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Arson Campaign

Arson Campaign

In July 1912, Christabel Pankhurst began organizing a secret arson campaign. Attempts were made by suffragettes to burn down the houses of two members of the government who opposed women having the vote. These attempts failed but soon afterwards, a house being built for David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was badly damaged by suffragettes.

One of the first arsonists was Mary Richardson. She later recalled the first time she set fire to a building: "I took the things from her and went on to the mansion. The putty of one of the ground-floor windows was old and broke away easily, and I had soon knocked out a large pane of the glass. When I climbed inside into the blackness it was a horrible moment. The place was frighteningly strange and pitch dark, smelling of damp and decay... A ghastly fear took possession of me; and, when my face wiped against a cobweb, I was momentarily stiff with fright. But I knew how to lay a fire - I had built many a camp fire in my young days -a nd that part of the work was simple and quickly done. I poured the inflammable liquid over everything; then I made a long fuse of twisted cotton wool, soaking that too as I unwound it and slowly made my way back to the window at which I had entered."

At a meeting in France, Christabel Pankhurst told Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence about the proposed arson campaign. When Emmeline and Frederick objected, Christabel arranged for them to be expelled from the the organisation. Emmeline later recalled in her autobiography, My Part in a Changing World (1938): "My husband and I were not prepared to accept this decision as final. We felt that Christabel, who had lived for so many years with us in closest intimacy, could not be party to it. But when we met again to go further into the question… Christabel made it quite clear that she had no further use for us."

In 1913 the WSPU arson campaign escalated and railway stations, cricket pavilions, racecourse stands and golf clubhouses being set on fire. Slogans in favour of women's suffrage were cut and burned into the turf. Suffragettes also cut telephone wires and destroyed letters by pouring chemicals into post boxes. The women responsible were often caught and once in prison they went on hunger-strike. Determined to avoid these women becoming martyrs, the government introduced the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act. Suffragettes were now allowed to go on hunger strike but as soon as they became ill they were released. Once the women had recovered, the police re-arrested them and returned them to prison where they completed their sentences. This successful means of dealing with hunger strikes became known as the Cat and Mouse Act.

Kitty Marion was a leading figure in the WSPU arson campaign and she was responsible for setting fire to Levetleigh House in St Leonards in April 1913. Two months later she and 26 year old Clara Giveen were told that the Grand Stand at the Hurst Park racecourse "would make a most appropriate beacon". The women returned to a house in Kew. A police constable who had been detailed to watch the house, saw the two women return and during the course of the next morning they were arrested. Their trial began at Guildford on 3rd July. She was found guilty and sentenced to three years' penal servitude. She went on hunger strike and was released under the Cat & Mouse Act. She was taken to the WSPU nursing home, into the care of Dr. Flora Murray and Catherine Pine.

As soon as Kitty Marion recovered she went out and broke a window of the Home Office. She was arrested and taken back to Holloway Prison. After going on hunger strike for five days she was again released to a WSPU nursing home. According to her own account, she now set fire to various houses in Liverpool (August, 1913) and Manchester (November, 1913). These incidents resulted in a series of further terms of imprisonment during which force-feeding occurred. It has been calculated that Kitty Marion endured 232 force-feedings in prison while on hunger strike.

Although Elizabeth Robins and Octavia Wilberforce disapproved of Kitty Marion's arson campaign they used their 15th century farmhouse at Backsettown, near Henfield, as a hospital and helped her recover from her various spells in prison and the physical effects of going on hunger strike. On 31st May 1914, with the help of Mary Leigh, escaped to Paris.

Lilian Lenton was another member of the WSPU who played an important role in the arson campaign. Along with Olive Wharry she embarked on a series of terrorist acts. They were arrested on 19th February 1913, soon after setting fire to the tea pavilion in Kew Gardens. In court it was reported: "The constables gave chase, and just before they caught them each of the women who had separated was seen to throw away a portmanteau. At the station the women gave the names of Lilian Lenton and Olive Wharry. In one of the bags which the women threw away were found a hammer, a saw, a bundle to tow, strongly redolent of paraffin and some paper smelling strongly of tar. The other bag was empty, but it had evidently contained inflammables." While in custody, Lenton went on hunger strike and was forcibly fed. She was quickly released from prison when she became seriously ill after food entered her lungs.

On 7th March 1913 Olive Wharry was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months. Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999): "She was released on 8th April after having been on hunger strike for 32 days, apparently without the prison authorities noticing. His usual weight was 7st 11lbs; when released she weighed 5st 9lbs."

After Lilian Lenton recovered she managed to evade recapture until arrested in June 1913 in Doncaster and charged with setting fire to an unoccupied house at Balby. She was held in custody at Armley Prison in Leeds. She immediately went on hunger-strike and was released after a few days under the Cat & Mouse Act. The following month she escaped to France in a private yacht.

According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999): "Lilian Lenton has stated that her aim was to burn two buildings a week, in order to create such a condition in the country that it would prove impossible to govern without the consent of the governed." Lenton was soon back in England setting fire to buildings but in October 1913 she was arrested at Paddington Station. Once again she went on hunger-strike and was forcibly fed, but once again she was released when she became seriously ill.

Lilian Lenton was released on licence on 15th October. She escaped from the nursing home and was arrested on 22nd December 1913 and charged with setting fire to a house in Cheltenham. After another hunger-and-thirst strike, she was released on 25th December to the care of Mrs Impey in King's Norton. Once again she escaped and evaded the police until early May 1914 when she was arrested in Birkenhead. She was only in prison for a few days before she was released under the Cat & Mouse Act.

Some leaders of the WSPU such as Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, disagreed with this arson campaign. When Pethick-Lawrence objected, she was expelled from the organisation. Others like Elizabeth Robins, Jane Brailsford, Laura Ainsworth, Eveline Haverfield and Louisa Garrett Anderson showed their disapproval by ceasing to be active in the WSPU and Hertha Ayrton, Lilias Ashworth Hallett , Janie Allan and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson stopped providing much needed funds for the organization. Sylvia Pankhurst also made her final break with the WSPU and concentrated her efforts on helping the Labour Party build up its support in London.

Colonel Linley Blathwayt and Emily Blathwayt also cut off funds to the WSPU. In June 1913 a house had been burned down close to Eagle House. Under pressure from her parents, Mary Blathwayt resigned from the WSPU. In her diary she wrote: "I have written to Grace Tollemache (secretary for Bath) and to the secretary of the Women's Social and Political Union to say that I want to give up being a member of the W.S.P.U. and not giving any reason. Her mother wrote in her diary: "I am glad to say Mary is writing to resign membership with the W.S.P.U. Now they have begun burning houses in the neighbourhood I feel more than ever ashamed to be connected with them."

In December 1911 and March 1912, Emily Wilding Davison and Nurse Pitfield had committed spectacular arson on their own initiative, both doing their deeds openly and suffering arrest and punishment. In July 1912, secret arson began to be organised under the direction of Christabel Pankhurst. Women, most of them very young, toiled through the night across unfamiliar country, carrying heavy cases of petrol and paraffin. Sometimes they failed, sometimes succeeded in setting fire to an untenanted building - all the better if it were the residence of a notability - or a church, or other place of historic interest. Occasionally they were caught and convicted, usually they escaped.

I took the things from her and went on to the mansion. The place was frighteningly strange and pitch dark, smelling of damp and decay. I had to feel my way along, step by step, encumbered, as I was, by the three heavy parcels I had slung round my neck. After much groping I reached the hallway and knew I was near my objective. This was a cupboard under the main staircase.

To get the cupboard door to open was no easy thing. The hinges were rusted and they creaked and groaned ominously. But I knew how to lay a fire - I had built many a camp fire in my young days-and that part of the work was simple and quickly done. I poured the inflammable liquid over everything; then I made a long fuse of twisted cotton wool, soaking that too as I unwound it and slowly made my way back to the window at which I had entered.

