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Grant County Residents Speak Out Against Refuge Occupation


Outdoor enthusiasts gather at The Narrows on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest its occupation by armed militants in January.

Outdoor enthusiasts gather at The Narrows on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest its occupation by armed militants in January.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

Commissioners from Grant County, Oregon, heard from the public Wednesday about a resolution that calls for an end to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Several Oregon counties have already passed resolutions to show solidarity with Harney County in opposing the illegal occupation. But Grant County’s position is particularly important because some of the self-described militia who support the occupiers have said Grant County could be future destination.

That’s in part because Sheriff Glenn Palmer met with some of the occupiers in January.  Palmer is also member of a national group of  sheriffs who refuse to enforce some federal laws.  

Most residents who came to the commission meeting supported the resolution and expressed concern that Grant County could be the next host, or target, for radical efforts from so-called militias.

At a rally in support of Harney County officials and law enforcement last week in Burns, Grant County resident Adele Cerny says she was warned by one of the militants who came to protest the death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.

“He leans out of his car, and he yells, ‘You’re next! Grant County is next. And I hope your son, your daughter and your family all die for this cause,’” Cerny said.

Some said they opposed the resolution, however, and one person in particular said he was concerned about the language describing militants.

“Local collaboration is a long-held tenet of Oregon counties, and as such, the Grant County Court would like to see these out-of-state and out-of-county militants go home to their families and expect them to do so,” the resolution states.

Rancher John Morris says he’s concerned about language asking “militants” to go home.

“The word militant is up to interpretation to whoever wants to interpret it,” said Morris.

Morris said it wasn’t clear who is a militant or how to define a militant  and worried anyone with a gun could be described as such in the future.

The Grant County commissioners did not make a decision about the draft resolution Wednesday, but said that could come as early as next week.

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