This past winter, an armed right-wing militia group took up arms against the federal government and seized Malhauer National Wildlife Refuge in the state of Oregon. The militant rebels, known as the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, held it by force for 41 days and carried with them over 30 guns and close to 20,000 round of ammunition.
This takeover was led by the sons of Cliven Bundy – Ammon and Ryan. Cliven was recently incarcerated for his own armed encounter with federal authorities in 2014 over similar local-federal disputes. He was arrested on his way to support his sons in their rebellion. Ammon and Ryan still face charges relating to this incident.
What stands out about both armed acts of militant defiance is not only that they happened, but that local law and federal law enforcement didn’t seem very eager to stop them.
The CCF was allowed to come and go as they pleased for weeks. They were met with no force for the entire standoff. They were allowed to peacefully negotiate, and those that were arrested were arrested without incident. Even though they were fully armed, took over federal property and had threatened to kill law enforcement – on Thursday, a federal court acquitted 7 of these neo-Confederate soldiers, including the Bundy Brothers, of federal conspiracy and firearms possession charges related to the militia’s armed action against the federal government.
This treatment by law enforcement starkly contrasts the violence unleashed upon the peaceful protestors at Standing Rock.
The unarmed and peaceful Dakota Access Pipeline protestors who are defending the sovereignty, sacred sites, land and water of their people were met with a violent intergovernmental response. As reported by Camp of the Sacred Stones,
“Over 300 police officers in riot gear, 8 ATVs, 5 armored vehicles, 2 helicopters, and numerous military-grade humvees showed up north of the newly formed frontline camp just east of Highway 1806. The 1851 Treaty Camp was set up this past Sunday directly in the path of the pipeline, on land recently purchased by DAPL. Today this camp, a reclamation of unceded Dakota territory affirmed as part of the Standing Rock Reservation in the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1851, was violently cleared. Both blockades established this past weekend to enable that occupation were also cleared.
In addition to pepper spray and concussion grenades, shotguns were fired into the crowd with less lethal ammunition and a sound cannon was used (see images below). At least one person was tased and the barbed hook lodged in his face, just outside his eye. Another was hit in the face by a rubber bullet.”
As many community groups, advocates and national media outlets have reported – the racial inequality reflected in this week’s side by side treatment of protesters cannot be understated.
The soft treatment of white militant protestors also contrasts sharply with the violent backlash unleashed on black protest groups such as Black Lives Matter. In Ferguson, for example, the National Guard was brought in to control those protesting the killing of Michael Brown. Their response included armored vehicles, tear gas and M4 rifles. Subsequent protests such as those in Charlotte and Milwaukee have been met with similarly swift and violent counter-responses by local, state and federal law enforcement organizations.
In the Confederacy, only White Power Matters.
It is predictable that white people would be treated differently than indigenous and black people by law enforcement and by the criminal justice system, though. This is one of the core inequities that community advocacy groups are organized against.
What is less predictable, though, is that an armed terrorist takeover of federal property would be met with little response and zero federal consequences.
Two important takeaways from this turn of events. First, white power is still strong in the United States. Second, the neo-Confederate movement has infiltrated the highest levels of the government. Not only do they threaten to take over the White House through Donald Trump, but they have already quietly overthrown some of the most important systems in the national government.
The acquittal of white, armed, anti-federal militants in Oregon sheds light on the levels of authority at which the neo-Confederate movement has infiltrated. The list of Trump supporters, though, gives us a clear list of which states, localities, organizations, media channels, pundits and politicians have also been taken over by the Confederacy.
The lists of governors and Congress members that endorse Trump tell us how many states have joined the efforts to Redeem the Confederacy and dismantle the Union. The lists of mayors and local politicians that support the Trump agenda tells us how many cities and municipalities have already fallen to Confederate authority. Court rulings, such as that in Oregon, teach us how deep into the criminal justice system the alt-right has seeped. The endorsement of the National Fraternal Order of Police tells us that law enforcement and local police are playing just as strong a role in preserving the Confederacy as they did before, during and after the Civil War.
And while the military battle to structure the government of the United States ended with the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Southern efforts to “Redeem” the nation continue on today. Those seeking to weaken the federal government, strengthen states’ rights, maintain racial exploitation and expand it are organized, active, armed and extremely successful.