I climbed outside before setting a light to the fuse. For a moment I stood and watched the tiny flame run a few feet; then I hurried off to find the gap in the thorn hedge. When I did find it and crawled through, Millicent had fled.

I bumped into Millicent as she was hurrying back to find me.

"I'm terribly sorry," she explained. "I just couldn't...."She stopped short and looked back behind us; I looked back, also. The red glow had grown into a huge red mushroom.

"We must get away quickly," I gasped. "We'd better separate. If we're alone it'll look less suspicious; and it'll be easier for one to get a lift in a market-gardener's cart going to Covent Garden. I'll go this way; you make your way back to the road."

Millicent clutched at my arm and burst into tears. "Oh no. No! No! Please let me come with you. I'd never find my way alone. Oh please, I feel so frightened."

"Very well," I said. "But it's a risk. And we'll have to hurry."

We went as fast as we could; but we were both groggy from fatigue and the mental strain of the whole, ugly business. After a while we heard the clanging of the bells on the fire-engines. We staggered on and made renewed efforts to get as far away as we could. For a long time we seemed to be walking along outside a high wall.

"It must be a gasworks," I said.

We kept on walking beside the wall. Millicent was unable to answer me or even to say yes or no. The fog was becoming denser; and we were still outside the wall. I began to feel we were condemned to walk beside it for ever in punishment for our sins. But at last we came to what seemed to be a residential quarter. There were some small houses in long rows. I sighed with relief as I turned the corner; then I cried, "Look!"

"What?"

"That blue light," I said.

"Blue light?" said Millicent in a puzzled way. "What is it? What...."

But she was unable to finish her question before two tall figures loomed out of the fog and were upon us.

"Aren't you two out a bit late?" one of the policemen said.

"Yes. Yes - we missed the last bus back to town," I stammered.

A should say you did... said the man. "Just step across the road. We've been looking for you for the past hour."

We seemed to be the cause of some mild jubilation in the police station. Probably this was because we had been so speedily arrested, but it was the fog that had beaten us, and not the vigilance of the law.

Many militants had been restive for some time, considering that it would be more dignified to anticipate the sorry outcome of the Government's now broken pledge than await it passively. As leaders, we had felt bound to restrain this eagerness, but now there was no reason for delay. The ingenuity and the pertinacity of the Suffragette guerillists were extraordinary. Never a soul was hurt, but the struggle continued.

Golf greens suffered on one occasion by the carving on the turf of 'Votes Before Sport' and 'No Votes, No Golf'! The editor of Golfing complained on the plea that "golfers are not usually very keen politicians." "Perhaps they will be now," said the Suffragettes.

The damage done to property was more spectacular than serious. Museums began to be closed, here and there, with preventive caution, to the vexation of American visitors. Mr. Lloyd George's house at Walton Heath paid the price of its owner's deed.

Law and its application reflected public opinion. Values were stressed from the financial point of view and not the human. I felt I must make my protest from the financial point of view, therefore, as well as letting it be seen as a symbolic act. I had to draw the parallel between the public's indifference to Mrs. Pankhurst's slow destruction and the destruction of some financially valuable object.

A painting came to my mind. Yes, yes - the Venus Velasquez had painted, hanging in the National Gallery. It was highly prized for its worth in cash. If I could damage it, I reasoned, I could draw my parallel. The fact that I had disliked the painting would make it easier for me to do what was in my mind.

I made my plans carefully and sent a copy of them to Christabel, setting out my reasons for such an action. The days, while I waited for her reply, seemed endless. But at last the message came, "Carry out your plan."

But it was always easier to make a plan than to carry it out. As the day approached when I should have to act I grew nervous. It was as though the task I had set myself was bigger than I could accomplish. I hesitated, hedged with myself, tried to say that someone else would be better able to do such a job than I. It will be difficult for anyone who has not known service in a great cause to understand my suffering...

I left the house without saying goodbye to any of the others. My axe was fixed lip the left sleeve of my jacket and held in position by a chain of safety-pins, the last pin only needing a touch to release it.

I walked rapidly and made my way by the side streets through Soho to Leicester Square, and then round to the back of the Gallery and so on to its front entrance.

It was a "free" day and there were many people going in. I kept with the crowds at first. On the first landing of the staircase where the stairs separated on the left and on the right I stopped and, from where I stood, I could see the Venus hanging on the north wall of the room on the right-hand side. Before the painting, guarding it, sat two broad-shouldered detectives. They were on the red plush seat in the centre of the room with their backs to me and seemed to be staring straight in front of them.

I turned away and wandered into the room on the left. This and several others I passed through, studying some of the paintings until, half an hour afterward, I found myself at the doorway of the room where the Venus was. To control my feelings of agitation I took out the sketch book I had brought with me and tried to make a drawing. Still with the open pad in my hand I entered the room and chose to stand in the far corner of it to continue my sketch. I found I was staring at an almond-eyed madonna whose beauty it was far beyond my powers to reproduce. Her smile, however, impressed itself sufficiently upon my senses to bring me a certain calmness of mind.

The two detectives were still between me and the Venus. I decided at last to leave the room and to wait for a while longer.

I studied the landscapes and watched the people who were passing; and, as I watched them, I felt I would have given anything to have been one of them. I spent an hour like this, in utter misery. It was getting near to mid-day, I knew. Chiding myself for having wasted two precious hours I went back to the Venus room. It looked peculiarly empty. There was a ladder lying against one of the walls, left there by some workmen who had been repairing a skylight. I had to pass in front of the detectives, who were still sitting on the seat, to approach the Velasquez painting. When I was near enough to it I saw that thick and possibly unbreakable glass had been put over it, no doubt as a protection. As I turned I saw there was a Gallery attendant standing in the far doorway. There were now three I must avoid.

I began to sketch again-this time I was a little nearer my objective. As twelve o'clock struck, one of the detectives rose from the seat and walked out of the room. The second detective, realising, I suppose, that it was lunch-time and he could relax, sat back, crossed his legs, and opened a newspaper.

That presented me with my opportunity - which I was quick to seize. The newspaper held before the man's eyes would hide me for a moment. I dashed up to the painting. My first blow with the axe merely broke the protective glass. But, Of course, it did more than that, for the detective rose with his newspaper still in his hand and walked round the red plush seat, staring up at the skylight which was being repaired. The sound of the glass breaking also attracted the attention of the attendant at the door who, in his frantic efforts to reach me, slipped on the highly polished floor and fell face downward. And so I was given time to get in a further four blows with my axe before I was, in turn, attacked.

It must all have happened very quickly; but to this day I can remember distinctly every detail of what happened...

Two Baedeker guide books, truly aimed by German tourists, came cracking against the back of my neck. By this time, too, the detective, having decided that the breaking glass had no connection with the skylight, sprang on me and dragged the axe from my hand. As it out of the very walls angry people seemed to appear round me. I was dragged this way and that; but, as on other occasions, the fury of the crowd helped me. In the ensuing commotion we were all mixed together in a tight bunch. No one knew who should or should not be attacked. More than one innocent woman must have received a blow meant for me.

At the National Gallery, yesterday morning, the famous Rokeby Venus, the Velasquez picture which eight years ago was bought for the nation by public subscription for £45,000, was seriously damaged by a militant suffragist connected with the Women's Social and Political Union. The immediate occasion of the outrage was the rearrest of Mrs Pankhurst at Glasgow on Monday.

Yesterday was a public day at the National Gallery. The woman, producing a meat chopper from her muff or cloak, smashed the glass of the picture, and rained blows upon the back of the Venus. A police officer was at the door of the room, and a gallery attendant also heard the smashing of the glass. They rushed towards the woman, but before they could seize her she had made seven cuts in the canvas.

Various small acts of militancy had been performed by our local branch, but we had not done anything very spectacular or been particularly successful. I decided that we had better try burning letters. As it happened, burning letters was the one piece of militancy of which, when it was first adopted, I had disapproved. I could not bear to think of people expecting letters and not getting them. I had come round to it very reluctantly, partly on "the end justifies the means" principle; but chiefly on the ground that everyone knew we were doing it and therefore knew that they ran the risk of not getting their letters; and that it was up to the public to stop us if they really objected, by forcing the Government to give us the vote.

