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'Waging YeeHawd': Social media mocks Oregon armed group

Social media users lampoon armed group occupying federal land in Oregon, calling them #YokelHaram and #VanillaISIS
Ammon Bundy, the leader of a group of armed protesters, on 4 January 2016 (AFP)

Armed men occupying a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon were mocked on social media on Monday, as critics speculated how the police response would be different if the men were Muslim or black.

The men who took over the reserve on Saturday refer to themselves as "citizens for constitutional freedom", but many on social media have begun to compare their actions to terrorism.

Users have dubbed the group #YallQaeda, #VanillaISIS and #YokelHaram, saying that the group is waging #YeeHawd.

Meanwhile, in an article in the Guardian entitled "If the Oregon militiamen were Muslim or black, they'd probably be dead by now," writer and cultural critic Wajahat Ali said:

"If one black man holding a plastic toy gun even walked in the direction of a federal building, let alone with 150 other black men all holding loaded rifles, he’d be shot dead by law enforcement, no questions asked.

"If 15 Muslims occupied a 7-Eleven with BB guns and masala Slurpees, federal law enforcement would probably roll up with six MRAPs [armoured vehicles] and immediately take everyone out Waco-style."

The loose-knit band of farmers, ranchers and survivalists began the siege in protest at the arson convictions of Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven, 46, for setting fire to federal land.

Up to a hundred protesters are believed to be at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge visitor centre, which they took over to demand that charges were dropped against the Hammonds.

The FBI was working with local police to bring a peaceful end to the standoff, after the protesters warned they would not rule out violence if authorities stormed the site.

The Hammonds have firmly distanced themselves from it, and on Monday turned themselves in to begin serving their five-year sentences.

"The Hammonds have turned themselves in today at 1:37pm, in accordance with the law, and are currently in custody at Federal Correctional Institution in California," said local sheriff David Ward.

The protest is led by 40-year-old rancher Ammon Bundy. His father, a Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy, was at the centre of a previous armed standoff with authorities in 2014, that time over grazing rights on public lands. 

Bundy said he was fighting for freedom for the Hammonds, saying they were harassed for refusing to sell their ranch to the government.

But Bundy and his brother Ryan are also calling on the government to relinquish control of the Malheur reserve. 

Sheriff Ward said the protesters' ultimate goal was "to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States".