TIME White House

White House Won’t Call Oregon Standoff ‘Terrorism’

ROB KERR—AFP/Getty Images Members of a small militia at the entrance to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Headquarters property some 30 miles from Burns, Oregon, January 3, 2016. The armed anti-government group have taken over a building at the federal wildlife refuge, accusing officials of unfairly punishing ranchers who refused to sell their land. The standoff has prompted some schools to call off classes for the entire week.

A spokesman called it a 'local law enforcement matter'

The White House on Monday was careful not to label an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon as an act of terrorism, instead referring to the standoff as a “local law enforcement matter.”

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest sidestepped when asked if President Obama would agree with describing the land rights activists involved in the standoff as terrorists. While the White House maintains that the issue is best handled by local law enforcement the FBI has been dispatched to offer support and see that the incident is handled “without violence.”

“Ultimately this is a local law enforcement matter and the FBI is monitoring the situation and offering support to local law enforcement officials,” Earnest told reporters.

This statement comes as the President is expected to take action on gun control this week. The White House, however, avoided a concrete response to questions about the standoff, which has captured the attention of cable news.

Since some 150 men stormed the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, the news media has struggled with how to describe them—with descriptions varying from “armed protestors” to “militiamen,” while some Internet users went with “domestic terrorists.”

Almost all major news outlets were avoiding the use of the words “terrorist,” reported the Washington Post, as the groups intentions were unclear. This was much to the chagrin of Twitter users, many of whom berated the militia group as homegrown version of the jihadists of the Middle East—using the hashtag #YallQaeda and #YeeHawd to make fun of them.

Read More: Republican Presidential Candidates Respond to Oregon Standoff

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