A peaceful protest over the sentencing of a pair of Harney County, Oregon, ranchers took a turn over the weekend when an armed group led by Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, seized control of buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The self-described militia was in Burns, Oregon, to protest the sentencing of Dwight and Steven Hammond. The Hammonds reported to federal prison Monday for burning federal lands. The occupation of the refuge has led to escalating tensions between the community and the armed group.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Harney County Sheriff David Ward asked the armed occupiers to go home, after the Hammonds reported to federal prison in California.
“You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed and unlawful protest,” he said.
“The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It is time for you to leave our community. Go home, be with your own families and end this peacefully.”
OPB reporter Amelia Templeton has been reporting on the armed occupation from Harney County since the weekend. She spoke with All Things Considered host Kate Davidson about the feelings among protesters who were initially with the Bundy group before the latter headed to the refuge.
“Some of the people who turned up to support the Hammonds on Saturday have really distanced themselves from this takeover,” Templeton said. “They said (the group) had promised to be peaceful and this sort of violates that promise to the community. They’re also concerned that all of the media focus on the occupation of the refuge and on the armed militant group has taken away the focus from land management issues.”
Templeton also spoke about how the Hammond family is reacting to the occupation and how the town of Burns is dealing with the tensions.
Listen to the full conversation through the audio player above.