Armed Militia Members From Bundy Ranch Take Over Federal Building In Oregon

Ammon Bundy, two of his brothers, and several militia members who were involved in the standoff against federal agents on Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch, have occupied a federal wildlife building in Oregon. The move followed a peaceful protest on Saturday in support of two eastern Oregon ranchers who are facing jail time after being convicted of setting fire to federal land.

The militia members occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in protest of the five-year prison sentence for Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven, 46, convicted three years ago of arson. The men were accused of setting fire in 2001 and 2006 to federal land.

KOIN reports the men are expected to report on Monday to serve their sentence in federal prison.

According to AP, Dwight, and his son Steven, said that they lit fires to control the spread of invasive plant species and protect their land from wildfires, but the fires spread to federal property.

Dwight was sentenced to three months in prison while his son, Steven, got one year. The current controversy was sparked when a judge later ruled that the terms were too short under the federal law that the men were convicted and ordered them back to prison.

Ammon Bundy, who arrived last month in Burns — a rural town about 60 miles from the Hammond ranch — with a group of militia members, faulted the judge’s decision and the legal process as another example of federal overreach.

The son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in the standoff with federal agents on his father’s ranch over grazing rights, told The Oregonian that he and two of his brothers were among several militia members occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters building.

Ammon Bundy had posted a video to his Facebook page calling on militia members to join him in Oregon in support of the Hammonds.

“All patriots it’s time to stand up not stand down!! We need your help! Come prepared.”

Ammon told The Oregonian that he and his group plan to occupy the federal building indefinitely.

“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute,” he declared.

However, a leader of an Idaho militia group that was involved in the earlier peaceful protest has said his group was not involved in the action by Bundy and his men.

Militia members had earlier walked in an organized “patriot convoy” from a Safeway supermarket past the sheriff’s office and courthouse to the home of the Hammonds where they were received by Dwight and his wife, Susan.

When the marchers, waving flags and singing songs, reached the courthouse, they tossed pennies at the door which were picked up by scavengers who had anticipated the action.

“Hard core” militia members who had joined the peaceful protest on Saturday included Ryan Payne, a Montana electrician who claimed responsibility for organizing citizen sniper squads that aimed weapons at federal agents during the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff.

There was also John Ritzheimer, an Arizona man known for his violent anti-Muslim rhetoric.

According to The Oregonian reporter Les Zaitz, Bundy told him in a phone interview from inside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters that, “The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds. We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”

He also reportedly refused to rule out the possibility of violent action.

Zaitz reported in a Twitter post that militia members said they also plan to occupy a Bureau of Land Management fire station in Frenchglen. Zaitz noted that the fire station is currently closed because it is used only in the summer.

Media reports claim that the Hammonds said they have not asked the militias for help.

Dwight Hammond said he and his son would comply with the judge’s order and report peacefully to prison on Monday.

According to KOIN, attorney for the Hammonds, W. Alan Schroeder, had written in a letter to Harny County Sheriff David Ward that “neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group speak for the Hammond Family.”

Burn residents, fearing an eruption of violence, were also reportedly unhappy about the presence of the militia members in their community. They had called a meeting with the militia members to express their concerns about violence.

During the meeting, a resident, Shonna McKay, told the militia members, “I am scared to death. Everyone here should know what your agenda is.”

Another resident, Candy Tiller, told OPB, “I’m worried that there’s a trigger-happy idiot out there. And maybe a law enforcement officer or somebody else makes a move that makes him think they’re pulling a gun and he’s going to shoot. It worries me. It brings me to tears. I don’t want that. I don’t want that for anybody.”

Some residents protested with signs reading “Bundys go home.”

Responding to the claim that the Hammonds have not asked for help, Payne told OPB, “They can’t defend themselves, they can’t ask for help. It’s asking a sheep to all the sudden defend itself from the wolves.”

Cliven Bundy had earlier criticized Harny County Sheriff David Ward for refusing to protect the Hammonds from the federal authorities.

“I believe that the local governments have failed these people. The sheriff, he has the duty to protect the life, liberty and property of his citizens. And I believe he has failed, totally here,” Bundy told OPB.

Ward told the local station KOIN that he did not want what happened at the Bundy Ranch to be repeated in Burns.

“We cannot have what happened at the Bundy Ranch here. I won’t allow it from law enforcement and I won’t have it from citizens.”

Ward also said he received death threats after he rejected a request from the militias to protect the Hammonds from federal authorities.

He told OPB, “I haven’t slept a full night in close to two months now. I have a lot of anxiety. What we’ve been threatened with here is civil unrest and the insinuations of armed rebellion.”

The federal authorities have so far declined to comment on the latest developments. A spokesperson for the FBI in Portland has only said the agency is aware of the situation.

[Photo By Chris Carlson/AP]