The standoff between anti-government militiamen and federal law enforcement in Oregon escalated yesterday when a traffic stop resulted in a shootout between the two parties and the arrest of seven of those occupying the national wildlife refuge, as well as one reported fatality.
The FBI also arrested an eighth self-proclaimed militiamen, Jon Ritzheimer, an Arizona-based anti-Muslim activist with a history of staging hate-driven rallies.
According to a reports, Ritzheimer had returned home to Arizona on Tuesday before the shootout and so he later turned himself in to local Arizona law enforcement. A statement released by the FBI revealed he – like the other seven arrested – “faces one federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States,” an offense punishable by up to six years in prison.
At the end of last year, Ritzheimer left his family to join up with Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy, the notorious cattle rancher and far-right hero, and his group of armed militiamen to occupy the abandoned federal wildlife refuge building in protest of what they believed to be the wrongful conviction of two local ranchers.
Ritzheimer is well-known for organizing anti-Muslim rallies in his home state, including an armed and inflammatory cartoon contest outside of a Phoenix mosque last year. He was also one of the organizers behind another round of armed protests scheduled to take place last October outside of Muslim houses of worship and community centers across the country that assumed the deceptive name “Global Rally for Humanity.”
Ritzheimer was reported to the FBI after he posted a video of himself unloading an automatic weapon into a Qur’an while in the desert. He was also the subject of an FBI manhunt when he threatened to visit the town of Islamberg, a hamlet of New York that was already the intended target of another foiled right-wing terrorist attack.
In a Facebook post before turning himself in, Ritzheimer pleaded, “I just want the country to live by the Constitution and I just want the government to abide by it.” Turns out the government does abide by Title 18, United States Code, Section 372, and Ritzheimer is the one who violated it.
The standoff between the remaining occupiers continues.
Photo credit: “Buena Vista Overlook, Jeff Sorn (5352564568)” by Oregon Department of Transportation. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.