Sunday, January 03, 2016
Militiamen Occupy Oregon Wildlife Refuge in Protest of Ranchers’ Prison Terms
A group of activists and militiamen protesting the federal prosecution of two ranchers occupied a remote federal building in the rural southeastern corner of Oregon, the authorities said. The building seized by the group houses the offices of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and is operated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, about 30 miles southeast of Burns, in Harney County. The occupation began after a demonstration in support of Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, who were to report to California prison after a federal judge ruled that the sentences they had served for arson were not long enough under federal law. Among the occupiers were Ammon and Ryan Bundy, two sons of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who became a symbol of anti-government sentiment in 2014, according to The Oregonian. A lawyer for the Hammonds said, however, they did not welcome the Bundys’ help, according to The Associated Press. In a video posted to Facebook on Thursday, Ammon Bundy called on the members of “different militia groups” to participate in the protest on Saturday.
“This is not a time to stand down,” he said. “It is a time to stand up and come to Harney County. We need your help and we are asking for it.” The Hammonds admitted they lit fires in 2001 and 2006, but said it had been to protect their property from wildfires and invasive plant species, The A.P. said. They were convicted three years ago, and the father served three months in prison, while the son served one year.
The Harney County Sheriff’s Department said the Oregon State Police was handling the incident. Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Portland, said the agency was “aware” of the situation, but declined to comment further...more