Profs. label ranchers as terrorists for occupying Oregon federal building

Several college professors claim that the white protesters occupying a federal building in Oregon are beneficiaries of white privilege that keeps the media from calling them domestic terrorists.

Tweeting under the hashtag “ #OregonUnderAttack,” the professors argue that the government and media responses to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by white ranchers would be far less conciliatory if the protesters were dark-skinned.

“______ Armed militia stage protests in Oregon … Put Black, Muslim, or Latino in that blank line and #OregonUnderAttack is a national crisis,” tweeted Prof. Khaled Beydoun, a law professor at the Barry University School of Law.

“The US gov’t defines terrorism as ‘acts dangerous to human life that violate federal law’,” added Dr. Craig Considine, a sociology professor at Rice University. “On that note, #OregonUnderAttack is terrorism.”

The Oregon standoff began Saturday with a rally in Burns, Oregon protesting the conviction of two ranchers on charges of arson for setting fires that spread to federal land. According to CNN, the ranchers maintain that they had set a controlled blaze to rid their property of invasive plants and to reduce the risk of wildfires, but prosecutors successfully argued in court that they had set the fire to cover up evidence of poaching.

Following the rally against that decision led by Ammon Bundy (the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who had previously led a 2014 standoff against the federal government over public land rights), several of the protesters broke into the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building, seeing the facility as symbolic of the federal government’s encroachment on the rights of individual ranchers and miners.

Although Bundy has confirmed that the group is armed, law enforcement is handling the matter delicately because there has not yet been any actual or threatened violence, and officials do not want to provoke an escalation by maintaining a large presence.

“This refuge—it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area,” Bundy said, claiming that more than 100 ranches have been displaced by the refuge’s expansion since the early 1900’s. “They are continuing to expand the refuge at the expense of the ranchers and miners.”

The group’s critics, however, contend that it is hypocritical for white citizens to protest the government’s seizure of land, given the nation’s history of expropriating land from Native American tribes.

“Let’s not forget – they’re occupying sacred Native land,” Dr. Considine tweeted. “They’re terrorists, not patriots.”

Considine followed that up with a graphic that appears to depict the gradual erosion of Native American lands, contrasting a completely black silhouette of the United States in 1492 with images from other points in American history showing the black portions receding until they amount to just a few specks on a present-day map.

“The irony with these terrorists is they’re occupying land that isn’t even theirs,” Considine remarked in the caption to the image.

Prof. Beydoun, meanwhile, argued another line of criticism of the protesters, asserting that the federal building occupation is merely a manifestation of anti-Muslim and white supremacist ideologies.

“Let’s not forget, before #OregonUnderAttack, white militias held nationwide armed anti-Muslim protests,” he tweeted, adding that these are “hardly isolated events.”

In another tweet, he claims that “63 percent of terrorist attacks in the US since 1983 commit [sic] by white men. Many attacks orchestrated by armed militias.”

Both professors took flak for their comments from other Twitter users, with several comments attacking the relevancy and accuracy of their claims.

“The MSM and talk shows are still calling them peaceful protestors [sic] bc there’s not looting or people around,” one user pointed out in response to Considine’s description of the protesters as terrorists. “You just have to try and scrape the bottom to vilify this don’t you,” remarked another commenter.

Beydoun was rebuked even more strongly, with one user accusing him of lying and race-baiting while others condemned him for offering misleading statistics.

“@KhaledBeydoun well according the census white are 77 percent of the population so whites according to you commit less terrorism as a %,” one user noted, while another asked, “How likely are Muslims to be terrorists compared to whites when you factor in their % of the population?”

Beydoun and Considine have thus far not engaged with their detractors on social media, and while Beydoun has not yet responded to messages from Campus Reform seeking additional comment on the claims made in his tweets, Considine was able to find time while travelling to compose a short response.

“By sacred land I meant the entire country,” he confirmed in an email to Campus Reform.

“My understanding is the 'religion' of natives was nature. Their church was the earth,” he explained. “Europeans exploited land for consumption and progress. Natives protected it because that was part of their 'faith’.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete