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Armed Militia Occupying A Federal Building In Oregon

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Photo: Chris Carlson/AP.
Update: It's been four days since a group of militants first took over a building at Oregon's the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Here are four crazy things that have happened since it all began:

1. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward asked the militiamen to go. According to The Oregonian, Ward sent a message that read, "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." Note: The militants did not leave.

2. The two ranchers whose arson case prompted all of this have quietly surrendered at a Southern California federal prison.

3. Yes, they've surrendered. But according to their attorney, Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond will now be seeking a presidential pardon.

4. If you're wondering why law enforcement hasn't made a move, the general consensus from most experts seems to be that police will take the "wait them out" approach. This has many people pointing out the striking differences between law enforcement's responses to this incident and the treatment of protesters who are people of color. However, tragedies at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas have proved how dangerous it can be to confront armed militias.
This story was originally published on January 3, 2016.

A protest in support of Oregon ranchers facing jail time for arson escalated into a takeover on Saturday afternoon, when armed activists and militiamen occupied a remote federal wildlife refuge.

The Oregonian reports that an estimated 300 militiamen from several states took part in a rally to protest the arrest of two ranchers, 73-year-old Dwight Hammond and his son Steven Hammond, who must report to a California prison based on a federal judge's ruling in an arson case.

Following the rally, a section of the members broke off from the larger group. They took over a building that houses the offices of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and is operated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, according to The New York Times. They also blocked access to the road. Reports estimate that as many as 150 militiamen are at the refuge.

Among the men leading the standoff are Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a previous standoff with the government over grazing rights, reports The Oregonian. Other anti-government militia members include Ryan Payne, a Montana Army veteran who took part in last year's armed standoff with federal agents in Nevada, and Blaine Cooper, an Arizona militiaman who also participated in the Nevada standoff.

“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely,” Ammon Bundy told The Oregonian in a telephone interview. “This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.” The Bundy brothers made it clear that they would not rule out violence if law enforcement officers attempted to remove them from the building.

Neither man provided specifics on how many men are there and whether or not they are armed. They did say that there are no hostages. The group insists that under the Constitution, the federal government has no legal right to Harney County land and that is should be relinquished to ranchers, loggers, and miners. They are also demanding that the Hammonds be released.

But according to The Associated Press, the Hammonds do not welcome this show of support from the Bundy-led militia, and they plan to peacefully report to prison January 4 as ordered by the judge.

On Thursday, Ammon Bundy posted a video to Facebook calling on the members of different militia groups to participate in the protest. “This is not a time to stand down,” he said in the video. “It is a time to stand up and come to Harney County. We need your help and we are asking for it.”

The Oregonian also reports that Ammon Bundy tried to recruit several militiamen from the local community into the cause, but they declined to join.

The standoff is ongoing. But because the building is remote and no government employees are being held, law enforcement isn't likely to immediately confront the militia.
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