‘Leave us alone’: Oregon residents tired of occupiers

Nicholas K. Geranios and Keith Ridler
Associated Press

Burns, Ore. — Activists are urging people who oppose a “militarized police presence” in Burns, Oregon, to converge on the small high desert town near a wildlife refuge that has been occupied by an armed group for a month.

The Pacific Patriots Network organized a rolling rally through the town Saturday night, and said it planned more demonstrations to protest the killing of one occupier last week, and the presence of numerous heavily armed law enforcement officers at the standoff.

“Our goal is to show the country that this county does support what is going on,” said B.J. Soper, a Burns resident and organizer of the rally that drew more than 100 people and dozens of U.S. and Confederate flag-covered vehicles.

A lone woman showed up to oppose the rally. Jen Hoke of Burns carried a sign saying “Militia Go Home.” “These people are spreading a message of hate,” Hoke said.

Meanwhile, the four people occupying the wildlife refuge held their position Sunday. They have demanded that they be allowed to leave without being arrested. The jailed group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, and 10 others who were arrested earlier in the week remained in custody.

Through his lawyer, Bundy on Saturday again called on the remaining occupiers to leave.

The FBI has said it’s trying to resolve the situation peacefully.

While the standoff that originated over federal land-use policies has led to filled-up hotels and restaurants as police, protesters and media have flocked to the area, locals say the conflict is upsetting and pitting neighbor against neighbor.

Authorities say Bundy, the leader of the group that seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and others used the social media and other platforms to summon recruits to join their takeover.

Court documents against the 11 occupiers under arrest show FBI agents have scrutinized social media postings, interviews and online talk shows that have been made during the standoff that began Jan. 2.

Bundy and several other jailed leaders appeared Friday in federal court in Portland, where a judge denied their release. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman said Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and Ryan Payne pose a danger to the community, and she is concerned they would not follow orders to return to Oregon for criminal proceedings.

The only woman arrested so far in the standoff, Shawna Cox, will be allowed to go home while her case makes its way through the court system. But Beckerman said that won’t happen until after the armed occupation ends.

Court documents detail some of the evidence against the occupiers. The charges against the defendants say the refuge’s 16 employees have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence.

A criminal complaint filed earlier this week makes reference to an online video that showed Bundy saying the group planned to stay for several years. He called on people to “come out here and stand,” adding: “We need you to bring your arms.”

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, the group’s spokesman, was killed Tuesday night in a confrontation with the FBI and Oregon State Police on a remote road. Bundy and four others were arrested during the encounter.

People at the rolling rally held up pictures of Finicum on Saturday, and demanded justice.

The FBI on Thursday released a video showing Finicum’s death, to counter claims he did nothing to provoke his killing. In the aerial video, Finicum is pulled over in his truck but then takes off in the vehicle and plows into a snowbank because of a roadblock. He gets out and has his hands up at first, then appears to reach toward his jacket pocket at least twice. He is shot and falls to the snow.

The FBI said a loaded handgun was found in the pocket.