The Citizens of Burns Oregon
The Courthouse remains barricaded. There is an intimidating aura about the block. State police, local police, County Sheriff, FBI…. they are all here. They are the guardians, but for what?
It is not business as usual for the residents, even if has become normal for the authorities.
The Sheriff can hold his public meetings. The judge can hold public meetings. However, the citizens are forbidden to hold meetings in any public building. Even in the Senior Center, as it is a county-owned building. They have asked and been denied.
They do not have the right to assemble.
Going into three weeks, the residents of the small town of Burns, Oregon are not happy. At first, they were confused. Why were their friends and neighbors, Dwight and Steven Hammond, going back to prison? They knew the Hammonds had already been to prison. Many thought the first prison sentence was unjust. What about a second time on the same charge? Isn’t that ‘Double Jeopardy’?
Why was the Malheur Wildlife Refuge taken over by militants from outside their county? What was their point? What was their purpose? Didn’t they realize that “You just can’t fight City Hall”?
Yes, that is what many of the residents thought in the beginning. Now, however, several of those very same residents are changing how they think. They see injustice. They see their rights slipping away like the Hammond’s.
Today, we watched a couple of dozen citizens stand on the street corner and demonstrate their displeasure. They were demanding their rights. Their rights to free speech. Their rights to assemble. Their rights to due process.
They brought their small children, teaching them about the Constitution. They picked today because it was Martin Luther King Day. The day that honors the man who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death in 1968.
How appropriate for the residents of Burns, in Harney County, Oregon to demonstrate for their rights on this day.
We talked to the demonstrators and most talked freely with us. Most of them were willing to be on Live-Stream video. There were many supportive people passing by, waving and honking.
Not everyone was willing to talk, however. Many were even afraid to be seen at the rally. They are afraid of retaliation, or of losing their jobs.
No, the residents are not happy with their rights being taken away.
This evening saw another community gathering. Kris Anne Hall came to Burns and spoke on the Constitution. She taught about State Sovereignty. Always a vibrant speaker, she worked the crowd of nearly 300 and lifted the hopes of many residents.
The complacent people of Harney County are starting to stir. They are asking questions.
When we asked several people today how they felt about the various groups that have been so visible over they last few weeks, many responded that, though they still aren’t sure about all of the issues, they are sure that the citizens are now finding a voice that they may not have found any other way.
I think we will be hearing more of those voices.
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