Joseph Rose of the Oregonian newspaper has the story of a time when another group of protesters took over a federal wildlife refuge. It happened in Harris Neck, Georgia, where members of the African-American Gullah culture of former slaves had been screwed over by the government. Unlike those in Oregon, these men were unarmed. And they were black. And that seems to have made all the difference:
In contrast to the Burns occupation, federal authorities secured a court order to remove the Harris Neck demonstrators a day after the 1979 camp-in began.
However, four of the unarmed protestors — Edgar Timmons, Jr., Hercules Anderson, Christopher McIntosh and the Rev. Ted Clark — refused to leave.On May 2, 1979, U.S. deputy marshals “forcibly removed” the men, according to a story in The Oregonian. “Their bodies taut and motionless,” the men were dragged out of their tent, handcuffed and hoisted into a waiting van.
Supporters taunted the police, shouted insults. One woman screamed, “Slavery is over with!”
At a Savannah news conference, Timmons protested: “You can’t tell me that geese, wild birds, cows, lizards and snakes have priority over a taxpaying American citizen.”
A judge sentenced the four men to a month in jail for trespassing.
Quite a contrast to the current situation. Unarmed black men protesting a very real injustice? Forcibly removed and prosecuted. Armed white men playing out their fantasies of overthrowing the government? They haven’t even cut the power to the building, for crying out loud. They’re doing everything but sending them pizzas.