Ammon Bundy, the rancher at the center of a 2016 standoff with the government at an Oregon wildlife preserve, said he is leaving the militia movement after criticizing President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Bundy shut down his social media accounts and announced that he was stepping away from “patriot groups,” Buzzfeed News reported Thursday.
He said the decision comes after he faced fierce backlash for opposing Trump’s attacks on a caravan of migrants.
“It’s like being in a room full of people in here, trying to teach, and no one is listening,” he told the outlet. “The vast majority seemed to hang on to what seemed like hate, and fear, and almost warmongering, and I don’t want to associate myself with warmongers.”
Bundy said it was “incorrect” for Trump to characterize the group of Central American migrant traveling toward the U.S. as “all criminal.”
“To group them all up like, frankly, our president has done — you know, trying to speak respectfully — he has basically called them all criminals and said they’re not coming in here. … It seems that there’s been this group stereotype,” Bundy said in a video posted to Facebook.
“What about the fathers, the mothers and the children, that have come here and are willing to go through the process to apply for asylum so they can come into this country and benefit from not having to be oppressed continually with criminals?” he added.
Bundy told Buzzfeed News that his followers’ strong support for the president was one of the reasons he has to step away from the militia movement.
“Those on the right have been so fanatically loyal to him that any word of opposition to bring out light in what he might be doing that is incorrect draws hate,” Bundy said.
He also ramped up his attacks on Trump by making comparisons to Nazi Germany.
“The time we find ourselves in now that is closest found in history is Germany in the 1930s, and they had a leader that was loved, and it was the same kind of following,” he said. “I don’t want to say there is that extreme similarity, but it very well could go that way, and people just give up their thinking, their rights, and they give up their government because they were so willing to follow him.”
Bundy and his family first came into the national spotlight during the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
He led two armed standoffs against federal agents in Nevada and Oregon to protest government ownership of and regulations on land in the west.
The president in July pardoned a pair of Oregon ranchers whose arson conviction became the inspiration for Bundy’s standoff with the government in 2016.
The militia movement includes a number of armed, anti-government groups, who often hold right-wing views, and whose numbers have reportedly grown in recent years.
Bundy said he was surprised by how much pushback he received from his supporters after he spoke out against Trump.
“I expected to get a decent amount of pushback, but I also believed that I could explain to them why I’d taken those positions and why,” he told BuzzFeed News. “But you know, I’ve always had these kinds of thoughts that people were not really listening to the principles of things, that they had aligned with me for some other reasons, and that some of those [reasons] are good and some of those might not be, but this last video kind of confirmed that.”