A loosely organized group of self-styled patriots is convening in rural Oregon Saturday in hopes of provoking another showdown with the federal government, this time in support of a father and son ranching duo convicted of torching public land.
Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, are due to report to federal prison Jan. 4 for starting a series of wildfires on federal lands in 2012, a crime that carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Now a cast of right wing-rabble rousers are coming to their defense, including the infamous anti-Muslim activist Jon Ritzheimer and Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who became something of an anti-government folk hero for his own standoff over public lands. Ritzheimer posted a “call to action” video on Dec. 26, in which one activist calls on “all patriots, constitutionalists, militias, and good Americans who believe in the Constitution” to converge on remote Burns, Oregon, to show their support for the Hammonds.
The decentralized group has called on Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward to create a sanctuary so the Hammonds won’t have to surrender to federal authorities, The Oregonian reported. After Ward refused, he received death threats and was labeled an “enemy of the people.”
According to a post on the Bundy Ranch’s blog, the day’s events are set to include a convoy from Bend, Oregon, a rally and a march to the Hammond’s home, and then a protest of dumping “thousands of coins” at the sheriff’s office.
The conflict harks back to Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in 2014, when a 20-year dispute over unpaid grazing fees escalated into a fully armed standoff with nearly 1,000 protesters, including members of the Oath Keepers militia. Federal authorities finally abandoned their efforts to seize Bundy’s cattle over concerns that tensions would lead to a shootout.