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An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

Burns Meeting Grows Tense When Militants Arrive


Ammon Bundy and other supporters of the Malheur refuge occupation showed up midway through a community meeting in Burns on Tuesday.

Ammon Bundy and other supporters of the Malheur refuge occupation showed up midway through a community meeting in Burns on Tuesday.

Amanda Peacher/OPB

At the beginning of Tuesday’s community meeting in Burns over the ongoing occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife refuge, county Judge Steve Grasty said that his mission for the evening was to unify the community.

“I want our message to be, ‘How do we bring this place back together,” Grasty said. 

But that mission was derailed when occupation leader Ammon Bundy and his supporters arrived midway through the gathering. The atmosphere in the high school gym became increasingly heated, with  supporters and opponents of the militants occasionally shouting over each other. 

A meeting in Burns grew tense on Tuesday, Jan. 19, as community members discussed the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

A meeting in Burns grew tense on Tuesday, Jan. 19, as community members discussed the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Amanda Peacher/OPB

Speakers from Harney County began directing comments to Bundy and the other occupiers.

Isabelle Fleuraud pointed at Bundy from across the bleachers. “You should just go home, and I hope somebody catches you on the way, and you go to jail where you deserve to be,” she said, her voice strained.

Bundy and the other occupiers sat quietly in the bleachers or stood in the back of the gym. At least a dozen sheriff’s deputies stood positioned around the gym, watching the scene with care.

Harney County resident Jason Ward stood up to tell county leaders he thought the Bundys need to stick around.

“Until you guys can come up with some plan of action for change, I would rather see these guys stay,” Ward said.

Many speakers also lamented how the occupation has stressed and divided the community. Some speakers teared up, and said they had lost friends over their positions on the occupation.


Some residents asked to hear from Bundy, but Judge Grasty emphasized that the microphone was for Harney County residents only.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty at a community meeting in Burns on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty at a community meeting in Burns on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Amanda Peacher/OPB

“Anyone that’s doing criminal activities is not welcome here,” Grasty said. He offered to give Bundy a ride anywhere he wanted out of Harney County, even to Utah.

Ed Brown said he’s flying the U.S. flag upside down outside his house, “because that’s a sign of distress, and we are in distress.”

Brown, too, addressed Ammon Bundy directly. “Mr. Bundy, I agree with you 100 percent, we have way too much government,” said Brown.  “But the same hand, get the hell out of my yard. Look what you did to this county.”

Bundy and the other occupiers left quietly at the end of the meeting, walking past several sheriff’s deputies on the way to their trucks.

Grasty said that community meetings will take place weekly while the occupation continues.

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