Friday, January 22, 2016

An Occupyathon -- Nonviolent Response to Armed Militia at Refuge

C. Coimbra photo

January 20, 2016

Two Oregon brothers have employed nonviolence against violence-promising self-styled militia men now illegally occupying a federal compound at the Mulheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

After 16 days of illegal occupation by the militia group, brothers Jake and Zack Klonoski, Eugene natives, are determined to help rid the refuge of the occupiers, “In a peaceful and meaningful way,” according to Jake.

“These extremist outsiders need to leave the refuge and Oregon,” said Jake in a telephone interview. “Zack and I wracked our brains for the first 16 days to find a way to engage the public using a nonviolent means to make our point.”

He is sure that the majority of Oregonians are offended by the occupation. “So how do you oppose bad behavior?” Jake rhetorically asked. “I read about a group in Germany who found a way to protest an annual neo-Nazi march in their town by raising money against the marchers.”  For every meter the neo-Nazis walked, $12.50 was donated to a NGO devoted to help educate neo-Nazis to change their ideology.

On Sunday (January 17), the brothers launched a website, G.O.H.O.M.E , an acronym for Getting Occupiers of the Historic Oregon Malheur Evicted. The website asks supporters to pledge any amount of money for each day the occupiers remain at the refuge headquarters.  When the occupiers are gone, donors are asked to split up their pledge between four nonprofits that are the antithesis of the self-styled militia:  Burns’ Paiute Tribe, Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“Our goal is to provide a platform that shows how clearly wrong the occupiers are, and to create a counterforce to the negative energy of extremism and complete self-absorption. The refuge is beautiful and these occupiers have managed to damage that beauty on the land and by their swarming of the internet,” Jake explained.

G.O.H.O.M.E. has drawn a substantial amount of attention. As of this writing, four days later, over $52,000 has been pledged.  (As of 1/22, the total pledged is over $62,000!)

“You can’t imagine how surprised I am,” Jake said today. “It’s a little overwhelming.” Support for the brothers’ effort has come from mostly from fellow Oregonians, but has reached across the oceans to Switzerland and Australia. Pledges run from a nickel a day to several dollars a day.
--by Charmaine Coimbra

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