Oregon protest leader: FBI planning a raid
MALHEUR NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Oregon — A leader of the armed group occupying a federal building in Oregon said he’s been told the FBI has obtained five arrest warrants and planned to raid the property — an allegation that federal or local law enforcement did not confirm.
Ammon Bundy didn’t name the source of his information when he spoke late Tuesday night at a press conference outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns. He said he talked to an unnamed “commissioner.”
According to Bundy, the source said authorities were gathering “their equipment and their goons” at a local high school, where classes have been suspended, and “they were planning on coming in and raiding the refuge.”
CNN asked the FBI about the possible existence of such warrants, but the bureau referred all questions to local authorities.
The Harney County Joint Information Center said that it had no information on arrest warrants and that it was still working for a peaceful resolution to the occupation.
Bundy compares armed protesters to Rosa Parks
There has been no evident police presence outside the snowy, desolate wildlife refuge in southeast Oregon since the occupiers took over the main building Saturday.
Reporters, however, have come and gone easily and recorded statements from the group of about 20 people.
Bundy has been the most vocal to spread the message that the federal government has too much power and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management controls too much land.
Early Wednesday, he compared the occupiers to the symbol of the civil rights movement, tweeting, “We are doing the same thing as Rosa Parks did. We are standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom.”
The group also is protesting the five-year prison sentences given to two local ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond.
But the father and son have distanced themselves from the protest group.
“Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family,” the Hammonds’ attorney, W. Alan Schroeder, wrote to Harney County Sheriff David Ward.
The Hammonds, who turned themselves in to authorities on Monday, have said they started a fire in 2001 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and to protect their property from wildfires, CNN affiliate KTVZ-TV reported. But prosecutors said the Hammonds torched about 130 acres of public land in an attempt to cover up the poaching of deer on federal property.
Bundy has claimed the two ranchers were targeted for not selling land to the government.
The FBI, which is leading the investigation, hasn’t specified what it will do.
“The FBI is working with the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and other local and state law enforcement agencies to bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” the agency’s Portland office said in a statement.
Law enforcement appears to be waiting out the protesters.
“There is no real reason, at this point, to go in. And the FBI knows that,” said Steve Moore, a retired supervisory special agent for the FBI.
He said federal authorities have learned that lesson the hard way. Take, for example, the deadly confrontation at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993.
“A hundred people died in that,” Moore said. “It was a suicide; however, it was provoked by the FBI intervention.”
‘I’ve got a lot to live for’
Protesters said they’re ready for a long wait.
Bundy said he expected other “patriot groups” to arrive and support the Oregon protesters.
“It is important that we as people stand when our government is out of control,” he said. “We are planning to defend ourselves.”
LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher and father of 11 children, talked to reporters Tuesday night while sitting outside the compound in a rocking chair with a rifle in his hands.
“I’m here to make it easy for the FBI to find me,” he said, adding he wouldn’t use the rifle “unless someone points a weapon at me.”
Finicum said he intended to go home to his ranch and live out his life.
“I want to go home, too, I’m expecting two grandchildren. I’ve got a lot to live for.”
When asked why he hadn’t left, he replied: “There are two things on my mind more important than my life — my family and my freedom. Their freedom.”