A group of militiamen on Saturday occupied the headquarters of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon in support of two brothers who are slated to report to prison on Monday on arson charges, the Oregonian newspaper reported.
“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely,” Ammon Bundy, one of the occupiers, told the newspaper via telephone.
Militia members at the refuge claimed to have as many as 150 supporters with them. The Malheur National Wildlife refuge building, federal property managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was closed for the holiday weekend.
Bundy said that while the occupiers, who included his brother Ryan Bundy, were not looking to hurt anyone, they would not rule out violence if police tried to remove them, the Oregonian reported.
The occupation came shortly after a few hundred marchers paraded through Burns, Oregon, about 50 miles (80 km) away, to protest at the prosecution of father and son Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who were ordered returned to prison by a federal court which ruled their original sentences were insufficient.
The Hammonds had served time after being convicted in 2012 of setting fires on public land to protect their property from wildfires.
“The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds,” the Oregonian quoted Ammon Bundy as saying.
“This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute,” he added, calling on other militiamen to join them.
The Bundys are the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The Bundy family ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, some 80 miles (130 km) northeast of Las Vegas, was the site of an armed protest against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in April 2014.
The stand-off gained nationwide attention as the agency sought to seize cattle because the elder Bundy refused to pay grazing fees. The federal agents ultimately backed down, citing safety concerns, and gave back hundreds of Bundy cattle which they had rounded up.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud)
Move over Oregon. A long-term standoff in Henderson County, Texas, ended peacefully on Wednesday, a year after charges were dropped against a man for assaulting a police officer.
John Joe Gray was holed up on his 47-acre ranch for a decade and a half after being arrested in 1999 for assaulting a state trooper who had found him to be carrying a pistol without a permit. Gray had insisted that it was his God-given right to carry the weapon, and bit the officer.
Following the assault, Gray refused to go to court, and told law enforcement that if they tried to take him by force that they better “bring extra body bags. Those who live by the sword will die,” Gray told ABC News in 2000.
Officers were never sent in to retrieve Gray, as the sheriff feared for his officers’ lives should they attempt it. Gray and his children and grandchildren regularly did armed patrols of the property. It is believed to be the longest armed standoff in American history.
“It wasn’t worth it,” Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt told local station WFAA. “Joe Gray has been in prison out there himself, in my opinion, for 14 years.”
Neither the sheriff’s office, nor Gray, were notified when charges against him were dropped in December 2014, until this week. When they learned of it, the standoff concluded.
“Yeah. It takes pressure off people. And it may take pressure off them,” the sheriff said. “There’s always been the potential for something bad happening.”
During the standoff, Gray decorated his property with paranoid anti-government signs such as, “vaccines equal annihilation.”
Sheriff Nutt told the station that the situation in his town is far different from the situation that is currently underway in Oregon, however.
“Those folks have occupied a public building. Joe Gray is on 47-acres that he owns out there,” the sheriff stated.
Gray is now free to leave his home for the first time this century.