DENVER – Gifts of sex toys, glitter and nail polish are not what the armed protesters who seized a U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon were expecting when they put out a public call for supplies to help get them through the winter.
The occupiers, who took over buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 in the latest conflict over the U.S. government’s control of land in the West, had been hoping for snacks, fuel and warm clothes when they provided sympathizers with a local mailing address.
Instead, as they angrily showed online, they received sex-related toys and food that would be of little use as they braced for a long standoff with federal law enforcement agents who have kept watch from a distance.
“It was really mind-blowing to me that people would actually spend their money … on all this hateful stuff to send out to us,” one of the occupiers, Jon Ritzheimer, said in a Facebook video this week in which he displayed items including a large sex toy and a bag of penis-shaped candies.
“It’s really ridiculous,” he said, before sweeping the pile of packages off a table and onto the floor. “We’re going to continue to do work and do good for our country. We’re not going to be deterred.”
The occupation has drawn ridicule from critics on social media who have assigned the group nicknames including #YallQaeda and #VanillaISIS in a play on militant labels.
Some online opponents delighted in the potential to send the protesters an array of packages stuffed with glitter, nail polish, pedicure socks, and perfume.
A Chicago-based designer posted an online order he made on Wednesday for a 55-gallon drum of “passion” lubricant costing more than $1,000 and addressed: “ATTN. OREGON MILITIA.”
“I hope nobody shoots me with a gun,” the designer, Max Temkin, tweeted afterward.
The Malheur occupation has also drawn anger from bird-watchers and wildlife photographers who would normally be able to enjoy viewing the species on show at the refuge.
In an open letter last week, one bird-watcher warned the protesters their every move was being watched.
“You will never see us, but we and our cameras will always see you,” wrote the author, who went by the username Norwegian Chef. “We will #takebackmalheur from you terrorists, and will not rest until every one of you thugs and poachers is behind bars where they belong.”