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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Sheriff to militia in Oregon: ‘Go home’

Harney County Sheriff David Ward listens to concerns during a community meeting at the Harney County fairgrounds Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Burns, Ore.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Harney County Sheriff David Ward listens to concerns during a community meeting at the Harney County fairgrounds Wednesday in Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Cheers erupted at a packed community meeting in rural Oregon when a sheriff said it was time for a small, armed group occupying a national wildlife refuge to “pick up and go home”

The group objecting to federal land policy seized buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. Authorities have not yet moved to remove the group of roughly two dozen people, some from as far away as Arizona and Michigan. The group also objects to a lengthy prison sentence for two local ranchers convicted of arson.

“I’m here today to ask those folks to go home and let us get back to our lives,” Harney County Sheriff David Ward said Wednesday evening.

Schools were closed following the seizure of the refuge because of safety concerns in this small town in eastern Oregon’s high desert country and tensions have risen. Ward told the hundreds gathered at the meeting he hoped the community would put up a “united front” to peacefully resolve the conflict.

Group leader Ammon Bundy has told reporters they will leave when there’s a plan in place to turn over federal lands to locals.

Several people spoke in support of Bundy and his followers at Wednesday’s meeting.

“They are waking people up,” said 80-year-old Merlin Rupp, a long-time local resident. “They are just making a statement for us, to wake us up.”

Earlier Wednesday the leader of an American Indian tribe that regards the preserve as sacred issued a rebuke to Ammon’s group, saying they are not welcome at the snowy bird sanctuary and must leave.

“The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here,” Burns Paiute Tribal leader Charlotte Rodrique said.

Bundy is demanding that the refuge be handed over to locals.

Rodrique said she “had to laugh” at the demand, because she knew Bundy was not talking about giving the land to the tribe.

The standoff in rural Oregon is a continuation of a long-running dispute over federal policies covering the use of public lands, including grazing. The federal government controls about half of all land in the West. For example, it owns 53 percent of Oregon, 85 percent of Nevada and 66 percent of Utah, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The Bundy family is among many people in the West who contend local officials could do a better job of managing public lands than the federal government.

The argument is rejected by those who say the U.S. government is better equipped to manage public lands for all those who want to make use of them.

Among those groups are Native Americans.

The Burns Paiute tribe has guaranteed access to the refuge for activities that are important to their culture, including gathering a plant used for making traditional baskets and seeds that are used for making bread. The tribe also hunts and fishes there.

Rodrique said the armed occupiers are “desecrating one of our sacred sites” with their presence at refuge.

Bundy’s group, calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, says it wants an inquiry into whether the government is forcing ranchers off their land after Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, reported back to prison Monday.

The Hammonds are long-time local residents who have distanced themselves from the group Bundy’s group. They were convicted of arson three years ago and served no more than a year. A judge later ruled that the terms fell short of minimum sentences requiring them to serve about four more years.

At the emotional community meeting Ward, the county sheriff, said he understood the problems some had with the ranchers’ court case. However he said people needed to express but their anger peacefully and lawfully.

“I’ve got my own frustrations, we’ve got visitors in town that have their frustrations, but there’s appropriate ways to work out our differences,” he said.


Petty reported from Portland, Oregon.

Copyright © 2016 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

4 thoughts on “Sheriff to militia in Oregon: ‘Go home’”

  1. Lets see, an armed group of avowed separatists want to remove the existing government by any means necessary to include use of arms, that is insurrection and for these fools Armed Insurrection. The existing government has the constitutional right and obligation to put down said insurrection even through use of federal troops (Posse Comitatus does not apply and the Insurrection Act does apply in this case). So lets see how committed these insurrectionists are when Federal Troops come in with their weapons of war.

    I do not think the Feds will use military force to resolve this, I think the State, local law enforcement and the FBI will.

    The Hammonds did the honorable and peaceful thing and reported to jail. I believe the Judge was totally wrong in his decision to add time to what the Hammonds’ have already served. The People and law enforcement of Burns OR, are doing what is right and I agree the local Native Americans have a point in this matter.

    Wikipedia links:
    Posse Comitatus – httpss://
    Insurrection Act – httpss://

    • Wasn’t like the judge had much choice. The Feds appealed the sentencing (yes, they can do that) and a superior judge came down with a hammer upon the lower court. J.

    • …for their personal profit, at the expense of all the rest of us (c.f. Cliven Bundy’s cows). Which somehow they think they have a right to. I do not sympathize with that, and I wonder why anyone does.

      I’d like to suggest one course of action between ‘doing nothing’ and ‘full-out assault’, this being ‘close the roads and keep the media (and everyone else) out until the danger has passed’. They do that around here for things as innocent as wildfire evacuation orders.

      If the USA can enforce a no-fly zone in Libya and Iraq, it seems to me not that hard to keep airborne muckrakers away from a corner of Oregon.

      And once more, I beg as nicely as I know how to our benevolent overlords that would you please just skewer all further stories on this? Isn’t it a little more interesting that a cop finally got indicted for perjury in the Sandra Bland traffic stop? Isn’t it a little more useful to know that the Chinese stock market is collapsing? Can we please leave these bloody nutbars to rot in obscurity?

      I know, I comment. Mostly to encourage you not to. Thank you very much, and I reiterate that it’s your website, Publisher Thompson, and you may do with it as you will. I’ll still come by.


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