It has become a familiar scene: a cluster of armed "patriots" gathered at a rural locale in the West, protesting federal land-use policies and disputing the legitimacy of the government back in Washington, while nearby, law enforcement officers act stunned into submission.
That all unfolded again this past week in Burns, Ore., as a group of activists with guns seized a federal building on a wildlife refuge and demanded freedom for a couple of ranchers convicted of arson and sentenced to mandatory minimum prison terms, in what they claim is another example of extreme federal overreach.
The local school district shut down, since it couldn't guarantee the safety of children traveling to and from school. Burns residents expressed agitation and exasperation with the standoff, since most, if not all, of the participants appear to live outside Harney County. The sheriff requested that the two dozen or so men holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge pack up and leave town.