An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

Governing Chaos: Harney County Judge On The Malheur Occupation

By Jerry Headley (OPB)
Jan. 26, 2016 11 p.m.

On Monday, Harney County Judge Steven Grasty met with Dave Miller of OPB's Think Out Loud to discuss the cancellation of a regularly scheduled community meeting planned for that evening at the Harney County Senior Center.

“I think it’s critically important for the people in this community to get their voices heard” said Grasty, who ultimately decided to cancel the meeting because of messages he had received about plans to blockade the senior center's entrance doors if non-residents where not allowed to attend. There where also concerns that some participants may attempt to bring firearms into the mandated "firearm-free building."

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"I was worried about public safety," Grasty said. "It disappoints me to no end to think that we had to give into bullies.”

Grasty, who referred to the armed occupiers as "militia and thugs," said their actions have exacerbated divisions and disagreements that were already present in the area.

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Related: Harney County Judge Grasty: FBI Needs To Act Against Militants

"The level of anxiety, angst, anger, underlying this community is like I've never seen it before and it's discouraging," Grasty said. "Our county has been known repeatedly as one that looks for collaboration, for cooperation, for solutions, and Mr. Bundy has brought that to a stop. We can't continue this conversation and try get back together as long as he is here."

As the Malheur occupation is entering its fourth week, Grasty is pushing to meet with the U.S. Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to help ensure the community can move forward and begin the resolution process immediately after the armed occupiers' exit.

He has also begun to question the Department Of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "wait and see" approach to solving the situation.

“I think the level of angst in this community and in this state is past that." Grasty said. "Time to move."

When asked what its like to receive no response from the federal government, Grasty said: “They really solidify that belief that the feds aren’t going to listen to local government and local communities, and dang-it that’s discouraging.”

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