The Stand-off Occurring in Burns, Oregon
In Burns, Oregon, a group of roughly two dozen armed people have seized control of building at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge since Saturday. Their leader Ammon Bundy claims that they will not leave until the government turns over the federal land to local ranchers, and are also objecting to the arrest of two men, Dwight Hammons Jr., 73, and his son Steven, in connection with arson. Ammon Bundy himself arrived from Nevada to rush to the men’s aid, alongside many others. Many of the surrounding population in Harney County support the group’s views, but are still asking them to leave. In a meeting on Wednesday Harney County Sheriff David Ward told hundreds of attendees that it was time for the group to move on and allow the locals to continue with their lives.
On Thursday, Ward along with two other sheriffs met with Bundy in an attempt to end the standoff. The meeting lasted for five to ten minutes on the intersection of a state highway that also worked as a back route to the refuge.
Gov. Kate Brown also presented several harsh remarks in reference to the event, demanding that the group “decamp immediately” and that they are “unlawful.” She also showed support for the Burns Paiute Tribe, whom held a conference on Wednesday asking the militants to “get the hell off” the refuge. This land has traditionally been viewed by the tribe as theirs.
There have been rumours of death threats from participating protesters dating back to the 1980s, with the first officially reported in 1994. This occurred when Dwight Hammond and Steven Hammond got arrested by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers when they tried to stop federal workers from inside Malheur from fencing off the canal the pair had been using to water their cows. They were also arrested in 2012 for arson, when they were found guilty of setting fires in 2001 and 2006 in an area where they had grazing rights for their cattle. Dwight was sentenced to three months in prison, while his son received one year. Their second arrest and subsequent report to federal prison in California on Monday will be their second time serving time for setting fire on land managed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Land Management.