The neo-Confederacy has learned from its history.
Directly following the Civil War, the Confederate states responded to the newly established federal authority by engaging in localized efforts designed to undermine it. And while the political war between the Confederates and the Union escalated, nationwide military violence transitioned into localized militia-style attacks.
The Klu Klux Klan and other white paramilitary organizations such as the White League and the Red Shirts, with the protection of law enforcement, for example, waged localized campaigns of violence and intimidation against black citizens and their political representatives. In 1868 there were over 1000 politically motivated of black citizens alone. It has also been reported that “At least 10 percent of the black legislators elected during the 1867-1868 constitutional conventions became victims of violence during Reconstruction, including seven who were killed.”
By 1870, the South retook control of state and local governments and successfully passed a slew of policies geared at undermining federal authority and stopping black citizens from exercising their rights and freedoms. Black Codes and Jim Crow laws littered the political landscape. Prohibitions on reading and writing, literacy tests, and poll taxes were violently enforced to keep black citizens from voting. Efforts were taken to reinstitute slavery under different names. Vagrancy laws, for example, allowed poor black citizens to be arrested, fined and sent to labor camps as methods of repaying these fines – effectively reinstituting slavery under the guise of criminal justice.
These efforts were successful. By the time of the 1876 presidential election, only 3 states were considered unredeemed, and the south was poised to take control of the white house – without force.
This presidential election resulted in the Confederate candidate Samuel J. Tilden winning the popular vote. The Union candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, was able to secure the electoral college. The final outcome of the election was dictated by the 1877 Compromise.
With this informal compromise, the Confederates agreed to allow the Union to maintain control of the White House so long as one overriding condition was met – all federal troops must be pulled out of the Confederate States. This is how after only little more than a decade, Reconstruction came to a halt and federal efforts to protect newly freed slaves from the violent inequalities of those seeking to re-enslave them ended.
The struggle for equality has waged on since.
Jim Crow laws still stand on the books. Target communities are still deprived of rights, opportunities and social mobility. Non-dominant groups such as people of color, people with disabilities and the poor are marginalized in the education system, the housing system, the labor market, the criminal justice system and by law enforcement at the hands of their white and otherwise privileged counterparts.
The Confederate flag still flies on many buildings and is printed on the license plates of a number of states. And a conservative white nationalist that threatens to dismantle the federal government and take up arms against those that oppose him is only a few percentage points from occupying the highest position of authority in the nation.
The Confederacy is strong. And it threatens, once again, to overtake the White House.
Confederate values lie at the heart of the Donald Trump campaign and the people, politicians and organizations that support it. These values, reflected in the Confederate Constitution and Trump’s Deal with America, remain the same. Increase state and individual rights. Weaken federal protections and authority. White power. Militant resistance.
Donald Trump has promised to dismantle, gut or repurpose all federal departments including the EPA, the Department of Education, the Federal Regulations Committee and even the Food and Drug Association should he assume the presidency. He has pledged to make changes in legislation to ensure that civil rights are state’s rights issue, and that federal protections are removed. He has launched assaults on the black community, Muslims, immigrants, Mexican Americans, the LGBTQIA community, the disabled and women. He has called for the incarceration of his opponent and his mouthpiece Sheriff David A. Clarke has openly stated that it’s “pitchfork and torches time in America.”
The efforts to Make America Great Again include a neo-Confederate takeover of the political system, while his neo-Confederate soldiers prepare to take up arms if the political assault fails.
And without a doubt, the Confederacy is militarized.
According to a recent report,
“…130 million guns are owned by 3% of American adults, who each own 17 guns on average….Among this group, an estimated 7.7 million Americans make up the country’s “gun super-owners,” who own between eight and 140 guns…. On the whole, gun owners tended to be white, male, conservative and reside in rural areas, the survey found.”
The Confederacy has risen. They are militarized. They occupy every level of government, criminal justice and law enforcement. And the neo-Confederate movement is just percentage points away from overthrowing the capital. Should they fail at the polls in just over a week, they have four more years to organize for the next election – if they don’t violently resist the outcome of this one.
The question is – is anyone going to stop them?