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The Washington, D.C., siege has Western roots and consequences

History and the growing power of right-wing extremism point to a volatile future for the West during the Biden presidency.

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. | Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Five years and four days after armed militiamen took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, a remote federal wildlife preserve in eastern Oregon, for 41 days, supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and briefly occupied the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.

It’s not hard to trace the links between Malheur and Washington; familiar insignia, instigators and ideologies fueled both anti-government actions. Extremist leaders and movement regulars from the Western U.S., including former Washington State Rep. Matt Shea, who supported the efforts from afar in Spokane, and recent U.S. Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins, R-Ore., who joined the crowd that laid siege to the Capitol, helped fuel the melee. Backing their message, if not their tactics, was a bevy of Western legislators, who lent the movement legitimacy by supporting Trump’s baseless election-fraud claims.

Meanwhile, one of the most visible figures in the anti-federal government movement in the Western U.S., Cliven Bundy, expressed dismay that President Trump didn’t stick to his guns after he issued a half-hearted message calling for a peaceful end to the occupation.

The anti-government occupations bookending the rise and fall of Trump’s presidency show the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism in the United States. They also portend the potential for future conflicts here in the West. When President-elect Joseph Biden takes charge of the federal government and its vast Western landholdings, he will enter an already-delicate situation, where armed extremist groups stand ready to rise up against the federal government.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/north-extremism-the-washington-d-c-siege-has-western-roots-and-consequences

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High Country News

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.