An armed white militia has threatened violence in Oregon, so are they terrorists?

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On Saturday a group of armed men stormed the headquarters of a government building in rural Oregon to protest the "tyranny" of the federal government, threatening violence if law enforcement tries to remove them and calling on "patriots" to join their fight.

Member of the group Jon Ritzheimer talking about the US constitution in a now-deleted YouTube video

It appears the group want the Bureau of Land Management to turn over a wildlife reserve to local ranchers.

Leader Ryan Bundy (son of Cliven Bundy, who carried out a similar standoff over land use in Nevada in 2014) said that the group were willing to use violence.

The group claims to number more than 100 in the occupied buildings, but reporters on the ground say the number appears to be closer to a dozen. They have been holed up since Saturday night local time.

Many commenters online have been quick to point out that the stand-off bears all the hallmarks of a terrorist incident.

For context, here is how the FBI defines terrorism:

The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

And the US government has traditionally used four criteria in determining what counts as an act of terror:

  • Premeditation
  • Political motivation
  • Aimed at civilians
  • Carried out by sub-national groups, rather than the state or army

And yet it is not receiving the coverage expected of such a story, which the Associated Press has reported as "peaceful":

Since the November Paris attacks, which stoked fears across the West about taking in Syrian refugees, right-wing white men in the US have killed people at a Planned Parenthood clinic, shot at Black Lives Matter protesters and held armed rallies outside mosques.

But as Tara Culp-Ressler writes at Think Progress, white protesters are treated differently by officials, and the media, in general, is still uncomfortable with labelling white people as terrorists:

The racial justice activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter are often labelled as “threat actors” and accused of inciting violence against police officers, even though the movement is largely nonviolent.

But even when white people are suspected of committing violent crimes, there’s evidence they aren’t subject to the same scrutiny or perceived as the same level of threat. Indeed, armed white people are more likely to be taken alive into police custody rather than shot and killed by cops.


More: Why is the US ignoring the existence of 'white terrorism'?

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