On Saturday, a number of armed rallyists protesting the federal government’s “unfair treatment” of two ranchers who are scheduled to return to prison on Monday, occupied a federal building in Burns, Oregon. The Oregon protesters declared that they were planning to stay at the building indefinitely and urged people to take arms and follow them.
The protesters who seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge 30 miles Southeast of Burns were led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Cliven Bundy, a rancher who had a standoff with the government back in 2014 after refusing to pay cattle grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management.
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) January 3, 2016
The occupation started after a rally held in support of 78-year-old Dwight Hammond and his 46-year-old son Steven Hammond, who were set to return to jail for arson. The Bundy brothers, and several other demonstrators, broke off from a much larger rally and seized the federal building, which they described as “the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds.”
— KATC TV3 (@KATCTV3) January 3, 2016
“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely,” Ammon told The Oregonian via phone interview. The Oregon protesters have declined to give further details on how many people have joined them, but militia members said about 150 people are taking part in the rally.
Ammon said people need to be aware that the government has no respect for people’s constitutional rights.
“People need to be aware that we’ve become a system where government is actually claiming and using and defending people’s rights, and they are doing that against the people,” Ammon said in an interview with CNN.
Ammon Bundy Explains the Stand of Oregon Protesters Regarding the Government’s Control Over Their Land
Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward announced that authorities and law enforcers were keeping an eye on the incident.
“These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers,” Ward stated on Sunday. “When in reality these men had alternative motives, to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”
The armed Oregon protesters have been gathering support from people across the country through social media these past few weeks. In a video posted on Facebook, Ammon said the people have been abused long enough and that the court decision over the Hammonds’ case is a “symptom” of a very serious problem.
The court judge’s conclusion to send the Hammonds back to prison outraged the Bundys and the rest of their supporters. The Hammonds were accused of committing arson on federal land in 2001 and 2006. They were convicted in 2012 and just recently completed their sentence. They were released earlier this year only to be given stricter punishment after the court determined that their initial sentences were not enough as arson on federal property involves a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
However, legal representatives of the Hammonds made it clear that their clients were not involved in the occupation of the federal facility.
“Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family,” W. Alan Schroeder, lawyer of the Hammonds’ said in a letter to the Harney County sheriff.
The Bundys and Oregon protesters have also shifted their focus from protesting against the government’s treatment of the Hammonds to getting the federal government to hand over federal lands to the locals. The federal lands that the protesters believe are owned by the people were originally part of a reservation established by former President Ulysses S. Grant for the Nortern Paiute, a group of indigenous people in the area.
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) January 3, 2016
Meanwhile, federal officials declared no federal wildlife employees were harmed during the demonstration of the Oregon protesters.
[Image via YouTube]