However, when it came to the point it was obvious that in the case of a local district, at some distance from head-quarters, burning the contents of pillar boxes had, tactically, much to recommend it. Acts which shall damage property without risking life and which shall not involve the certain risk of being caught are, as anyone who has tried them knows, very much more difficult to perform than they sound.

Setting fire to letters in pillar boxes was amongst the easiest of the things we could find to do. So one summer's day I went off to Clement's Inn to get the necessary ingredients. I was given, packed in rather a flimsy covered basket, twelve long glass tubes, six of which contained one kind of material and the other six another. So long as they were separate all was well, but if one smashed one tube of each material and mixed the contents together, they broke, so it was explained to me, after a minute or two into flames. I carried the basket home close beside me on the seat in a crowded third-class railway carriage, and the lady next door to me leant her elbow from time to time upon it. I reflected that if she knew as much as I did about the contents she would not do that.

Having got the stuff home, I buried it in the vegetable garden under the black-currant bushes, and a week or so later, dug it up and took it one day into the Newport Suffragette Shop to explain to the other members of committee what an easy business setting fire to pillar boxes would be for us all to practise in our spare moments.

Mrs. Pankhurst met us with the announcement that she and Christabel had determined upon a new kind of campaign. Henceforward she said there was to be a widespread attack upon public and private property… This project came as a shock to us both. We considered it sheer madness to throw away the immense publicity and propaganda value of our present police. They were wrong in supposing that a more revolutionary form of militancy, which attacks directed more and more on the property of individuals, would strengthen the movement and bring it to more speedy victory.

Emmeline Pankhurst agreed with Christabe. Excitement, drama and danger were the conditions in which her temperament found full scope. She had the qualities of a leader on the battlefield. The idea of a "civil war" which Mrs. Pankhurst outlined in Boulogne and declared a few months later was repellent to me.

At the Central Criminal Court, yesterday, before Mr. Justice Bankes and a jury, Olive Wharry, alias Joyce Lock, twenty-seven, student, was placed on her trial charged with having set fire to the tea Pavillion at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She pleaded not guilty. Bodkin and Mr. Travers Humphreys prosecuted; Mr. Langdon, K.C., and Mr. E. D. Muir appeared for the defence.

Mr. Bodkin said that, apart from any technicalities the indictment charged the prisoner with setting fire to a building which was the property of his Majesty. The whole of the Tea Pavillion in Kew Gardens and its contents were destroyed and upon the two women who held the refreshment contract from the Crown a very heavy pecuniary loss had fallen. The contents of the building, which were the property of these two women, were worth £900, but they were only insured for £500. On February 19 the Pavillion was shut up as usual. At 3.15 next morning one of the night attendants noticed a bright light inside the pavillion and running towards the building he saw two people running away from it. He blew his whistle and did his best to extinguish the fire, which immediately broke out, but his efforts were unavailing. At this time two constables happened to be in the Kew-road, and after their attention had been attracted to the refection of the fire in the sky, they saw two women running away from the direction of the pavillion. The constables gave chase, and just before they caught them each of the women who had separated was seen to throw away a portmanteau. At the station the women gave the names of Lilian Lenton - who was too ill to appear before the Magistrate on remand - and Joyce Lock, the accused, who later gave her correct name of Olive Wharry. The other bag was empty, but it had evidently contained inflammables. On the way to the station one of the prisoners was seen to drop a little electric lamp. To the policemen prisoner said: "I wonder that the men on duty at the Gardens were doing that they did not see it done." In reply to the charge she said: "Yes: that1s right." The tow prisoners were handed over to the matron, who saw that their hands were covered with filth and grease. In these circumstances counsel submitted that the prisoner's guilt would be abundantly proved.

Sir D. Prain, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, gave evidence to the effect that the Gardens were only opened at certain hours.

Replying to Mr. Langdon, witness said the Gardens were bounded by what was technically termed an unclimable fence.

Mrs. Katherine Mary Strange, of Duke's-avenue, Chiswick, one of the two lesses of the tea pavillion at Kew Gardens, put her loss at between £900 and £1,000 as a result of the fire.

The matron of Richmond Police Station said she found the rope produced upon the accused whose hands were black and greasy. The bags thrown away by the prisoner and her companion were produced and their contents examined by the jury.

The case for the prosecution having concluded, Mr. Langdon, who did not call evidence, addressed the jury for the defence. He contended that a small woman thickly clad in a long coat, like the prisoner was, could not have climbed the "unclimbable fence," and that the two figures seen in the garden were not those of the prisoner and her companion. Dealing with the portmanteaux and their contents, Mr. Langdon suggested that they were intended for a raid on the neighbouring golf links. The women were discovered in the Deer Park, close to the links and he would not deny that they were there probably for the purpose of committing an offence of some kind or other. They might have their own moral justification for what they were going to do, but their presence in the Park with the intent to commit some offence was very different from being found guilty of the serious outrage at the pavillion.

Mr. Justice Bankes, in summing up, said that "not very long ago it would have been unthinkable that a well-educated, well-brought-up young woman could have committed a crime like this. Not long ago one would have heard appeals to juries to acquit her on the ground that it was unthinkable she could have committed such a crime. But, unfortunately - and this was all he wanted to say about it - women as a class had forfeited any presumption in their favour of that kind. Unfortunately, they knew that well-educated, well-brought-up women had committed these crimes, and as a consequences it was impossible to approach these cases from the standpoint that they would have approached them from only a few years ago. It was open to the accused to give some explanation, but she had not done so, and the suggestion of her counsel was that she was out on a marauding expedition after golf greens. But did they want tow to attack golf greens? Did they want a hammer or a saw or a rope? One would have thought a trowel would have been more appropriate.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty.

Mr. Bodkin said there were two previous convictions against prisoner for smashing windows. The second occasion was in March, 1912, when she broke windows worth £195, and was sentenced to six month` imprisonment..

Mr. Muir said prisoner was the daughter of a country doctor.

Prisoner then proceeded to read a long statement in which she denied the jurisdiction of the Court, contended that women should be on the jury, and generally outlined the case for woman's suffrage. Ministers must be warned by the fires in Regent's Park and at Kew "lest a worse thing befall them." She was sorry that the two ladies had sustained loss, as she had no grudge against them. At the time she believed that the pavillion was the property of the Crown, but she wished the two ladies to understand that she was at war, and that in war even non-batants had to suffer. She would not submit to punishment, but would adopt the hunger strike.

The Judge: I have listened to what you have had to say, and my duty is to pass sentence upon you. It is no desire of mine to lecture you, but I am provoked by what you said to day this, and this only; The statement you have made seems to me to indicate that you have lost all sense of the consequence of what you are doing. You do not seen to realise the lose and injury and anxiety that such acts as yours cause to all classes - not only to the rich but to the poor and struggling; not only to men but to women. You talk about man-made law as if that was the only law that ought to govern people's actions. You must have heard of another law which says: "Ye shall do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you." That is the law you are breaking. I do not punish you for that. I punish you for the law which is made in consequence of it, and my sentence upon you is that you pay the costs of these proceedings.

Prisoner: I shall refuse to do so. You can do anything you like. I will never pay the costs.

The Judge: My order is that you pay the costs of these proceedings, that you be imprisoned in the second division for eighteen months.

Prisoner: But I shall not stay in prison.

The Judge: An, in addition, to find two sureties in £100 each that you be of good behaviour and keep the peace for two years from to-day.

Prisoner: Never.

The Judge: Of course, that will cover any time you are in prison. The consequence of your not finding sureties will be when you come out of prison you will be further imprisoned for a period not exceeding 12 months.

Prisoner: But I won't be bound over.

The Judge: I don't ask you to be bound over. I call on you to find sureties.

Prisoner was then removed.


