PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An online petition to President Barack Obama urges the president to “end the armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge immediately.”
“We the People” is the First Amendment platform hosted on the White House website for citizens to bring issues directly to President Obama’s attention. If a petition reaches a certain level of signatures, the White House will issue a response — but won’t necessarily act on it.
This petition, which also wants to know “why the area has not been isolated,” has garnered more than 17,000 signatures from their stated goal of 100,000.
The leader of the militia, Ammon Bundy, is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who led an armed standoff with federal officials over cattle grazing on land around his ranch.
Ammon Bundy and his militia took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2. Others have joined since then in a stated ploy to get the federal government to return the land to Harney County. Most of the people in this militia are from other states.
On Saturday, about 40 people gathered to protest against Bundy and his group.
The counter-protest began at about 1 p.m. at an overlook about five miles from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The crowd chanted, “Go home, Bundys.”
Katie Fite from Boise, Idaho, called the occupiers bullies and said their action could give rise to other hate-filled efforts to take over public lands.
Kieran Seckling with the Center for Biological Diversity said the Bundys want to stage other occupancies like the one in Oregon, but he says there’s no town in the West that wants to be the next Burns, Oregon.
The counter-protest was punctuated by bitter wind and sleet.
Also on Saturday, two ranchers from other states are expected to rescind their land-grazing agreements with the federal government in a so-called signing ceremony at in the Malheur Refuge conference center. This signing ceremony “will double the amount of ranchers” standing up for their rights, militia spokesperson LaVoy Finicum said earlier this week.
Gov. Kate Brown sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, urging them “to end the unlawful occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as safely and as quickly as possible.”
In a statement Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said it was “long past time for this illegal occupation to end and for the people of Harney County to get their lives back.”
The Democrat said he hopes authorities could peacefully resolve the situation and hold Bundy’s group accountable.
“Law enforcement inaction up to this point is an egregious violation of public safety and emboldens their erroneous assertions that the US Government has no Constitutional Authority,” the online petition states. “Please end the siege of the refuge and arraign Ammon Bundy as soon as possible.”Community meeting
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty announced Saturday a change in venue for Monday’s community meeting. The meeting will be held at the Harney County Senior Center and start at 5:00 p.m. Doors open at 4:30.
The meeting was previously held at a local school, but the district told the county school properties would no longer be available for community meetings because of the large number of firearms present, which is a violation of school district policy.
The senior center also has a no firearm policy, which Grasty says will be strictly enforced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report