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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    Burns, Oregon residents' message to militia: 'Go away'

    Burns, Oregon residents' message to militia: 'Go away'

    The militia group, now asking to be named 'Citizens for Constitutional Freedoms', announced their intention to protest the rights of the Hammond ranchers. They claim to have tried petitioning and legal action but to no avail. VPC

    Gordon Friedman, (Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal 11:39 p.m. EST January 4, 2016

    (Photo: AP)

    BURNS, Ore. — Monday evening at the empty Elkhorn Cafe, owner Terry Williams was washing dishes silently.

    He paused to brew a cup of coffee and talk about a group of armed men occupying federal buildings at the
    Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

    The occupiers, who are mainly from Nevada and Arizona, are outsiders, he said. Williams, 73, and a lifelong resident of Burns, said the militiamen don't represent the locals.

    Underneath a seemingly infinite expanse of rolling, rocky hills dusted in snow, about a dozen or so men led by Nevada rancher Ammon Bundy have mounted a would-be insurrection against the federal government. Bundy and other men with him say they're not leaving until Dwight and Steven Hammond are freed from federal prison, their case is examined by an independent investigative board and federally owned land in
    Harney County, Ore., is relinquished by the government to the people.

    It's about defending rights within the Constitution, Bundy said Monday.

    The group broke in to a
    Bureau of Land Management bunk house during the weekend to begin their takeover.

    Now, the militia patrols the area on ATVs and takes shifts in a watch tower, waiting to see if authorities arrive. So far nothing much has happened.

    The police have said little except "Go home." Harney County Sheriff David Ward said during a press conference Monday that the "armed occupation" of the federal building isn't what Burns residents want, and the militia should disband.

    The militia has said repeatedly that they plan to stay for years.

    Locals have said group's claim to defend the plight of the Hammonds, a father and son pair who recently returned to federal prison after an arson conviction, and to be acting with their interests in mind, is tenuous. Some see the situation only as a distraction.

    Burns schools are closed and employees who would normally be at the wildlife refuge haven't been able to return.

    "The local kids have a week off school. They have to play basketball games in John Day and practice in Drewsey," Williams said.

    The true cause is mandatory minimum sentencing laws, he said. The Hammonds were subject to minimum sentences for their arson convictions. Part of the controversy is that the Hammonds were given a lenient sentence, which they served. In a rare move, the federal government appealed the sentence, and the Hammonds were sentenced again for the mandatory five years. That double sentencing, many residents say, is unjust, but taking up arms against the government is another thing altogether.

    The Hammonds turned themelves in to federal authorities in California on Monday.

    "We might agree with the Hammonds, but we don't need that out there," Williams said of the occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

    He said that although Portland and Salem may have their differences with eastern Oregon, the Bundys at the refuge don't represent all of Burns or Harney County.

    Burns is a small town of less than 3,000. There are only a couple of stoplights, and locals say the place to be for town gossip is the
    Safeway market. It's an oasis of sorts, nestled within a vast rural landscape. This is a different Oregon than Portland, or Eugene, or even Bend. This is the Oregon where men often wear cowboy hats and carry sidearms just out of habit.

    Downtown, several feet of snow piles are a makeshift meridian. Heavy-duty trucks are the primary means of transportation. A used tobacco pouch can be seen spit onto the ground, frozen into fresh ice. It's rugged Oregon, and ranching Oregon. Yet, it's still the
    Pacific Northwest, and politeness is customary.

    Barbara Ormond, a co-owner of Country Lane Quilts, said Burns has been unsettled by the thought of violence. Normally the town is a nice, quiet place.

    "Come and visit," Ormond said. "It's a great place."

    Ladonna Baron, also a co-owner of the quilt store, said things in the town haven't been too bad since the occupation of the refuge, although it's pulled the community into different corners of the ring: some agree with the militia's tactics, or even want to join. Others think it's a fool's errand or a farce.

    "We support our community," Baron said. "We support our ranchers. Personally, I feel what happened to the Hammonds was an injustice. But the militia is here on their own agenda."

    She added if there was something to tell the militia, it's "Go away."

    "Let us get back to normal here," Ormond said.

    Williams said he thinks that will happen sooner rather than later. If the police aren't going to go in guns blazing, the Nevada ranchers cooped up in the refuge may be driven out by other means.

    "It shouldn't be all that long," he said. "Especially if you get mother nature to drop temperatures to 15 below."


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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)
    As militant occupation continues in Oregon, sheriff says 'go home'

    By Kelly House | The Oregonian/OregonLive
    Email the author | Follow on Twitter
    on January 04, 2016 at 7:11 PM, updated January 04, 2016 at 8:19 PM

    BURNS— The sheriff of this small community has a concise, unmistakable message for the militants occupying a complex of federal buildings southeast of town:

    "Go home."

    Speaking from a prepared statement Monday afternoon in the cold, dimly lit basement gymnasium of a closed junior high school, Harney County Sheriff David Ward condemned the militants who have occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since Saturday.