England's Most Dangerous Suffragette Was Too Radical to Remember. Her Part in Women's History Shouldn't Be Glossed Over

A fter a five-day journey from Britain that left her &ldquomore dead than alive,&rdquo Edwardian England’s most dangerous Suffragette stepped off the White Star Line’s Cymric on Nov. 7, 1915, and onto American soil for the first time. Having been ordered by police escort onto a dangerous wartime crossing that had already seen another passenger ship, the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed by a German submarine, her departure allowed the British Government to heave a sigh of relief. Finally, they had been able to rid themselves of Kitty Marion, one of the most violent feminist campaigners history has ever known, and the woman who had helped to orchestrate a nationwide arson and bombing campaign, in the fight for women’s rights. Now, she was America’s problem.

Strikingly beautiful, with blue eyes and a shock of red hair, Kitty Marion didn’t look like the Brooklyn Daily Eagle‘s version of the &ldquomartial militants,&rdquo that their cartoonist, Nelson Harding, was so fond of drawing. An ex-music-hall star turned suffragette, Marion had spent 20 years of her life campaigning against the sexual harassment of actresses in her industry. Over one hundred years before the TimesUp and MeToo movements, she had attempted to fight back against the regular sexual assaults she had suffered as a female comic singer and actor, from agents and managers who believed they had a right to her body in exchange for legitimate work.

It was society’s failure to listen that had led to Marion joining the Suffragettes, bound together under Emmeline Pankhurst’s new directive of direct, violent action: &ldquoDeeds, Not Words.&rdquo

As the First World War broke out, the fact Marion had emigrated from what we now call Germany as a child in 1886 was used by the British government as a justification for attempting to remove her from the country. She was accused of being a German spy, hunted by the police and threatened with deportation until a group of suffragettes managed to scrap together enough money to buy her passage to America. Yet even though Marion was sent with a number of letters of introduction to the American Suffrage leaders, on her arrival she discovered they wanted nothing to do with her, far too concerned that Marion&rsquos violent reputation would damage their own cause.

Disillusioned by her rejection from a movement that had become her life’s work, as the war raged on Marion searched for a new purpose. And, in 1916, she found it. Leafing through a newspaper one day, she came across an article on Margaret Sanger’s fight to reopen her Brownsville Birth Control clinic. From this Brooklyn base, Sanger printed and distributed family-planning information in multiple languages. Her leaflets contained information on diaphragms and condoms, as well as the importance of sexual pleasure in happy marriages. Distributing such information was illegal under Section 1142 of the Penal Code. Sanger and her sister, along with the clinic’s interpreter, Miss Fania Mindell, had been arrested and imprisoned.

To Kitty Marion, the idea that sex was somehow a dirty secret was absolutely ridiculous. Her life as a young woman in the music halls had shown her that sex could be a joyous and beautiful act, something to be celebrated for its intimacy and pleasure. But she was also acutely aware of how sex could be used as a weapon by men, especially to restrict women’s lives. She held a long-standing belief that the only way a woman could be free and independent was not to marry. To discover that there were methods and information that gave women control over their bodies, protecting them from the threat of an unwanted pregnancy while still allowing them to enjoy sex, was revolutionary. She set out to join Margaret Sanger’s fight, and discovered, to her joy, that in this movement the reputation of a Suffragette who had endured over 232 force-feedings in U.K. prisons, and who had bombed the houses of government leaders and set fire to racecourse pavilions, was cause for celebration, not revulsion.

Birth control was a radical ideal, a challenge to the status quo that held that giving women access to contraception led only to moral corruption. It was a campaign in desperate need of courageous, stubborn and determined fighters.

Within a few years, Marion became a cornerstone of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Movement. She had the courage to stand on New York’s streets to sell the Birth Control Review, something Sanger herself described as &ldquotorture.&rdquo Marion faced multiple arrests and even served time in the New York City jail notoriously nicknamed &ldquoThe Tombs,&rdquo yet never wavered in her commitment to the cause. Marion had experienced the perverse sexual double standard of the age: that a woman seeking information on birth control, abortion or family planning could find herself arrested, yet a man who raped his wife was not seen as a criminal. “I have often read of prosecutions for abortions,” Marion wrote in her unpublished autobiography, “which struck me as unjust” since the blame was put solely on “the woman who was seeking relief, which it should be her right to receive”.


So how exactly did Smokey Bear become associated with wildfire prevention?

The answer begins with World War II. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. The following spring, Japanese submarines surfaced near the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and fired shells that exploded on an oil field, very close to the Los Padres National Forest. Americans were shocked that the war had come directly to the American mainland. Fear grew that more attacks would bring a disastrous loss of life and destruction of property. There was also a fear that incendiary shells exploding in the forests of the Pacific Coast would ignite numerous raging wildfires.

With experienced firefighters and other able-bodied men deployed in the war, communities had to deal with wildfires as best they could. Protection of forests became a matter of national importance, and a new idea was born. If people could be urged to be more careful, perhaps some of the fires could be prevented. To rally Americans to this cause, and convince them that it would help win the war, the Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program with the help of the War Advertising Council and the Association of State Foresters. Together, they created posters and slogans, including "Forest Fires Aid the Enemy," and "Our Carelessness, Their Secret Weapon."

In a stroke of luck for the cause, in 1942, forests and their animal inhabitants were celebrated in Walt Disney's wildly popular motion picture, "Bambi." Disney allowed the CFFP program to use the film’s characters on a 1944 poster. The "Bambi" poster was a success and proved the success of using an animal as a fire prevention symbol. However, Disney had only loaned the characters to the campaign for one year. The CFFP would need to find an animal symbol that would belong to them, and nothing seemed more fitting than the majestic, powerful (and also cute) bear.

On August 9, 1944, the creation of Smokey Bear was authorized by the Forest Service, and the first poster was delivered on October 10 by artist Albert Staehle. The poster depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. Smokey Bear soon became popular, and his image began appearing on more posters and cards. By 1952, Smokey Bear began to attract commercial interest. An Act of Congress passed which removed Smokey from the public domain and placed him under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Act provided for the use of collected royalties and fees for continued wildfire prevention education.

Though he has already accomplished so much, Smokey’s work is far from over. Wildfire prevention remains crucial, and he still needs your help. His catchphrase reflects your responsibility: Only you can prevent wildfires. Remember that this phrase is so much more than just a slogan: it’s an important way to care for the world around you.


Must Reads: Who started the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Library? Susan Orlean investigates in her new book

Susan Orlean has an upcoming book about the L.A. Public Library and the mysteries surrounding the devastating 1986 fire at the Central Library. She displays a book that was damaged in the fire.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Susan Orlean is photographed in the Central Library’s second-floor rotunda. Above her is the bronze Zodiac Chandelier.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Susan Orlean visits the Central Library’s second floor, with the rotunda above her.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Susan Orlean pauses in the arts and music section at the Los Angeles Central Library.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Firefighters battle a blaze at the L.A. Central Library downtown on April 29, 1986.

(Jack Gaunt / Los Angeles Times)

Smoke billows from the Los Angeles Central Library during the blaze that raged out of control for hours on April 29, 1986.

(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Fire Capt. Don Stukey probes damage after the devastating fire at the L.A. Central Library in 1986.

(Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times)

Smoke billows from the Los Angeles Central Library.

Harry Peak, who claimed he’d set the fire at the Los Angeles Central Library and then disavowed that claim, emerges from jail after the district attorney declined to file charges against him in 1987.

(Jack Gaunt / Los Angeles Times)

A worker takes in the scene of damaged and destroyed books piled in the fiction room of the Los Angeles Central Library after a massive fire on April 29, 1986.

On May 3, 1986, Adolfo Ramirez and Victor Davis carry empty boxes to be filled with works to be saved after the fire at the Central Library.

The interior of the rotunda of the Los Angeles Central Library on Nov. 12, 1986, during renovation after the fire.

Water–damaged books from the Los Angeles Central Library are lowered into a huge vaccuum chamber at the McDonnell Douglas Astronautic Co. plant in Huntington Beach on May 12, 1986. The boxed books, which had been in cold storage since the library fire to prevent mildew, were thawed and eventually dried in the chamber, which is normally used to test space satellites.

