Sunday, January 03, 2016

Militia Occupying Federal Land: 'We Are Not Hurting Anybody'

An afternoon of peaceful protest in Harney County, Oregon took a turn Saturday, when a small group of men armed with pistols and long rifles occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. “The main reason we’re here is because we need a place to stand,” said Ammon Bundy, the apparent leader of the group. “We stand in defense,” he said. “And when the time is right we will begin to defend the people of Harney County in using the land and the resources. He and two of his brothers were among hundreds of conservative protesters who traveled to Burns, Oregon this week to demonstrate in support of two ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond, who in 2012 were convicted of arson for starting fires on rangeland. The men are due to report to a federal prison in San Pedro, California on Monday.  Most of the protesters who came to Burns did not participate in the armed occupation, and many expressed concern that it would undercut their movement’s credibility. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, occupied by the Bundys and their supporters, lies roughly a half-hour south of Burns. It was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and is a popular place for birdwatching in the spring. The occupiers draped an American flag over the welcome sign outside the refuge headquarters, and a pick-up blocked the road. As the sun set Saturday, the temperature fell to 10 degrees. A group of five men bundled in coats and scarves fed sagebrush branches into a campfire. Only Ammon spoke to the media, but a few of the men quietly identified themselves as longtime residents of the Burns area and supporters of the Hammonds. Asked how many militia members were at the headquarters, Bundy demurred. “I will not disclose,” he said. “Operational security.” He also did not confirm a report that militia members have occupied a BLM fire station near Frenchglen, Oregon. Bundy said the men hadn’t come into any contact with law enforcement while taking over the refuge headquarters, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether the men had entered the building or were just stationed outside it. There was no sign of law enforcement near the entrance to the refuge, though an Oregon State Police patrol car idled by the side of the road just outside Burns. “We are not hurting anybody or damaging any property. We would expect that they understand that we have given them no reason to use lethal force upon us or any other force,” Bundy said...more

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