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Travesty in Portland

Travesty is the first word that comes to mind upon learning of today's "not guilty" verdict in the Malheur occupation trial. How can armed occupation of a federal facility and property not be a crime? How can damage and desecration of Burns Paiute tribal artifacts and culturally significant sites, damage to a research field station, the building of roads in a wilderness preservation area, and considerable random vandalism, not to mention a bill for taxpayers running into the millions of dollars, be okay?

Maybe prosecutors bungled their case. Maybe the jury bought the defense contention that the armed occupation is an act of civil disobedience. Whatever its reasoning, the jury has spoken, and that is that. But justice was not served, and the consequences of the decision will be with us in the days, months, and years ahead.

The verdict will only embolden insurrectionists who want to open public land to private ownership and exploitation for personal gain. The outcome is a blow against conservation efforts and the preservation of natural areas for public use and enjoyment. I fear the verdict speaks to how deeply rejection of government authority and legitimacy runs in a sizable segment of the population. This is yet another reason to remain apprehensive about November 8.

Postscript later that same evening...

This piece was written in a fury and from sense of obligation to take a stance against an outrage. The topic merits more thoughtful examination than is possible in a hasty response to the day's events. Government often gets it wrong and not infrequently is guilty of overreach. The same is true of interests in the private sphere. That said, in l'affaire Malheur, the government is more right than wrong, and the defendants — and jury — more wrong than right. On this I hold firm.

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