Curiosity is Susan Orlean’s superpower.

Hundreds of L.A. firefighters fought the devastating fire.at downtown’s Central Library on April 29, 1986. Thousands of people contributed to the Save the Books campaign afterward. Millions heard the news that the library was burning and then that it was caused by arson. But more than three decades later, only Orlean was asking who did it and why, and wondering whether anyone today should care. In a reverse “Fahrenheit 451,” Orlean took a fire and turned it into a book.

Titled — aptly and ingeniously — “The Library Book,” it tells the story of the mysterious fire that burned 400,000 books while also tracing Orlean’s love of libraries, from trips with her mother to taking her son. Along the way, she relates the unexpectedly colorful history and future of the L.A. Public Library.

“My first interest was writing a book about the day-to-day life of a big city library. I could have done that anywhere,” she said over lunch after we visited the library together. “I liked the idea of doing it in L.A., out of this contrarian idea that people don't associate libraries with L.A., which made it kind of delectable.”

That said, the 1986 fire (forgive me) was the spark.

A longtime staff writer for the New Yorker, Orlean had begun living in Los Angeles part of the year (she and her husband also maintain a home in New York). While exploring the city’s institutions, she visited the flagship of the L.A. Public Library and learned of its catastrophic fire. Although no people were seriously injured, the fire destroyed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more, causing $22 million in damages — more than $50 million today. It remains the largest library fire ever in America.

“This is an amazing story,” she said. As we walked through the library, Orlean — petite, stylish and with electric auburn hair — was greeted by staffers she’d gotten to know during her research.

Tapping a concrete wall, she explained where the fire had started, in the stacks. Built as two secure concrete chutes within the original 1926 building, the stacks held hundreds of thousands of books and were connected by a catwalk for librarians. After the fire started — leaping across the catwalk from the first stack to the second — the chutes served as dual furnaces, books trapped inside with the fire.

“Their covers burst like popcorn. Pages flared and blackened and then sprang away from their bindings, a ream of sooty scraps soaring on the updraft. The fire flashed through fiction, consuming it as it traveled,” Orlean writes in her book. “It reached for the cookbooks. The cookbooks burned up. The fire scrambled to the sixth tier and then to the seventh. Every book in its path bloomed with flame.”

If you, like me, care about books, reading her brilliant, awful description of the conflagration feels like watching a snuff film.

Orlean agrees. “There's something that we feel deeply about books that we don't feel about other objects — you know, it’s an object!” It was as if she were trying to convince herself. “And nowadays, it's an object that can be replaced pretty easily. Even so. There is something about it that feels raw and vicious and aggressive.”

She is a lifelong journalist, known for her careful, in-person research, showcased in her New Yorker pieces and books, including “Rin Tin Tin,” a history of the Hollywood dog “The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup” and (despite Charlie Kaufman’s fabrications in “Adaptation”) “The Orchid Thief.” So I was surprised to hear what she said next. It was so mystical.

“I think we have some association with books that feels like there was a soul in there,” Orlean said. “That there's a being in there, whether it's because writers have poured themselves onto the pages, whatever it is, I think there's something ineffable, mysterious about what makes books special, and I'm glad of that.”

This is one of the underlying ideas of “The Library Book” — that books, as both objects and ideas, are essential to the human project that libraries are a vital destination that holds them safe.

So who would want to torch one?

That was a question L.A. authorities thought they had answered on Feb. 27, 1987, when they arrested 28-year-old Harry Peak on suspicion of arson. Peak was released three days later after the district attorney declined to file charges against him.

It is a fine mystery: Fire officials said there was an arsonist Peak claimed, then disavowed, responsibility for the fire no one else has ever been arrested in connection with the blaze. Whether Peak was the actual culprit is one of the central questions of Orlean’s book.

Orlean describes Peak as “the consummate storyteller.” Handsome and underemployed, he was a little bit rootless and quite a big talker some news reports called him a part-time actor. He matched a sketch of the suspect. According to some (but not all) accounts, he was downtown at the time.

“There were two big storytellers in the book,” Orlean tells me. “One was Harry Peak and the other was Charles Lummis, who was an incredibly admirable and important figure in the history of LA.”

It’s an unexpected pairing. Lummis was the first city editor of the L.A. Times and founded the Southwest Museum more pertinent to this story, he was also L.A.’s city librarian, a tenure Orlean details in the book. His hand-built stone home, which is now a museum on the southern edge of Highland Park, was known for the rowdy parties — he called them “noises” — he threw there. By any measure, Lummis was a significant figure in the history of Los Angeles, while Peak, apart from being the arson suspect, passed through barely leaving a mark. But, Orlean says, Lummis “was a bit of a fabulist, and he would tell stories that his friends didn't always believe.” So did Peak.

“We tell stories to ourselves, to each other,” Orlean says, as though forgiving the fabricators. “It's the lifeblood of being human.”

Perhaps she is sympathetic to the tale-spinners, because to be a writer in 2018 means to side with art. Right now, looking at this, you could Google “Harry Peak” or “library fire” and easily read the nuggets the internet spits out at you. Orlean’s project is bigger. It has to be.

“I think that one of the great burdens of being a nonfiction writer is this feeling that anybody could go look this stuff up,” she said. “I'm not delivering any information that no one else can access. I've gone on a trip to the pyramids and you're sitting around the dinner table and people say, ‘How was your trip? What were the pyramids like?’ Well, they could go look it up online, but that's not the point.”

Pyramids in Egypt or a 32-year-old news story in Los Angeles, the point is elevating the narrative so it tells us something about ourselves or the world, making it something worth noticing. “The history of the library is fascinating, and reminding people that libraries are kind of cool and interesting is exciting,” Orlean said. “I got very charged up about it.”

She admits that editors are rarely convinced by her story ideas on the surface. “There is some kind of pleasure that I find in saying, ‘I know you think that this couldn't possibly be interesting, but it really is. Give me a minute, I'll persuade you.’ That awareness that I'm having to prove to people every sentence of the way that this is something worth their time.”

“Seriously, this is super interesting. No, no, wait, wait, no. There's more,” she demonstrated. “And then there's more, and you're not going to believe. That's how it feels to me, that I'm tugging on somebody’s sleeve saying, ‘Wait, wait, one more second. Let me just tell you one more thing, you're not going to believe it.’”

From where we sat at lunch, we could see the library building. I asked our server if she knew that it was the site of the biggest library fire in American history. She didn’t.

“Ooh, I just got the chills,” the server said. She turned to Orlean. “And you wrote a book about it? What’s it called? What caused the fire?”

For generations of Angelenos, this will be the first they’ve heard of the fire, the massive fight to contain it, the thousands of books frozen in an effort to preserve them, the water damage, the stop-start effort to restore and expand the library where its visionary architect put it at the corner of 5th and Flower in downtown Los Angeles, of the man who may have set it aflame, maybe even of libraries around the world destroyed by fire through the ages, taking untold stories with them.

It’s all there. They just have to borrow “The Library Book.”

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Some fires caused by downed power lines, weather conditions

Officials have confirmed the causes of some of the largest blazes in Oregon — and it's not antifa.

Wildfires terrorizing the Santiam Canyon, for example, were started by falling trees that knocked down power lines. Small fires grew and spread due to historically high winds, according to the Salem Statesman Journal.

Fires in Lincoln County were confirmed to have been caused by human activity on Thursday, but that's still not indicative of arson. Human causes include campfires and burn piles, and discarded burning debris, per The Oregonian.

High temperatures, strong winds, dry forests and lightning storms have all contributed to what has become one of the most dangerous fire seasons in history on the West Coast, per The Wall Street Journal.

All it takes is a spark — like the blaze in California that was set by fireworks at a gender reveal party, as CNN reported.

A case of arson that occurred in nearby Washington has fueled the rumors about antifa involvement, according to NBC News.

