Ammon Bundy speaks during his daily press conference at the top of the road leading to the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 6, 2016 near Burns, Ore. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard/Zuma Press/TNS)
Early this month, a group of armed anti-government protesters occupied a federal wildlife refuge in Burns, Oregon. This situation struck many, including myself, with confusion. I’ve attempted to trace out a timeline and guide to what’s going on here.
The protest for ranchers’ rights began after father and son ranchers, Dwight and Steve Hammond were convicted of federal arson and sent to prison for a minimum of five years. Federal prosecutors say the fire was a coverup for poaching. The Hammonds claim they were stopping invasive plants.
The protesters believe the duo are wrongfully imprisoned for setting the government’s land on fire and want the government’s land to be ceded to the locals. Leader Ammon Bundy believed it was the last straw claiming, “People have been abused long enough,” and called for a takeover.
Bundy said the protesters are willing to stay as long as necessary. “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,” Bundy told CNN via telephone.
These protesters are mostly fully-armed men who are claiming to be a threat to public safety and trespassing on federal ground, planning to use it as a base and refusing to leave. Although the news continues to call them a militia, their only “violent” act so far has been tearing down a fence.
Three weeks later, they’re still occupying the building and the government wants it over with. The FBI has attempted to make a negotiation but Bundy won’t take up the offer. Kate Brown, the governor of Oregon is fed up with it. “This situation is absolutely intolerable and it must be resolved immediately,” Brown said.