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Armed anti-government protesters occupy federal building in Oregon

January 4, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Armed anti-government protesters occupy federal building in Oregon

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Anti-government armed activists protesting the prison sentences of father and son local ranchers for the burning of federal land have occupied a federal building located in a wildlife refuge in Burns, Oregon.

Both 73-year-old Dwight Hammond Jr., and his son, Steven, 46 were convicted in 2013 on arson charges for the grazing of some 130 acres of federal land.

The ranchers claimed they ignited the fires in 2001 and 2006, as a way to lessen some invasive plants to protect their ranch property from wildfires.

However, federal prosecutors disputed the claims and alleged the fires were set to cover up poaching.

Hammond Jr. served three months in prison while his son served a one-year sentence. However, a judge issued a ruling, deeming their sentences too short under federal law statute and ordered both men back to prison an additional four years each.

Armed Militia members in pick-up trucks, donning warm winter gear in camouflage, guarded the entrance on Sunday, allowing entry to some reporters for interviews.

Among the protesters included the three sons of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who had a stand-off with the government in 2014.

Protest organizers warned Sunday, if law enforcement agencies used of force to take back the land, they will be endangering lives.

A spokesman for the organized protesters said in a statement since the protest began Saturday, they have had no contact with any government law enforcement agency including the FBI.

Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who clashed with the federal authorities in 2014, issued a call for assistance to other members of militias on Facebook, over the indeterminate prison sentences of local ranchers over grazing rights on federal land.

Bundy and other militia members traveled to Burns last month in the wake of the judge’s decision.

Ammon Bundy, photo by the AP

Ammon Bundy, photo by the AP

Bundy called Patriots to unite in this message: “This is not a time to stand down. It’s a time to stand up and come to Harney County.”

“We are asking people to come because we need to be united and have a strong defense,” Bundy said at a later press conference.

He added that if law enforcement agencies used force to take back the lands, they would be putting lives at risk.

State and federal officials said on Sunday they were working Sunday night to defuse the situation.

Bundy told reporters they were prepared for the long haul, promising to protest “for as long as it takes,” after storming the refuge located in a rural area near Burns, Oregon, 280 miles southeast of Portland.

However, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said in a statement that the protesters were not patriots, accusing the group of having ulterior motives.

“These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and the federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States,” Ward said.

He added, “We are currently working jointly with several organizations to make sure the citizens of Harney County are safe, and this issue is resolved as quickly and peaceful as possible.”

Ward warned people to stay clear of the building as authorities worked to defuse the situation, the Oregonian reported.

The Hammonds said they planned to honor the judge’s decision and peacefully reports to prison on Monday.

The controversial decision has fueled the decades-long dispute over the use of federal land between the federal government and many Westerners.

The issue traces back to the 1970s and the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” a move by Western states like Nevada to increase local control over federal land.

Critics of the push for more local control have said the federal government should administer the public lands for the widest possible uses, including environmental and recreation.

Ryan Bundy accused the federal government of “tromping on people’s rights and privileges and properties and livelihoods.”

“I understand the land needs to be used wisely, but that’s what we as stewards need to do. A rancher is going to take care of his own ranch,” Ryan Bundy said.

Orgon Sen. Ron Wyden was briefed by the lead FBI agent in charge in Portland and said the majority of residents do not support the protesters.

“The overwhelming majority of people there very much want to get on with their lives without this disruption and are not in sympathy with a bunch of outsiders,” Wyden told AP.

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