Militia Takes Over Federal Building
A militia with ties to a Nevada rancher who had a previous stand off with federal agents took over a federal building in Oregon late Saturday.
Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was the center of a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights, told The Oregonian he and two of his brothers were among a group of dozens of people occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The occupation followed a peaceful protest led by Bundy in support of an eastern Oregon ranching family facing jail time for arson.
The militia rallied past the sheriff’s office and the home of Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and his son Steven, 43. The two admitted to setting brush fires in 2001 and 2006 to reduce growth of invasive plants and reduce the chance of wildfires.
The Hammonds were convicted of the arsons three years ago and served time – the father three months, the son one year. The two also paid US$400,000 in damages. But an appeals judge ruled their terms were too short under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, a 1996 federal law that mandates a minimum of five years in prison if someone is convicted for arson on federal land.
The two men are scheduled to report back to prison on Monday to serve out the remainder of their five-year sentences.
An estimated 300 marchers, both militia and locals, reached the courthouse and tossed hundreds of pennies at the locked door. Their message: civilians were buying back their government. After the march passed, two girls swooped in to scavenge the pennies.
In a video posted to Facebook, Bundy said he and his supporters planned to stay in the building indefinitely, and called on other ‘patriots’ to come stand by him.
Stand Up, Not Stand Down – All Patriot Stand Up, We need your …**ALL PATRIOTS ITS TIME TO STAND UP NOT STAND DOWN!!! WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! COME PREPARED.
Posted by Bundy Ranch on Thursday, December 31, 2015
“**ALL PATRIOTS ITS TIME TO STAND UP NOT STAND DOWN!!! WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! COME PREPARED,” Bundy wrote in text accompanying the video.
Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan Bundy, told Oregon Live that they have no intention to commit violence, but would not rule out any options if they were forced to leave the building they are occupying.
“We will do whatever it takes to maintain our freedom,” Ryan Bundy said.
Neither would say how many people are in the building or whether they are armed.
Beth Anne Steele, an FBI spokeswoman in Portland, told The Associated Press the agency was aware of the situation at the national wildlife refuge. She made no further comment.