THE AMMON Bundy-led standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is eerily similar to the MOVE crisis that gripped Philadelphia in 1985.
Like the armed back-to-nature group MOVE, the Bundy-led militia has a yearslong history of conflict with the government.
And while both MOVE and the Bundys engaged government forces in violent confrontations before armed standoffs, there is a major difference between the groups. MOVE was black. The Bundys are white.
The Bundys' issues with the government go back to 1993, when the federal Bureau of Land Management began a conservation effort that require ranchers who wanted to graze their cattle on federally protected land to pay grazing fees. When rancher Cliven Bundy refused to pay, and other ranchers sided with them, the tensions escalated into acts of terrorism.
Pipe bombs went off in U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices between 1995 and 1996. Then, as the Bundys resumed their illegal practice of grazing their cattle on federal land, they racked up $1 million in unpaid federal grazing fees.
In 2014, when federal agents tried to confiscate the Bundys' cattle in lieu of the fees, armed militia members came to the Bundys' aid, and the federal government backed down in the face of an armed insurrection.
That confrontation emboldened Bundy's two sons, Ammon and Ryan, who came to Oregon with an armed group to support convicted arsonists Dwight and Steven Hammond, two ranchers who'd set fire to 130 acres of federal land. Bundy's group broke into a federal building and said they would defend themselves if law enforcement intervened.
Members of the group spent weeks coming and going - sometimes in stolen federal vehicles-while law enforcement watched. Only after a late-night car chase did state and federal law enforcement confront the Bundys and their followers. The group's spokesman, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot and killed by an officer after reportedly reaching for a gun.
Incredibly, some of Bundy's armed followers remained in the federal building on Monday, and they're being given the opportunity to leave peacefully.
Let me be clear. That wouldn't happen if they were anything other than white men in cowboy hats.
Had any other group engaged in years of bombings, arson, stealing of federal resources, an armed insurrection, and a violent confrontation with police, they would be treated as terrorists. The Bundys, however, are called protesters, activists - even patriots.
Compare their story with the tale of MOVE, a black naturalist group whose yearslong conflict with law enforcement in Philadelphia ended in fiery tragedy.
MOVE was a back-to-nature group that embraced some elements of Rastafari - a religion founded in Jamaica in the 1930s. They were often armed, sometimes violent, and had a penchant for unleashing profanity-laced tirades from their West Philadelphia compound. Neighbors wanted them gone.
In 1978, when the city tried to evict MOVE, there was an armed confrontation. Officer James Ramp was killed, and Delbert Africa, who emerged from the house half-clothed and unarmed, was severely beaten by police.
Like the Bundys, MOVE wouldn't stop at only one confrontation. But, unlike the Bundys, they faced horrific consequences.
On May 13,1985, nearly 500 police officers gathered at the scene of the MOVE compound on Osage Avenue. The police had machine guns, including an antitank machine gun. Firetrucks were equipped with deluge guns. There was a state police helicopter, and the police had two bombs.
At 5:30 that morning, then-police Commissioner Gregore Sambore yelled into a megaphone: "Attention, MOVE . . . This is America," he said. "You have to abide by the laws of the United States."
Hours later, after the bombs were dropped on the compound and the resultant fire was allowed to burn, 11 people, including five children, were dead.
That's how confrontations with black people end. That won't happen in Oregon, because that doesn't happen to white people.
But at the very least, I wish someone would tell Bundy's followers what Gregore Sambore told MOVE.
This is America. You have to abide by the laws of the United States.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books. Listen to him mornings from 7 to 10 on WURD (900-AM). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column will appear here weekly.