    "You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County," Ward said in a message aimed at the occupiers. "That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed and unlawful protest."

    It was the strongest law enforcement response since the militants – self-styled militia -- on Saturday took control of the empty federal complex, which was closed for the holidays.

    Ammon Bundy speaks to reporters at wildlife refuge headquarters

    Ammon Bundy speaks with reporters at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Or. Bundy, who was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights, told reporters on Monday that two local ranchers who face long prison sentences for setting fire to land have been treated unfairly.

    The group, led by the sons of controversial Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, say they don't plan to leave. In fact, they have outlined plans to turn refuge land over to area ranchers and loggers. Their protest in Harney County is part of a larger, longer-standing debate regarding the ownership and management of U.S. public lands.

    Ward took no questions from reporters during his brief remarks and offered no clues into the response local, state and federal law enforcement officials have planned for the militants hold up 45 minutes outside town.

    The FBI is leading the response. The Oregon State Police, and deputies from sheriff's offices around Oregon also have arrived in Burns to help.

    Dave Ward, Harney County SheriffDave Ward, Harney County Sheriff

    Police have kept a low profile since militia organized a protest on behalf of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven. The two surrendered to Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institute in San Pedro, Calif., Monday afternoon to serve terms for arson.

    Ward used their surrender to try to convince the militants to give up.

    What began as a peaceful protest supporting the two ranchers "took an unfortunate turn," Ward said.

    "The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It is time for you to leave our community," the sheriff said. "Go home, be with your own families and end this peacefully."

    Police had deliberately kept a low profile once the occupiers took over the refuge headquarters. No patrol cars or officers have been spotted in the 30 miles between Burns and the refuge.

    But a gathering of law enforcement forces became evident Monday.

    The junior high school in downtown Burns remained closed to the public, with law enforcement workers replacing the students and teachers who were previously scheduled to fill its halls for the first day back from the winter break.

    Instead, school is canceled for the week and the building has become a makeshift police command post. All local government offices were also closed.

    Roads within a block of the building were cordoned off while an officer guarded the school's front doors. Men emerged from vehicles parked outside, carrying large metal boxes. One box was labeled "laptops."

    At the Burns Municipal Airport, an unmarked SUV blocked one entrance while a state trooper stood guard in his car at the other. A large military-type vehicle blocked a third entrance.

    Slightly more than 7,000 people live in Harney County, a vast swath of eastern Oregon desert where sagebrush dominates the landscape, the ranching industry is king and cows outnumber humans 14-to-1.

    "Our goal is to work together and restore calm and regular services for the people of that community," Ward said.

    Three-quarters of Harney County's land is federally owned, a reality that, here and elsewhere in the West, has long fueled debate about the ownership and management of federal lands.

    Locals who rely upon federal lands to graze cattle and sheep say they worry every time an environmental concern arises or a particularly bad wildfire season hits. Often those issues come with new regulations on their use of the land.

    Local leaders pride themselves on a collaborative spirit that has allowed them to negotiate peacefully with federal land managers when such concerns arise.

    The militants' arrival in town upset that peace.

    They showed up weeks ago, wearing holstered guns and "intimidating" deputies, Burns Mayor Craig J. LaFollette said. Their stated mission was keeping the Hammonds out of prison.

    The father and son were convicted in 2012 of arson for fires they set that burned federal land. A U.S District Court judge last fall sentenced both Hammonds to prison terms of several years, overruling a much lighter sentence previously handed down.

    Local leaders and the Hammonds made it clear they didn't want the militants' support, but the visitors stuck around. After about 300 of them marched through the streets of Burns on Saturday afternoon, a splinter group made for the refuge.

    As the occupation continued, scores of reporters lined up outside the headquarters. The scene at the 187,000-acre refuge is typically tranquil, with migratory waterfowl and resident wildlife communing on vast swaths of sagebrush and wetlands.

    But on Monday, about half a dozen satellite trucks for major news networks, including CNN and CBS, were in the snowy parking lot at the entrance to the refuge headquarters, broadcasting live throughout the day. Ranch trucks squeezed by cars parked along both sides of the roadway.

    At 11 a.m., Ammon Bundy and several other militants arrived in a white pickup truck for their now-daily press conference.

    He said someone in law enforcement has been communicating with him through back channels.

    "They intend not to come up on us," Bundy said.

    His claim couldn't be verified.

    He announced the occupiers now call themselves Citizens For Constitutional Freedom.

    One of the militants, Shawna Cox, read a long list of grievances related to the Hammonds' case. She said the militants have "principled evidence" that the Hammonds didn't commit a crime at all and proof that the case was mishandled.

    "We feel we have exhausted all prudent measures and have been ignored," Cox said.

    Media were allowed onto the grounds of the complex after the press conference, though reporters weren't allowed inside some buildings where the militants are staying.


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