Could the Oregon standoff turn deadly? Oregon’s governor is calling on federal authorities to handle the armed group of milita occupying a local nature reserve as protest, and says it’s time to end it. But the militiamen are vowing not to back down.
The armed group’s spokesman, LaVoy Finicum, told Oregon Public Broadcasting on Wednesday they have “no plans to leave.”
“We are very strong, very firm. This facility will not go back to the federal government, ever,” Finicum told OPB.
Federal, state and local law enforcement officers have been sent to the remote area but so far have avoided doing anything that might provoke a confrontation. That may end soon.
Exasperated by a tense situation that has caused fear among some southeastern Oregon residents since it began Jan. 2, Gov. Kate Brown called on federal officials to “move quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrongdoers accountable.”
Since the standoff began Jan. 2, one occupier was arrested for unauthorized use of a vehicle after driving a vehicle owned by the refuge into the town of Burns, and a Montana man who was stopped by Oregon State Police last week for a lighting violation was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
While many people in the region sympathize with Ammon Bundy and his group’s complaints about federal management of public lands, they have expressed fear as the occupation continues, and there’s been a growing call for the occupiers to go home.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty has been at the forefront of efforts among locals to show Bundy and his followers they are not welcome. Grasty said Bundy — who is not from Oregon — should get the point that he and his followers need to go back to their home states and leave Harney County alone.
“It seems like he’s out of touch with reality,” Grasty told the AP from Burns.
Grasty said he would like law enforcement to turn up the heat on Bundy and his fellow occupiers — perhaps isolate them by closing off roads leading to the refuge.
“I hope they lock it down. People shouldn’t be coming and going. Maybe it’s time,” he said.
Bundy initially took over the refuge to protest prison terms for two local ranchers convicted of setting fires on federal lands. After the ranchers voluntarily reported to prison, Bundy has justified the occupation by saying he wants federal lands in Harney County turned over to local residents, among other demands. He has also said he is obeying a divine command.
The Associated Press contributed to this article