BURNS, Oregon — Dozens of heavily armed white people have taken over a federal government building in Oregon, so why aren’t they being called — you know, terrorists? That’s the question Internet users are asking after anti-government protesters, some armed with semi-automatic weapons, seized control over a wildlife refuge center near Burns, Oregon amid a land dispute.
One of the armed men, Ammon Bundy, told CNN over the phone “if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves,” but added “we are not terrorists.”
And with a full day gone by since the beginning of the occupation, many question whether occupiers’ whiteness is affording them a different set of rules.
One of the first to react was writer Elon James White, who started the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack to portray how he felt people would react if the occupiers weren’t white. As the hashtag became a trending topic, he explained the argument he was trying to make: People perceive an event differently depending on the race of who is involved.
“The first hashtag was #OregonStandoff. I didn’t think that actually captured what was happening. If PoC (people of color) did this it’d be #OregonUnderAttack,” he explained.
“#BLM has been demonized for so much less,” he added, using an acronym for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. White did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Other Twitter users quickly adopted White’s hashtag to make similar arguments.
“Did I miss the call for the national guard in Oregon? I recall them in Ferguson and Baltimore,” wrote journalist Roland Martin in a widely-shared tweet.
Echoing another popular sentiment, Actress Jackée Harry contrasted authorities’ unhurried response in Oregon with the police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, calling it “hypocrisy.”
British Muslim commentator Mo Ansar also riffed on the hashtag, asking “moderate white people” to “speak out” — a reference to the way Muslims are often asked to apologize for attacks by radical extremists.
And blogger Larry Waldbillig pointed out the historical irony of the gunmen “taking back” land which originally belonged to Native Americans.
But defenders of the militia were quick to hit back with their own accusations of double standards.
“Justified or not, it’s a protest against government abuse of power. If Oregon is terrorism, then so is #BlackLivesMatter,” wrote Paul Joseph Watson.
Another user compared the Oregon occupation to the 2011 Wisconsin protests, in which pro-union protesters staged a massive sit-in inside Wisconsin’s State Capitol.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a story about Twitter reactions without a heavy dose of puns and dark humor.
Soon after news broke of the standoff, the pun #YallQaeda was born, as users compared the cowboy hat-wearing gunmen to Islamic terror groups.
“#YallQaeda waging #YeeHawd on America and we’re still calling it a ‘peaceful protest,'” said a widely shared post. “It’s domestic terrorism and we need to shut it down.”
It wasn’t long before the hashtag #VanillaISIS, complete with parody lyrics from the famously white rapper Vanilla Ice.
And yes, “Yokel Haram.”
But some, while mocking the group, also suggested they shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
“Every successful revolution starts with takeover of closed visitor center with gift shop,” said one user dryly.