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NW Life | News | An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

7 Key Developments In The Malheur Refuge Occupation

Sean Anderson, of Idaho, a supporter of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, looks through binoculars at the front gate Wednesday, Jan. 6, near Burns, Ore.

Sean Anderson, of Idaho, a supporter of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, looks through binoculars at the front gate Wednesday, Jan. 6, near Burns, Ore.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Today marks the 27th day that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has been occupied by armed militants in Harney County.

On Jan. 26, eight individuals in connection with the occupation were arrested, including the leader of the takeover Ammon Bundy. Since his arrest, a large number of news updates and viewpoints have emerged as the monthlong occupation enters a new chapter.

Here is a look at some of the key developments.

Please Go Home:  The FBI took three additional militants into custody Wednesday, as occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge began to trickle away from the site they have held for 26 days. This comes on the heels of Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation, asking authorities to let the occupiers who remain at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to go home without the threat of prosecution. He also addressed those occupiers directly, asking them to leave peacefully:

“To those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here.  Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.”

“Being in the system, we are going to take this opportunity to answer the questions on Art. 1, Section 8, Cause 17 of the United States Constitution regarding rights of statehood and the limits on federal property ownership.  Thank you and god bless America.”

No Way In, No Way Out: The FBI and Oregon State police have shut down large portions of Highway 205 in Harney County, Oregon, around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. FBI snipers are positioned at checkpoints and every person trying to leave the refuge area must have a background check run by the Oregon State Police. The only people allowed to pass the checkpoints will be local ranchers, according to the FBI.

Odd Man Out: The FBI arrested an eighth person in connection with the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona Tuesday. Jon Ritzheimer, 32, turned himself into local authorities in Arizona and also faces a felony charge related to the occupation. Ritzheimer is being held in the 4th Avenue Jail in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Give Me The Details: In a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Portland Wednesday, the government outlined its case against the eight arrested individuals charged in connection with the occupation. The 30-plus page document lists video and written evidence that shows Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ryan Payne, Pete Santilli, Shawna Cox, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, Jon Ritzheimer and Joseph O’Shaughnessy all took part in an armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

All of the defendants except Ritzheimer, who turned himself in to Arizona law enforcement Tuesday, appeared before Judge Stacie Beckerman in Portland Wednesday afternoon.

Not Over Yet: According to militant David Fry, there are still 5 militants occupying the refuge in Harney County. OPB spoke with Fry inside the compound Wednesday and he said, “We have new leaders now and new plans.”

Healing Time: In an interview with OPB, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown commended Harney County officials for their leadership during the occupation, but noted their work won’t be over when the occupation does finally end. “I would encourage them to speak with folks in the community and figure out what is the best way for the community to move forward,” Brown said. “But clearly this community is going to need time to heal.” OPB also spoke with several other elected officials from around the state on the latest developments in the occupation.

The Hammonds? Who: The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge began when militiamen came to Burns, Oregon, to support Dwight and Steven Hammond, a father and son pair who were convicted of setting fire to federal ranchlands. On Jan. 4, the Hammonds reported to federal prison at Terminal Island in Los Angeles County, California, to serve five-year sentences. Since their incarceration, little has been said from the militants about the Hammonds or the inspiration behind their imprisonment.

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