Oregon occupation over, 5 more arrested
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge website homepage announces that the remote federal land preserve and its office are still closed.
But the 40-day occupation by protesters has ended.
Four remaining occupants, Sean and Sandy Anderson, Riggins, Idaho; Jeff Banta, Yerington, Nev., and David Fry, Blanchester, Ohio, turned themselves over to authorities on the morning of Feb. 11 and were arrested and taken to Portland, Oregon. No one was injured, and no shots were fired, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a statement.
Cliven Bundy, father of Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy, was arrested Feb 10, apparently under outstanding warrants.
Cliven Bundy had announced on social media and via e-mail to media that he was leaving for the Burns, Oregon, area that day. Burns is the closest town to the refuge headquarters. According to the Bundy Ranch Facebook page, Cliven was charged with Conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, Assault on a federal law enforcement officer, Use and carry of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, Obstruction of the Administration of Justice, and Interference with Commerce by Extortion and Aiding and abetting.
The Bundy family believes these charges stem from the 2014 “standoff” at the Bundy ranch wherein federal agents gathered a number of Bundy Ranch cattle with the intent to move or sell them, but backed down after the Bundy family and their supporters stood in protest.
Ammon Bundy, the unofficial leader of the occupation and protest, had called for the remaining occupants to surrender shortly after his own arrest Jan. 26. But then Cliven released a statement, Feb. 1, to the Harney County Sheriff that the refuge would stay under possession of “We the people of Harney County” and “We the people of the citizens of the United States.”
A number of high-profile individuals were involved in the peaceful Feb. 11, surrender. Nevada Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore, an outspoken supporter of the Bundy family and of federal land ranchers traveled to the refuge to communicate with the protesters from a “checkpoint” where she waited with authorities. Franklin Graham, son of well-known evangelist Billy Graham, and president of Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who said he’d spoken with the four protesters every day for a week, joined Fiore and law enforcement.
Meanwhile, Gavin Seim, a “liberty speaker” streamed live audio phone conversations between himself, Fiore, the refuge occupants and an attorney specializing in the constitution, KrisAnne Hall. The first three individuals left fairly quickly, while Fry remained, saying his demands hadn’t been met (by law enforcement authorities) and that he feared prison. Eventually, through patient coaxing by Seim, Hall and Fiore, he surrendered too.
Most of the refuge occupants, including Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy had been arrested Jan. 26 and one, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed by authorities that day. Several remain under arrest. (See our Jan. 30, 2016 story for more detailed information on the arrests and killing.)
According to an FBI statement: “On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted 16 people:
Dylan Wade Anderson, age 34, of Provo, Utah
Sandra Lynn Anderson, age 48, of Riggins, Idaho
Sean Larry Anderson, age 47, of Riggins, Idaho
Jeff Wayne Banta, age 46, of Yerington, Nevada
Ammon Edward Bundy, age 40, of Emmett, Idaho
Ryan C. Bundy, age 43, of Bunkerville, Nevada
Brian Cavalier, age 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada
Shawna Cox, age 59, Kanab, Utah
Duane Leo Ehmer, age 45, of Irrigon, Oregon
David Lee Fry, age 27, of Blanchester, Ohio
Kenneth Medenbach, age 62, of Crescent, Oregon
Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, age 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona
Jason S. Patrick, age 43, of Bonaire, Georgia
Ryan Waylen Payne, age 32, of Anaconda, Montana
Jon Eric Ritzheimer, age 32, Peoria, Arizona
Peter Santilli, age 50, of Cincinnati, Ohio
“Each subject faces one federal felony count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 372.
All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said the FBI news release.
The “militia” group led by Ammon Bundy had said federal land management agencies should relinquish control of much of the nation’s federal land and that they would remain until Oregon Bureau of Land Management land was placed under local control.
The re-sentencing of Dwight Hammond and Steven Hammond, father and son ranchers from the Burns area who are serving five year prison terms for burning around 140 acres of BLM land sparked the movement. While few local ranchers appear to have been involved in the refuge occupation, many have voiced their understanding of the protesters’ arguments.
Erin Maupin, a local rancher and friend of the Hammonds said the Hammond family is still front and center in her mind. The family’s BLM grazing lease has not been renewed for two years and she hopes this is accomplished soon. She and other ranchers and loggers from Eastern Oregon say federal land management strategies are not favorable for small communities or for the cattle industry. Maupin has said that the local federal land agency employees are not the problem, but that management policies from the federal level that are not livestock-friendly, are unnecessarily cutting grazing numbers which not only cripples small ag-reliant communities, but leaves excess forage on the ground that intensifies wildfires.
Some local Burns, Oregon, residents had spoken at local meetings and held rallies urging the occupiers to go home. Others, such as Maupin, asked federal agents such as FBI to leave.
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