HARNEY COUNTY, OR. – Members of militias from across the US took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Harney County, Oregon, on Saturday.
There are reported to be up to 150 heavily armed militia members involved.
The move comes as two ranchers (Dwight Hammond Jr., and his son, Steve Hammond) from Burns, OR. are to report to a California prison because they conducted controlled burns that spread to federal lands which they owned grazing rights to. Steve and Dwight Hammond started the fires to “take out invasive juniper,” and “to keep a lightning-caused fire from burning onto the Hammonds’ ranch and hitting their winter feed.”
Ammon Bundy spoke of the takeover of the federal building.
The Hammonds were charged with arson, and sentenced under the federal Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, who presided over the Hammond’s original sentencing, said that deeming the Hammonds as terrorists would be “unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment.” Hogan sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months, and Steve Hammond to one year. The Hammonds served their time, and went back to ranching.
Ammon Bundy said in Facebook video they have taken over refuge to use as militia base for years. Called patriots from U.S. to come.
— Les Zaitz (@LesZaitz) January 3, 2016
About a year later, Amanda Marshall, an Obama appointee for U.S. attorney for Oregon recommended the government challenge the sentencing judge’s decision. She wanted the Hammonds to be sentenced in accordance with the anti-terrorism law. According to Oregon Live, Obama’s Justice Department authorized a “rare appeal of an Oregon judge’s order.”
The Hammonds were about to face a new sentencing hearing, as “terrorists.”
The presiding judge, U.S. Chief District Judge Ann Aiken, was nominated by Bill Clinton in 1995.
Aiken sentenced the Hammonds to each serve 5 years in a California prison. According to the Obama administration, both men were now officially terrorists, all for starting controlled burns to protect their property and livelihood. The Hammonds are slated to report to prison on January 4th, 2016.
Fast forward to today’s events.
Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who was involved in a standoff with the BLM over land use in 2014, stated in a blog post that he had been in contact with the Hammond family regarding the terrorism charges, and that he had stayed at their home.
While the Hammond’s attorney has said the militias don’t represent the family, Ammon Bundy said that they wanted their help.
A town hall meeting was held with citizens of Burns, OR. and militia members who sought to calm the fears of those who would be affected by a showdown between the federal government and Americans who want to defend their constitutional rights. All involved reportedly left the meeting with their concerns allayed.
After a peaceful protest by townsfolk on Saturday, militia members took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. Those involved said that they are ready to die for their freedom, and their constitutional rights. This is a developing story. Federal officials have not commented on the situation.
To follow news of the situation, or to get involved, check the official Bundy Facebook page