EDITOR’S NOTE: The Washington Post erroneously reported that Oregon protester Ammon Bundy compared himself on Twitter to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
The Twitter account that multiple media outlets — including The Post — reported as belonging to Bundy was later revealed as a hoax.
“I proved the MSM will fall for anything,” the account using the handle @Ammon_Bundy tweeted Wednesday.
The Post’s original story is based on a false premise. That story appears below.
The tweet snuck out under cover of night — when many on the East Coast were asleep, and those braving freezing temperatures at the occupation of a federal nature reserve near Burns, Ore., were presumably bedding down, waiting to see whether authorities would cut their power.
But the 24 words sent into the world by Ammon Bundy — a man who wants ranchers convicted of burning federal land freed and the Bureau of Land Management out of Oregon — were perhaps the most provocative that have come out of the would-be standoff.
“We are doing the same thing as Rosa Parks did,” Bundy wrote. “We are standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom.” The tweet was still online early Wednesday morning, but Bundy has tweeted and deleted before — and his Twitter account also was temporarily suspended Tuesday afternoon.
To be clear: Rosa Parks — the black woman who, on Dec. 1, 1955, refused to give her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., to a white man — was protesting legally sanctioned discrimination. She was willing to be arrested — to serve time and to expose an unjust system. Bundy, armed and possibly dangerous, takes a quite different position. He says his protest won’t “end until we get our public lands back,” denying the federal government’s role in land management — a legally dubious position.
And, crucially, he doesn’t seem willing, as Parks did, to nobly march into a jail cell. Quite the opposite. As he put it: “If force is used against us we will defend ourselves.”
Though much of the commentariat was not awake to weigh in, Bundy promptly got a few choice responses on Twitter. Bundy’s invocation of one of the saints of the civil rights movement did not seem to go over well.
“You terrorists are no Rosa Parks,” one commenter wrote, “and it’s an insult to her to compare yourselves to her.”
“Rosa Parks did not have a gun,” wrote another. “Also, your white privilege is showing.”
Those in the peanut gallery weren’t just taking umbrage. They were wondering whether Bundy’s quixotic undertaking — condemned even by the fellow ranchers he wishes to liberate — was doomed to failure.
“Even Rosa knew when she was outgunned,” one commenter wrote.
Whatever the merits of his cause or its chances of success, Bundy’s tweet fed into a heated debate about the meaning of the Burns occupation and how it is being covered by the media. Every conversation about the protest, it seems, is a crucible fueled by American hangups about race. Relevant questions: Should Bundy’s crew be called “activists” or “terrorists”? Would armed African Americans who occupied a federal building in, say, Baltimore to support Black Lives Matter be as indulged by the feds as those in Oregon seem to be? Or what if the men openly carrying weapons were Muslim?
“Whatever you think of the politics of Occupy Wall Street and BLM, these campaigns are in the tradition of civil disobedience and pose no threat to anyone,” Sean Illing wrote in Salon. “If the protesters in Zuccotti Park or Ferguson, Missouri arrived in military fatigues with pistols in their pockets, they would’ve crossed a legal line, and the reaction — from the media and the police — would have been dramatically different.”
In the face of such criticism, Bundy has said that he is just a rebel with a cause.
“We are not terrorist, we are concerned citizens who realize we have to act if we want to have anything left to pass down to our children,” he tweeted earlier this week.
Ironically for one enamored of Rosa Parks, Bundy has tried to distinguish his action from terrorism by slighting the wave of protests against police brutality that have erupted across the nation since Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager, was gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.
“Unlike other protest that have taken place in this country over the last year and a half we have not put anyone in danger,” he wrote.
By invoking Parks, who died in 2005, Bundy — already out on a limb as locals, many employed by the Bureau of Land Management, condemn his occupation — enters dangerous territory indeed. Others who have looked to Parks to justify actions that seem contrary to her legacy have not fared well. One recent victim: Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who sought to thwart the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage last year.
“Kim Davis is our Rosa Parks,” syndicated Christian columnist Bryan Fischer wrote on the website of the conservative American Family Association. Fischer, in a way, even deemed Davis superior to Parks: “Now it must be noted that Mrs. Davis is not, like Mrs. Parks, being punished for civil disobedience, but rather for an act of brazen and bold civil obedience. In Mrs. Davis’ favor is the simple and manifest truth that she is fulfilling the oath she took to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Kentucky. ”
While embraced by many who agreed with Davis, such arguments were quickly edited out of the first rough draft of history.
“It’s an attempt to make something ugly be beautiful,” Van Jones, a civil rights activist and a former adviser to President Obama, said to USA Today. “It’s an attempt to take an ugly stand on behalf of intolerance and to confuse people into thinking it is similar to a beautiful stand on behalf of inclusion.”