Far-right websites like Protester Privilege and The Gateway Pundit have claimed in headlines that the suspect, Jeff Acord, whom authorities say set fire to a highway median, is an "Antifa radical." They cite his arrest at a protest for Black Lives Matter in 2014. There is no clear connection between the groups.

USA TODAY has reached out to both sites for comment.

The fire Acord set was quickly extinguished, and isn't linked to any of the other wildfires burning on the West Coast.

There's also no mention of antifa in tweets from the state trooper and local police department that announced his arrest.

Major wildfires across Washington and Oregon. (Photo: SOURCE Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, as of Sept. 9 maps4news.com/©HERE/USA TODAY)


How gentrification caused America’s cities to burn

As recently as the 1970s, cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco were notorious for blight, crime and fiscal insolvency. Today, these cities boast booming finance and tech sectors that are attracting young professionals and fostering gentrification. Housing prices have skyrocketed, as neighborhoods like Harlem saw rents spike by 50 percent from 2000 to 2010. Soaring rents often push out low-income tenants in gentrifying neighborhoods. But bigger bills are not the only way tenants have been displaced. In San Francisco, a series of suspicious fires in 2015 and 2016 led many to suspect that landlords were using arson to displace low-income residents and convert their buildings to condos for highly paid tech workers.

Shocking as this sounds, it would not be the first time that more aggressive, even violent methods have been used to displace poorer tenants. While gentrification is sometimes thought of in genteel terms, that hasn’t always been the case. As gentrification accelerated in the late 1970s, a growing professional industry that promised urban revival and higher rents brought about harassment and even deadly violence to people living in the very neighborhoods starting to boom.

Take the case of New York. While gentrification had been occurring, if slowly, since the 1960s, the deregulation of Wall Street — and the resulting hiring boom at the city’s banks, consulting companies and law firms — changed everything. From 1977 to 1987, Manhattan’s financial sector added 151,755 jobs. By 1987, 1 in 3 Ivy League grads headed to Wall Street, up from 1 in 30 in 1977. As banks grew, all 30 of New York’s largest law firms doubled in size, too. So did most of the city’s consulting firms.

All those young, highly paid bankers, consultants and lawyers needed somewhere to live — preferably a renovated apartment with easy access to their jobs in Manhattan.

That flood of young professionals transformed many New York neighborhoods, from Brooklyn Heights to SoHo to the Upper West Side. But nowhere was the change as fast or as ferocious as in Hoboken, N.J., a city of 45,000 people just across the Hudson River. In the 1960s, it was poor: It had the second-highest rate of welfare recipients in the state, and unemployment topped 12 percent. But in the mid 1970s, a marketing campaign led by the local redevelopment agency brought a trickle of newcomers — first artists and brownstoners, then a stream of well-heeled bankers and lawyers.

Landlords noticed the renewed interest in the city and sought to convert their tenement buildings into luxury condominiums. But there was a problem: Their properties housed low-income, mostly Latino tenants who paid rents that were stabilized under state law. Efforts to buy out existing residents were unsuccessful.

So owners took extreme measures. They first threatened, then allegedly set fire to their buildings in the hope of driving out tenants. Between 1978 and 1983, those fires killed 55 people and displaced 8,000 more.

Declining neighborhoods also often experienced arson, with absentee landlords torching their buildings when an insurance settlement offered a higher payout than rental income. New York experienced roughly 10,000 arsons each year from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, mostly in impoverished areas like Bushwick and the South Bronx.

But neighborhoods like Hoboken moving in the other direction — places experiencing interest and investment from upper-middle-class professionals — were also subject to the violence of arson. And that violence disproportionately affected communities of color.

The details of the Hoboken arson wave are harrowing. In 1980, Olga Ramos, who owned a tenement at 12th and Washington streets, asked the city’s rent-control board for a $50-per-month rent increase, roughly four times the allowed annual cap. After Ramos’s request was denied, she told tenants that she “she would get them out, even if she had to burn down the building.” In the predawn hours of Oct. 24, 1981, a fire swept through the property. Eleven people, including all the members of one family, were killed.

After interviewing the landlord and the suspected arsonist, Capt. Patrick Donatucci of the Hoboken City police determined that the blaze was “definitely arson-for-profit.” Just weeks after the fire, Ramos sold the gutted building to a developer who converted it to upscale condos.

This was only one of the dozens of deadly fires that struck the city as it gentrified. In all, Hoboken suffered almost 500 fires, nearly all the result of arson, from 1978 to 1983. More than 7,000 Latinos, many of whom had occupied desirable rent-controlled apartments, fled the city. Yet no one was ever prosecuted. Proving that a landlord was guilty of conspiracy to commit arson required evidence that they had paid an accomplice to start the fire evidence of economic gain alone was insufficient.

Meanwhile, the population of professionals who commuted to jobs in Manhattan exploded. On the desirable blocks closest to the Hudson River, the proportion of residents working in professional or managerial jobs leaped from 1 in 20 in 1970 to 1 in 3 by 1980 and then to 1 in 2 by 1990. The number of financial-sector workers grew almost sevenfold over the same period. Few of those professionals showed sympathy for the residents they were replacing. A stockbroker, sitting at a cafe across from where an arson-related fire had killed 12 people one day earlier, put it bluntly. “I don’t want people to be burned,” he said. “But I wouldn’t mind a nicer element of people here, if you know what I mean.”

Sadly, Hoboken’s story was far from unique. Wherever young professionals moved, existing residents faced eviction — or worse — as landlords pursued profit. Beginning in the early 1980s, tenants of single-room-occupancy hotels were evicted across Manhattan’s Upper West Side. On Chicago’s North Side, developers used fire to clear lots to make way for high-end condos. In Boston’s gentrifying Back Bay, an influx of professionals led to a 400 percent increase in the number of arsons-for-profit, leading Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn to declare a war on what he called “gentrification arson” after his election in 1983. Nationwide, the situation became so dire that Congress held hearings on the arson-for-profit crisis in 1980, 1981 and 1982.

Then as now, cities welcomed the arrival of young professionals as a way to cure their many ills: falling tax revenue, abandoned retail corridors, sagging real estate markets. But Hoboken’s arson wave reveals the dark underside of this growth strategy. Rising salaries mean rising rents — a powerful incentive for landlord malfeasance. Only by providing affordable housing and investigating tenants’ claims of harassment can cities ensure that today’s urban renaissance does not bring yet more deadly consequences.


Perpetrators never caught

It was no secret that the house being built at Walton-on-the-Hill was intended for Lloyd George. However, he had not yet signed the lease and, when the explosion occurred, had already set out on a motoring holiday in the south of France with Sir Rufus Isaacs, the Lord Chief Justice. Like Lloyd George and other Liberal luminaries, such as Reginald McKenna and Charles Masterman, Rufus Isaacs was a member of the Walton Heath Golf Club, of which Sir George Riddell was a director. Sir George was an intimate friend of Lloyd George and the club was his power base. Over a round of golf newspaperman and politicians could discuss the issues of the day, retiring later to their country houses nearby. The masculine exclusivity of this circle was a goad to militant suffragettes debarred from the world of parliamentary politics. Although police suspected two WSPU members, Olive Hockin and Norah Smyth, the perpetrators were never caught.

By claiming responsibility for the bombing, Mrs Pankhurst reduced pressure on the Home Office to bring the real culprits to trial. Her Cardiff meeting was attended by a large force of police and her speech transcribed by a reporter of the Western Mail, the proprietor of which was none other than Sir George Riddell. The Mail’s editor assured the chief constable that the shorthand taker had kept his original notes and would be available to give evidence. At a meeting on 21 February in the office of the Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, the decision was taken to prosecute Mrs Pankhurst for procuring and inciting women to commit offences contrary to the Malicious Injuries to Property Act, 1861. She was arrested on 25 February, on 3 April was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude and immediately went on hunger strike. No attempt was ever made to feed her forcibly and the Prisoners’ (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Bill’, which allowed hunger-striking prisoners to be released to recover their health before being returned to prison, was rushed through to ensure that she did not die in prison. Notorious as the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act’, the Bill received the Royal Assent on 25 April.


