so if you can send supplies or anything that will help the militia and those taking a stand then please send it to:General MailJon Ritzheimer or Blaine CooperBurns, OR 97720We will humbly accept monetary donations at www.rogueinfidel.com. Again, not asking for money and care packages would be greatly appreciated. Things we could use:cold weather sockssnacksenergy drinksequipment for cold weathersnow camogearanything you think will help. Thank you all for the support.Posted by Blaine Cooper on Friday, January 1, 2016
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.