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From a legal standpoint, what sort of punishment could I expect should I decide to protest the U.S. Government and take over a remote federal building with 100 of my closest friends and militia members?

Let's assume:

  • This takes place in the U.S. State of Oregon
  • Someone with authority has asked me to quit my occupation and leave
  • At least one of my followers has openly described us as ready to do violence, though not directed at any specific individual
  • I and my compatriots are carrying weapons where they're (most likely?) not allowed to
  • I stay there for a week and decide to go home

I know the answers may be a bit subjective in that there is probably a wide range of statutes that could be brought to bear. Let's also assume that shipping me and my 100 friends off to Guantanamo as a bunch of terrorists is off the table.

Given this, what relevant federal statutes are there that could be used against me and what penalties do they proscribe?

  • 1
    The assumptions seem awfully precise. Are you planning something? – phoog Jan 7 '16 at 20:50
  • Me personally? No. I'm asking for a friend. – Jeff Lambert Jan 7 '16 at 20:51
  • Are you taking over said building in the middle of Winter when it is not actively used and known to unoccupied? – Mohair Jan 7 '16 at 22:20
  • @Mohair hypothetically? that sounds probably like a good time, less chance of running into people that way. – Jeff Lambert Jan 7 '16 at 23:11
  • I'm left thinking about the occupation of Alcatraz and other historical examples that one could draw upon. – Jason Aller Jan 7 '16 at 23:21
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Worst case:

18 U.S. Code § 2381 - Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

More likely:

18 U.S. Code § 2383 - Rebellion or insurrection

Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

and/or:

18 U.S. Code § 2384 - Seditious conspiracy

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Of course, there is a really, really good chance that your friend and his companions would be lawfully killed by law enforcement officers as part of their response to the insurrection.

  • Honestly it wouldn't surprise me if Law Enforcement decided to take that approach given I (my friend) decided to do something so silly. Thank you. – Jeff Lambert Jan 7 '16 at 23:14
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    If it's treated as an insurrection (which I have to say is fairly unlikely), then it might be a soldier responding instead of a cop. The government can use the military to put down insurrections. – cpast Jan 8 '16 at 0:20
  • @cpast would how the government chooses to respond in this example really matter? would they have to respond with either national guard or army troops in order for a charge of insurrection to stand? – Jeff Lambert Jan 8 '16 at 15:52
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    @watcher Legally, probably not. However, insurrection charges are extraordinarily unlikely for anything short of a full-on rebellion. An armed standoff with federal law enforcement is not going to be treated as an insurrection. – cpast Jan 8 '16 at 16:07

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