ADCs save time and money. An ADC:

  • Is fast, covering an entire scene in less than 30 minutes. It can take humans days to do what a dog does in minutes.
  • Is accurate. At best, humans can make educated guesses about possible accelerant use and will need to collect an average of 20 samples to send off to a lab for testing. With an ADC, its nose narrows down the guess work, and it winds up taking three samples on average. Higher quality lab samples speed up investigations and result in a higher conviction rate.
  • Helps to rule out arson, allowing a case to close or the insurance claim process to move forward more quickly.

Of Ranchers And Rancor: The Roots Of The Armed Occupation In Oregon

Protesters in Burns, Ore., march toward the home of Dwight Hammond Jr., a local rancher convicted of arson on federal land. The Jan. 2 protest was peaceful, but ended with a group of militiamen occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Amelia Templeton/OPB hide caption

Protesters in Burns, Ore., march toward the home of Dwight Hammond Jr., a local rancher convicted of arson on federal land. The Jan. 2 protest was peaceful, but ended with a group of militiamen occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

A self-styled militia in eastern Oregon grabbed national headlines Saturday when members broke into the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. There the armed group remains Sunday, occupying the federal building in protest of what it sees as government overreach on rangelands throughout the western United States.

"We stand in defense," Ammon Bundy, the group's apparent leader and spokesperson, told Oregon Public Broadcasting. "And when the time is right we will begin to defend the people of Harney County, [Ore.,] in using the land and the resources."

Ammon's brother, Ryan, has reportedly used harsher rhetoric, saying members of the militia are willing to kill or be killed.

I talked to Ryan Bundy on the phone again. He said they're willing to kill and be killed if necessary. #OregonUnderAttack

&mdash Ian Kullgren (@IanKullgren) January 3, 2016

Their last name may ring a bell. Ammon and Ryan Bundy are sons of rancher Cliven Bundy, who notably took part in an armed standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, in Nevada in 2014.

Ammon Bundy now is part of a group of 15 to 150 people — depending on which source you believe — who are protesting the arson convictions of two Oregon ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven.

But why exactly are a Nevada rancher's son and his supporters taking up the cause of two guys from Oregon? What is the source of the continued friction between many ranchers and the federal government? What does a 20-year-old terrorist attack in Oklahoma City have to do with all of it?

The Background

The situation began, in some ways, in the decades following the Civil War. The 1862 Homestead Act granted 160 acres of land to the people willing to settle it. Ranchers in some regions needed far more land than that to be profitable. They eventually began to pay grazing fees for the right to lease federal land — if they agreed to federal oversight.

Ranchers And The Federal Government: The Long History Of Conflict

"When you are using somebody else's land for your livelihood, that puts you in a very dependent relationship," Paul Starrs, a geography professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, told NPR's Ted Robbins in 2014. "And livestock ranchers are, in my experience, pretty savvy people. And they don't like that uncertainty. Nobody really likes uncertainty."

More On Cliven Bundy

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Tensions Still High In 'Nevada Land' Over Cattle Dispute

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Year After Denying Federal Control, Bundy Still Runs His Bit Of Nevada

Some ranchers have strongly objected to the government's management of federal lands, especially over issues of water or environmental conservation, and to the terms of their leases. Cliven Bundy, for his part, grazed his cattle on federal lands and refused to pay grazing fees. The government still hasn't collected the more than $1 million he owes.

The tension is heightened by how much land the federal government continues to own in the Western states.

According to the Congressional Research Service, in Nevada the U.S. owned more than 81 percent of the land in the state in 2010. In Oregon, that number hovered right around half — 53 percent of the land, more than 30 million acres of which were administered by either the BLM or the U.S. Forest Service.

"The fact is, it's a paradox being a rugged individualist dependent on the government — unless you're John Wayne," Robbins says.

It's a paradox that Dwight and Steven Hammond chafed at for decades — and one that drew them off the ranch and into the courtroom.

The Hammonds

The animus harbored by the two Hammond men for federal land agencies dates back decades. Both reportedly were arrested for obstructing federal officials in 1994 — in protest of which "nearly 500 incensed ranchers showed up at a rally in Burns," according to High Country News. But even before that, the Hammonds bristled at the authority of managers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

"[Dwight] Hammond allegedly made death threats against previous managers in 1986 and 1988 and against [Forrest] Cameron, the current manager, in 1991 and again this year," High Country News reported in 1994.

The seeds of the current situation were sown in 2001 and 2006. In both those years, the U.S. government said the Hammonds set fires that spread onto land managed by the BLM. The 2001 blaze burned 139 acres of public land, according to court documents the 2006 fire — for which only Steven was convicted — burned an additional acre of public land.

Arson convictions for both father and son were handed down in 2012. Much of the dispute in the years afterward — including, eventually, this weekend's armed occupation — revolves around the sentencing.

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which increased the penalties for arson committed against federal property, the mandatory minimum punishment for such crimes was upped to five years in federal prison. The law, which was passed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, struck the judge presiding over the sentencing as too harsh — and off-base in this instance.

"It just would not be — would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality," U.S. District Judge Michael R. Hogan said at the sentencing. "I am not supposed to use the word 'fairness' in criminal law. I know that I had a criminal law professor a long time ago yell at me for doing that. And I don't do that.

"But this — it would be a sentence which would shock the conscience to me."

At the time, Hogan sentenced Dwight Hammond Jr. to three months of prison, and Steven Hammond to a year and one day. The federal government wanted the full five years, appealing the shorter sentences and eventually winning that appeal in 2014.

"Even a fire in a remote area has the potential to spread to more populated areas, threaten local property and residents, or endanger the firefighters called to battle the blaze," District Judge Stephen J. Murphy wrote in the appellate court's opinion. "Given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense."

The original sentences were remanded, and the Hammonds were sentenced to five years in prison. The Hammonds are expected to report to prison Monday.

What's Next?

Whatever their continued friction with federal officials, the Hammonds have not publicly condoned the self-styled militia members who claim to be interceding on their behalf.

Follow The Story On OPB

"The Hammonds' attorney has previously stated the militiamen showing up in Burns do not represent the ranchers," Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, noting that many locals in Burns have also received the out-of-towners warily — with several "Militia Go Home" fliers posted throughout the town.

Even Cliven Bundy, Ammon's father, expressed his hesitation over the protests. "I don't quite understand how much they're going to accomplish," Bundy told OPB. "I think of it this way: What business does the Bundy family have in Harney County, Oregon?"

Still, that has not dissuaded Ammon Bundy or the group with which he's holed up in the Malheur refuge headquarters. At a press conference there, Bundy said his plan may take "several months at the shortest to accomplish."

As of Sunday, law enforcement had not attempted to remove the armed group from the federal building, OPB reports.


Anson Jones and the Annexation of Texas

Anson Jones was born in Massachusetts in 1798. When he was 22, he was licensed as a physician. Throughout his life, Jones retained the plain, modest manner of a country doctor. But his life would take him in a far different direction. He would be known to history as the "Architect of Annexation." But his actual contribution to Texas statehood is more complex, and his life far more troubled, than the nickname would indicate.

Jones was a restless young man, spending time at Harper's Ferry, Philadelphia, and Venezuela, never making much of a success anywhere. In 1832 he gave up medicine and tried his hand as a commission merchant in New Orleans, where he went broke within a year. Jones next drifted to Texas, where he finally found success as a physician in Brazoria. At first, Jones resisted becoming involved in the tensions between Texas and Mexico, but eventually he became a supporter of Texas independence. When the revolution came, Jones served as judge advocate and surgeon in the San Jacinto campaign.

As Texas struggled to form a republic, Jones found himself drawn to politics. He was elected to the Texas Congress, where he served as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. It was in this role that Jones first became involved with the question of the annexation of Texas to the United States.

