The terror in her voice was palpable, and she had even considered joining the initial march that sparked the occupation of the wildlife refuge by a breakaway group led by the Bundy brothers.A man who proclaims himself a member of the Alaska Militia limps up to you in a parking lot with a grey ponytail and an earring in his left ear. The militiamen’s demeanor tends to bear similar traits, though not totally distinguishable from the locals in these parts.“We’re just here for our civil rights,” he assures you (and himself), “They’re coming at us from all sides, but then they’ll find we’re just businessmen.” He’s worked as a king crab fisherman for decades. Many of them grey-bearded bespectacled men who seem out of joint and out of place, they come largely from a white working class background angered by the state of the US to the point of feeling completely lost and at odds with the modern world.Yet, they do not seem to heed the concerns of other Patriot movement members like the Oath Keepers, nor does the denunciation of the Mormon Church seem to shake their will.That space of autonomy is crucial to the present moment.
I grew up with them.” In Burns, the militiamen are present in visible numbers, having descended on the small town after the father-and-son Hammond duo was sent back to prison for an arson at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuse that surrounds their 12,000 acre ranch.
The presence of utter frustration is palpable and contagious.
At times, one feels a sense of being at war, although the sides are indeterminable.
In their martial struggle, the militias seem only partially conscious of a battlefield that they are imposing on the daily lives of the citizens of Burns, because for them it is their way of life.
Yet the frustration among locals, many of whom are Mormons, is perhaps greater than that of the militias giving press conferences at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and milling around Burns.
We met briefly with an organizer in the area attending meeting after meeting of community members fed up with the chaos.