BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) — Ammon Bundy said the armed occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are not there to negotiate but want the elected county officials, including the sheriff, “to get in line.”
Bundy, who led the takeover of the federal refuge on January 2, also warned the federal government against trying to put chains back on the lands they’ve overtaken.
“We give them warning that they are not to do that,” Bundy said at his daily press briefing. He said he wants the federal government to “recognize the Constitution” does not give them jurisdiction over these lands.
He also said the militia is “organizing rapid response teams” to help ranchers with the “direct defense of their rights.” The rapid response teams have 3 components: “legal, political and open defense,” he said.
“We have tremendous amount of deep pockets (who want) to invest in the people of Harney County,” he said, without naming names.
For the first time, he said the occupiers plan on getting loggers back on the federal land, opening a mill and cutting down parts of the dead forest.
“We plan on getting those loggers back on the land,” he said. “It will take some time to accomplish and we understand it’s a very large undertaking.”
He also pointed to Article 4, Section 4 of the US Constitution: The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.
In his view, the federal government has invaded ranchers land. That seems to be the root of their argument.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908, by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Reservation. Roosevelt set aside unclaimed government lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” The newly established “Lake Malheur Reservation” was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his tenure as president. At the time, Malheur was the third refuge in Oregon and one of only six refuges west of the Mississippi.
Echoing a common refrain from the past 17 days, Bundy said Dwight and Steve Hammond do not deserve to be in prison. The Oregon ranchers admitted setting fires on federal land and were sentenced to 5 years in prison.
“Imagine yourself being unjustly pulled away from your life because someone wanted power over you,” Bundy said, adding the Hammonds are imprisoned “because of a personal vendetta.”
The Hammonds have publicly distanced themselves from Bundy and the occupiers, though he said Tuesday he’s been in contact with the family. He refused to disclose what they talked about.
Bundy was spotted at a community meeting at Burns High School on Tuesday night.
Community members met to discuss ongoing concerns with the armed group’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
It was primarily an opportunity for locals to vent their frustrations against the militia who have taken over their town. Many residents — even those who originally supported their occupation — said they feel it’s time for the militia to leave.‘John McCain has done nothing for freedom’
LaVoy Finicum, the Arizona rancher who is the de facto spokesperson for the militia occupying the Malheur refuge, said he and Cliven Bundy — Ammon’s father — are the only 2 ranchers who so far have rescinded their land-use rights to the federal government.
But he said there are 2 other ranchers from other states that will rescind their agreements as well in a signing ceremony at 4 p.m Friday in the Malheur Refuge conference center.
“That will double the amount of ranchers” standing up for their rights, he said.
Finicum also said the fight is about federalism, that the county is the government closest to the people.
“You think I can get John McCain on the phone? What has John McCain done for freedom? Nothing!” he said.
McCain was a Vietnamese prisoner of war for more than 5 years and overcame debilitating injuries he suffered when his plane crashed. He’s been a US representative, is currently Arizona’s senior senator and was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008.
Finicum also announced the daily press briefings will now be cut back to a weekly press conference each Wednesday morning.