The question of Texas annexation had been around since the days of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. At that time, Thomas Jefferson himself had asserted that the true southern limit of Louisiana was the Rio Grande, and many Americans agreed. Naturally, the Spanish objected to this interpretation. In 1819, the United States and Spain signed the Adams-Onís Treaty, in which Spain relinquished Florida to the U.S. in exchange for the U.S. giving up claim to Texas.

With the Texas Revolution, the question arose again. After San Jacinto, Texas formally proposed annexation to the United States, and many Texans expected it to follow within a matter of months. Sam Houston was a protégé and close friend of President Andrew Jackson, who was known to favor the annexation to secure and expand the western border of the United States. Business interests in the United States also wanted to move in and develop Texas commercially. And powerful senators from slave states saw the chance to extend the reach of slavery across thousands of miles of additional territory.

Click on image for larger image and transcript.
Instructions to the Texas chargé d'affaires for the republic in Washington, D.C., 1842.

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Annexation was not the only issue. Jones on the possibility of a treaty with the Indians, 1842.

But there was heated opposition to annexation as well. First, Mexico did not recognize Texas independence, meaning Texas was still at war with Mexico. To annex Texas would be to commit the United States to that war, with the possibility that England might enter the war on the side of the Mexicans. Secondly, the annexation of Texas would breach the 1819 treaty with Mexico. And most importantly, northern states and anti-slavery advocates objected strongly, warning that the annexation could lead to civil war. Opposition to annexation in the North was so overwhelming that the measure had no chance of passing.

In Congress, Jones advocated a withdrawal of the offer of annexation. In 1838, Sam Houston appointed Jones as Texas minister to the United States, and authorized him to formally withdraw the offer. Instead of pursuing annexation, Jones would work to stimulate recognition and trade with Europe to the extent that one of two things would happen: either the U.S. would change its mind and decide to annex Texas, or Texas would become strong enough to remain independent. Jones served as minister until the following year, when Mirabeau B. Lamar became president. Jones returned to Texas, was elected to the Senate, and became a harsh critic of Lamar's foreign policy.

Sam Houston won the presidency again in 1841. This time, he chose Jones as his secretary of state. The foreign policy pursued by Houston and Jones was complex and at times devious. In Washington, they instructed Texas chargé d'affairs Isaac Van Zandt to labor for renewed interest in annexation. At the same time, they entered into serious negotiations with Britain and France to pursue a European alliance.

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1844 letter to J. Pinckney Henderson, stressing the need for secrecy in annexation negotiations.

Britain in particular was enormously influential in Texas at that time. The British ran most of the important businesses and operated most trading vessels in the Gulf. The British proposed to broker a peace deal between Texas and Mexico that would offer Texas recognition of its independence in return for moving the border to the Nueces River and emancipating the slaves. In return, Britain could use the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande as a staging ground for its own designs on California.

Jones and Houston vacillated between the two policies. Houston was genuinely torn between his desire for annexation and the dream of an independent Texas. Jones believed that the prospects for annexation were dim, and that independence as part a British-French alliance offered the best prospects for peace with Mexico and prosperity for Texas.

Neither the annexation proposal in Washington nor the peace negotiations in Mexico had borne fruit by 1844, a U.S. presidential election year. President John Tyler was an unpopular figure in search of an issue that could bolster his claim to another term. The country was in an expansionist mood, and Tyler decided to tap into the sentiment by moving forward aggressively on the annexation question. The Tyler administration entered into secret negotiations with Houston and Jones.

Tyler assured the Texans that he had the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate to approve a treaty of annexation. Houston and Jones were dubious of Tyler's claim, and concerned about the continuing border raids and threats of all-out war from Mexico. Since annexation would torpedo the peace negotiations, what guarantees could Tyler provide for protecting Texas from Mexican invasion? And if the treaty failed to win approval, would the United States still stand by Texas and guarantee its independence?

Tyler was willing to go for broke. He sent the U.S. Navy to the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Army to the Southwest to protect the Texas border. On April 12, 1844, the negotiations were completed and Texas signed an annexation treaty with the U.S. Ten days later, Tyler submitted the treaty to the Senate, along with hundreds of pages of supporting documents explaining the commercial and pro-slavery benefits of the move.

The proposed annexation set off an election-year political firestorm. And as Jones had privately feared, Tyler had badly overplayed his hand. The treaty was rejected by a large margin. Predictably, northern senators voted against it. Worse, fifteen southern senators also voted the treaty down, denouncing Tyler's actions as unconstitutional and an election-year stunt.

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Letter on the prospects for the passage of the annexation treaty, May 1844.

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Letter to Sam Houston revealing Jones's misgivings about the treaty, May 1844.

Jones was disgusted, saying Texas had been "shabbily used." With renewed vigor, he and Houston turned back to the idea of European protection. If all went well, Texas could end up as an independent nation, at peace with Mexico and poised to build a prosperous economy based on trade with Britain, France, and the United States too. Jones was set to succeed Houston as Texas president later in the year. He played a dangerous game, giving private assurances to both the Europeans and the Americans that he was really on their side.

For despite Tyler's bungling, the annexation issue was far from dead in the United States. The Democrats had seized upon annexation as a campaign issue, nominating James K. Polk on a pro-Texas platform. Henry Clay headed up the Whig ticket, opposing annexation unless it could be accomplished without war. In one of the closest elections in U.S. history, Polk was victorious. Texas had a new champion.

Events in the United States now moved quickly. Congress again took up the matter of annexing Texas. This time, advocates introduced not a treaty, which required a two-thirds vote in the Senate, but a joint resolution, which required a simple majority in both houses of Congress. The resolution passed the Senate by a narrow margin on February 27, 1845. The next day, it passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin.

The offer of annexation reached Texas too late for the new Texas president, Anson Jones. In a mistake that would prove fatal to his political career, Jones had already agreed to a British and French proposal to delay the meeting of the Texas Congress by 90 days, in order to give the Europeans time to negotiate a final peace treaty and independence from Mexico.

For years, Jones had promised to lay before Texans a stark choice: annexation or independence, and could not turn away from the possibility. But his years in the diplomatic world had left him grossly out of touch with public sentiment among ordinary Texans. As President Polk's envoy Charles Wickliffe observed, news of Jones's negotiations with Mexico came upon Texas "like a peal of thunder in a clear skie."

Texans recognized that Jones's actions could derail the annexation, and few Texans had any faith in the goodwill of the European powers or the Mexican government. Jones became wildly unpopular, to the point of being burned in effigy and threatened with lynching. Jones's attempts to backpedaling only added to the scorn and contempt heaped upon him by the newspapers and ordinary Texans.

In June 1845, Jones finally achieved his long-sought offer of recognition and peace from Mexico, and called the Texas Congress into session to consider the choice. In short order, Congress quickly rejected the Mexican offer, accepted annexation, and voted to censure Jones. The next month, a special convention wrote a state constitution. The Texas constitution was approved by the U.S. Congress, and on December 29, 1845, President Polk made it official, signing the annexation resolution that admitted Texas as one of the United States of America.

The last official act of Anson Jones as president was to attend the ceremony on February 19, 1846, in which the American flag was raised over the Texas Capitol. In Jones's words, "The Republic of Texas is no more."

As predicted, Mexico regarded the annexation as an act of war and moved to retake Texas. Polk declared that Mexico had invaded American soil and would pay the price for it. The U.S.-Mexican war that followed was bloody, costly, and as controversial as the annexation itself.

As for Jones, he went home to Barrington, his home on Washington-on-the-Brazos. He became a prosperous planter and amassed a great estate, but brooded constantly over his rejection by the people. In 1849, Jones fell from a horse and incurred a painful injury that caused his left arm to become disabled. Over the next few years, Jones' mental state deteriorated along with his physical health. He nursed an obsessive hatred of Sam Houston and a misguided belief that he would someday return to public office and be recognized for his contributions to Texas annexation. Sadly, he committed suicide in 1858.

Portrait of Anson Jones. Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1993/31-21.


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