You are here
Home > News > County Court > Hammonds > Protest turns to occupation

Protest turns to occupation

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward explained that the peaceful protest ‘took an unfortunate turn’ when a splinter group began an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward explained that the peaceful protest ‘took an unfortunate turn’ when a splinter group began an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE

Following a peaceful rally and march on Saturday, Jan. 2, a splinter group of militia members, including Ammon Bundy from Nevada, occupied the Malheur National Refuge Headquarters south of Burns.

The occupation is part of a protest by Bundy and others regarding a re-sentencing in October 2015 for Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.

Bundy has said the occupation of the federal building may go on “indefinitely.”

In response, the Harney County Court held an emergency meeting on Monday, Jan. 4, to talk about the Bundy situation and the occupation at the refuge.

The county court released the following statement: “The Harney County Court is very concerned with the ongoing situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is under federal jurisdiction. The county court will stay engaged within the limits of our legal authority. Our main concern is for the safety and well-being of the citizens of this county. No one knows what the next actions will be of the outside groups who have seized control at the refuge.

“In our nation, we have three branches of government so that each serves as a check and balance to the others. If these militia groups believe the administrative branch is overreaching, they have every right to utilize the judicial branch or legislative branch to address these concerns. We encourage them to take this route.

“The Hammond family is well-respected in Harney County, motivation of the militia groups that have descended on Harney County goes far beyond the troubles of the Hammond family, as demonstrated by their actions at the refuge.

“The county will be releasing regular updates making them available to media and the general public through the Harney County website:”

Harney County District Attorney Tim Colahan said he had attended a law enforcement meeting on Monday morning, and the FBI is the lead investigative agency for the situation at the refuge.

Colahan said the Hammonds did report to federal prison on Jan. 4 as sentenced, and that may have an effect on the people at the refuge. He added that there will be no armed entry into the facility by law enforcement, and it may take time to reach a peaceful resolution.

On Monday, Jan. 4, the Hammond’s legal counsel released the following statement: “Dwight and Steven Hammond respect the rule of law. They have litigated this matter within the federal courts for over five years and, in every instance, have followed the order of the court without incident or violation. That includes serving the entire sentences imposed in this case by the judge who heard the evidence at trial and who concluded that imposition of a five-year sentence under these circumstances would ‘shock the conscience.’

“As the Hammonds have previously stated, they will be reporting to the United States Bureau of Prisons today to serve their sentences.

“The Hammonds will continue their legal efforts to renew their grazing permits. They will also pursue Executive Clemency. We hope that President Obama will agree with us and with the veteran judge who presided over the trial that the mandatory five-year minimum sentence is far too long for these ranchers.”

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward made a brief statement at a press conference on Monday afternoon. Ward reported the Hammonds had turned themselves in at a federal prison in California earlier in the afternoon. He said the incident originally started out when people from outside the state arrived to prevent the Hammonds from turning themselves in.

“It began with a peaceful protest, and then took an unfortunate turn when some of those folks broke off, and began an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” Ward said.

He said he and the county court asked for assistance from the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and Oregon State Police, and that they asked for the additional support to ensure the safety of Harney County residents.

Ward then spoke directly to the people who are occupying the refuge:

“You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed occupation. The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It’s time for you to leave our community. Go home to your families, and end this peacefully.”

Monday evening, Sheriff Ward stated there are two separate issues in the county: One is the occupation of the refuge headquarters; the other, the safety of the communities in the county.

Federal law enforcement is now handling the investigation of the occupation at the refuge.

Local law enforcement, with support from other agencies around the state, are focusing on community safety. Ward said residents will notice out-of-town law enforcement vehicles in the area, providing increased security for residents.

“I’m asking the community for a unified and peaceful front,” Ward said. “The people who have taken over the refuge exploited the Hammonds, in their time of need. They exploited the residents of this community, making them believe the rally and march were to show support for the Hammonds, when it was really a distraction so they could occupy the refuge.

“The other (law enforcement) agencies are willing  to help throughout this. The people at the refuge are not going to wait us out. They’re going to leave, and some are going to leave in handcuffs,” Ward said.

Ward stated law enforcement  and residents in the community have shown great restraint in dealing with harassment and intimidation tactics for about two months time.

“I’m proud of this community. They have, and will be, there for each other, regardless of which side of the fence they were on. They’ll mend broken fences, because that’s the type of people we are,” Ward said.

There will be a public meeting on Jan. 6 at 4 p.m. in the Memorial Building located at the Harney County Fairgrounds.

Randy Parks
Editor Randy was born in Iowa, and spent most of his life growing up in the Hawkeye State. After a few years in college, he settled in Idaho for a decade, skiing, golfing, and working at Sun Valley Resort. He married in 1985, completed broadcast school, and moved to Harney County in 1989 to work for KZZR. After 16 years of on-air work, he left the radio station and went to work for the Burns Times-Herald.

9 thoughts on “Protest turns to occupation

  1. Seal off the perimeter, jam the cell phones, allow NO ONE in, and cut off utilities. Let them know that if they have not caused any damage, any one of them can approach the perimeter, surrender his guns, and walk free between now and Sunday. That would be taking the moral high ground, it would negate their pretensions of martyrdom, and the whole situation ends with a whimper and not a bang.
    If they don’t comply, just let them stew in their own juices. This militia nonsense is getting old.

