As a man who identified only as “Fluffy Unicorn” told the Huffington Post on Monday: “The Black Lives Matter movement, they can go and protest, close freeways down and all that stuff, and they don’t get any backlash, not on the level that we’re getting.”
Militia members this week have repeatedly drawn comparisons between themselves and Black Lives Matter. Leader Ammon Bundy, whose father is infamous Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, told CNN on Monday that there are “some similarities” between the groups. He framed both groups’ primary opponent as a federal government that overreaches in its efforts to enforce order.
“The government should not be doing anything but encouraging the people to claim their rights, encouraging them to use their rights, and then protecting and defending the people as they live freely,” he told CNN.
Black Lives Matter is a national, diverse movement that uses classic organizing techniques, such as blocking access to roadways and holding citywide marches, to raise awareness about people of color who have been killed by police. By contrast, the Oregon militia, which is composed of a group of some two-dozen mostly white, armed men, has occupied the Melheur Wildlife Refuge to protest the re-sentencing of two local ranchers convicted of arson for setting fire to federal lands.
In an interview with Jacobin, a socialist magazine, Bundy said that he didn’t “know a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“I know their initial protest involved lots of looting and violence towards businesses and innocent citizens which I do not agree with,” he said. “I do agree with them standing up for what they believe in. I just think during their protest they were unorganized and not well-planned.”
That negative perception of the group is widespread in certain political circles and conservative media. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Elizabeth Hasselback labeled Black Lives Matter a “hate group” for vocally criticizing police officers. GOP presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) have also accused the group of promoting the murder of cops and fomenting “lawlessness.”
As the Huffington Post’s Lydia O’Connor points out, Black Lives Matter protests have also been met with a forceful response from law enforcement. Marches against the police killings of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, Maryland—some of which were rocked by bursts of rioting—were broken up by members of the National Guard and police officers in riot gear.
Meanwhile, federal officials are monitoring the armed occupation of the wildlife refuge near Burns, Oregon, but have not yet actively intervened.
In a statement sent to TPM on Tuesday, Senate candidate Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) argued that the treatment of the two groups differed starkly because of race.
“One could not imagine a group of armed black men taking over an unoccupied federal building in one of our nation’s cities as they have in Oregon,” Edwards said. “It is time to tell that tough truth.”