Defendant Calls Occupation Of Oregon Wildlife Refuge 'Civil Disobedience'
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Earlier today, I spoke with Shawna Cox, one of the defendants who was acquitted yesterday in the wildlife refuge trial. We should note, in the course of the interview, she cites a clause of the Constitution in Article 1, Section 8. It's a clause laying out the plan to create a federal district for the U.S. Capitol, and she says it prohibits the federal government from owning most land in the West. That interpretation has long been debunked by historians and by the courts. I asked her what she came away with from the jury's verdict.
Does it mean that any group of people with a grievance against the federal government can walk into any federal office in the country with - with guns and take it over?
SHAWNA COX: Absolutely not. That was not the intent. This was a civil disobedience act, just like Martin Luther King. The only reason that anybody had any weapon was to protect ourselves from being attacked by an out-of-control federal government.
SIEGEL: But when you invoke Martin Luther King and the civil rights protests of the past, they - they weren't armed. They didn't stage sit-ins with - with guns. And they accepted that they would be - you know, they might have sat in on the assumption that they would be carried away and put in jail for what they were doing.
COX: Exactly. We - we figured - OK, we knew that, by law, we could get a trespass citation. A trespass was, whoever owns the property, bring forth your documentation. Show us that you actually have title and ownership to this property.
They could not do that because, according to the Constitution, Article 1 Section 8, Clause 17 says the federal government can't own any land unless it is - unless they have - unless it is OK by the legislature of the state. And if they want to purchase it, they can purchase it.
SIEGEL: But do you think that people who live on the land have a right - have a - have a - some kind of natural right to federal property abutting their own land?
COX: Now, see, that's your problem. You believe that it is federal property. But, in fact, it's not federal property. I mean, let me sum it up real quick.
COX: I do not believe that everybody should go into a federal building and take over with arms. The only reason people came with arms was to protect themselves because we saw what happened, because the federal government keeps coming in with arms and will attack you.
SIEGEL: But the question isn't whether you think people should do that. The question is, do you think people have the right to do that if they think they should do that?
COX: Do I think they have the right?
COX: Yes, I do.
SIEGEL: You think they do? Even if - even if it might not be the wisest thing to do?
COX: It can be a - it can be a peaceful - it can be peaceful. We don't want anything to be not peaceful.
SIEGEL: Before you go, I just want you to tell us what it felt like in the court when you heard the verdict of the jury announced.
COX: It was absolutely a miracle. It was a miracle because we knew we were not guilty of a crime.
SIEGEL: Shawna Cox, thanks for talking with us today.
COX: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Shauna Cox was one of the defendants acquitted in the trial over the occupation of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.