Over 150 armed men have broken into a federal building in Oregon, the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, to protest the pending imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers—Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond—accused of arson (both ranchers were convicted on charges of setting fire to federal land).
The militia is arguing the federal government has no authority in local cases.
“Militants drove to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, where they seized and occupied the refuge headquarters,” described Sheriff Dave Ward from the scene early Sunday morning [January 3, 2016].
The group includes Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s three sons including Ammon Bundy, who appears to be the leader of the group. In a Facebook video posted on Saturday, Ammon appears to be standing at the scene of the takeover, surrounded by several men in military-style uniforms with rifles and hand-held radios.
“We’re going to be freeing these lands up, and getting ranchers back to ranching, getting the loggers back to logging, getting the miners back to mining where they could do it under the protection of the people and not be afraid of this tyranny that’s been set upon them,” Ammon says.
The occupation mirrors 2014’s Bundy Ranch standoff, when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attempted to enforce grazing laws on the property of Cliven Bundy, the self-described “last rancher in Clark County, Nevada.” Bundy hasn’t paid mandatory fees to the federal government for the right to raise cattle on his land since 1993 (when he lost his grazing permit), and during his standoff with authorities he was helped by an armed militia. Bundy currently owes approx. $1 million in fees, according to the BLM.
Diamond, Oregon natives Hammond Jr., 76, and Hammond, 46, were sentenced to five years in prison by Chief US District Judge Ann Aiken for arson they committed on federal lands. They’re scheduled to report to prison on Monday.
Photo Credit: Reuters