  2. TIME FOR THE MILITIA TO GO HOME! Their stated objectives: 1) Help the Hammonds. The Hammonds surrendered and are in jail. 2) Support the local populace and authority over federal control. The majority of the local populace don’t support the militia or their actions. The local sheriff has invited them to leave, but they’ve declined to comply. 3) They have a philosophical dispute with the Bureau Land Management, so they’ve occupied facilities administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (a different agency within the Department of the Interior). Go home and think about how to seek the reforms you seek through the constitutional means available to you via the three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.

    Other thoughts: Kudos to federal law enforcement for the restraint.

    Shame on the press (this paper excluded) for giving this buffoonery far more attention than it deserves, in hopes that it will boil over into a tragic incident.

    1. With the Understanding of Overpopulation Ideology running rampant in the Elitist circles of leadership , it is time for a More Local hands on approach to policy making so as to curb the escalation of Bureaucratic Top Down Repression that has given us many examples to point to . like the links below .

      There is so much stuff in these links to ponder , it makes one wonder if communities citizenry really know their rights and how they can use those rights in Community fashion to benefit their lives at their local level ???
      When you consider whats said in the next 4 links , then consider whats said in the last . Thank you for your time .–c#t=30

      What needs to happen NOW is the Towns People Though the exposure of this information in a Town Hall Meeting Realize their Constitutional Authority in Controlling their resources and Get in the Middle Of how these resources are USED and Managed and How proceeds from these commitments of resources would benefit the local community First before state and federal benefits are assumed , based on what this Constitutional Attorney says ,

  3. Here’s my suggestion for speeding up a resolution: hold a county vote on who should control the refuge. Even if it’s just a non-official, symbolic vote, the occupiers would then have the opportunity to show how much they respect the will of the citizens.

  4. It looks like Burns is getting its own variation of the ISIS group! If you have to have a gun to back up your position, you don’t have a very valid position!

  5. The FBI Can Hide But Kate Brown Is Running For Governor And IS Oregon’s Governor – She NEEDS To ACT

    1,138 people were killed by local law enforcement in our country in 2015.* The numbers of dead human beings, both combatants and bystanders, attributed to the American military during and after the Vietnam war are probably incalculable. We are a country committed to perpetual warfare. America is not afraid of bloodshed. Our military/industrial machine thrives on it. Many of our leading politicians and candidates for President of the United States of America boisterously and constantly rattle their sabers for war. Our video games, movies and television are awash in violence. So the question arises: Why are Gregory T. Bretzing and Kate Brown, who have the power to evict and convict Ammon Bundy and his armed band of domestic terrorists, sending the dangerous message that it’s open season on government property in Oregon?

    Ammon Bundy’s demands CANNOT be met by the only two power players in the game, Oregon governor Kate Brown and Special Agent in Charge of the Oregon FBI, Gregory T. Bretzing. Only the United States Department of Justice and the Congress of the United States of America can give Bundy what he demands. It is clear that Bundy did not commandeer federal property to change the public lands laws and pardon convicted arsonist felons because that was an impossibility from the start, which he knew. Ammon Bundy occupied and confiscated federal property for one reason only, to shoot it out with law enforcement.

    It does not matter whether your political motives are left, right or center.

    It does not matter whether your cause is righteous or damnable.

    It does not matter whether your religious motives are sanctioned by a Mormon god, a Muslim god or anyone’s god.

    The armed takeover of public property is a criminal act demanding immediate expulsion.

    The armed takeover of public property is a criminal act demanding immediate indictment, conviction and incarceration.

    The armed takeover of public property which cause schools, businesses and government agencies to close because of legitimate FEAR is called DOMESTIC TERRORISM.

    Public officials, charged with protecting the people and their property, which includes the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, who are afraid to act because some blood may be spilled are irresponsible, aiding and abetting anarchy and unfit for their jobs.

    Governor Kate Brown must give Special Agent in Charge of the Oregon FBI, Gregory T. Bretzing an ultimatum. Start to dislodge Ammon Bundy and his gang of DOMESTIC TERRORISTS immediately by shutting off the power, prohibiting all methods of electronic communication and closing access in to and out of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge or she will declare an emergency, which it is, and as Commander In Chief of the Oregon National Guard she will order them to remove Ammon Bundy and his gang of DOMESTIC TERRORISTS from public property by whatever means necessary.

    So be it.

    Richard Ellmyer
    Portland, Oregon
    Co-owner of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge


  6. Sheriff Ward –
    I’m not asking for violence but I am asking you NOT to let the militants at the Refuge go home to their families with impunity.

    If they refuse your overly generous offer to escort them to the county line I strongly suggest that the federal and county governments cooperate to cut the utilities and blockade the property. There should be no mail delivery, no UPS, no Fedex. Disable the nearby cell towers as well. Tell them that they are being held liable for any damage to any of the property. Nobody should be allowed in and anyone who comes out should get arrested, tossed in jail without bail until the standoff is completely over, and charged appropriately with a number of crimes. Those remaining on the property need to be in the dark both literally and figuratively, until the last man comes out, hungry, cold and thirsty. They need a lot less information and they should not know what is happening to the people who leave.

    If you just let them drive off, they will consider that a victory and the next thing you know they will be occupying other property in other states and their ranks will swell as more glory seekers join their cause. Eventually they will have a reality TV show, a book deal and a movie contract. They will make millions off this civil disobedience.

    Please do not let them off the hook for this or it will happen again and again and again.

    Dave Finnigan

Leave a Reply