Late yesterday, the FBI moved personnel into position around the federal building occupied by the remnant of protesters at Malheur Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, intent on ending the weeks-long standoff. That prompted a sometimes bizarre webstreamed broadcast of the protesters airing their grievances and at least once interrupted by provocateurs attempting to goad them into violence. As of this morning, though, it appears that the group has decided to turn themselves in rather than go out in a blaze of … something, anyway:
The remaining four occupiers at an Oregon federal wildlife refuge said they planned to turn themselves in Thursday morning after being surrounded by FBI agents overnight.
The FBI’s move to encircle the last holdout’s marked a dramatic escalation in a mostly slow-moving six-week standoff led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy — both currently in jail — at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. …
A man identified as Sean Anderson — one of the remaining four — said the occupiers would turn themselves in once Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and North Carolina-based Christian evangelist Franklin Graham arrived at the refuge.
“We’re not surrendering, we’re turning ourselves in,” the 48-year-old said on the sometimes fiery phone call. “It’s going against everything we believe in.”
Meanwhile, the plot has thickened again. Police arrested Cliven Bundy, father of two of the organizers of the protest and the center of a another standoff in 2014, after he flew to Portland, Oregon, reportedly to join the occupiers. He didn’t get far:
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the father of Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge, has been arrested after flying into Portland International Airport.
He was detained by the FBI and booked into Multnomah County Jail on Wednesday night, the prison’s records show. The four remaining occupiers of the wildlife refuge said they would turn themselves in Thursday morning.
A post on Bundy Ranch’s Facebook page said: “Cliven Bundy just landed in Portland; we are being told by eyes on ground that he was surrounded by SWAT and DETAINED.”
The Oregonian reports that the elder Bundy faces charges relating to the 2014 incident, and that another key figure in that conflict has also been arrested:
He faces a conspiracy charge to interfere with a federal officer — the same charge lodged against two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan, for their role in the Jan. 2 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns. He also faces weapons charges. …
Bundy has been under federal scrutiny since his ranch standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. He has not paid grazing fees on federal land and he owes the agency $1 million in unpaid fees and penalties. He and militia supporters confronted federal agents who had impounded Bundy’s cattle that were found on federal property. …
Another key participant in the Nevada showdown was Ryan Payne, a Montana militiaman who helped organize militia snipers to take aim at federal agents in Nevada. Payne is considered the tactician behind the Oregon takeover and also has been arrested and faces a federal conspiracy charge.
Will the arrest impact the potential to end the Malheur standoff peacefully? Given their access to the Internet, it’s all but certain that the four remaining occupiers know about the arrest. So far, the plan to walk out “carrying American flags” appears to be holding, awaiting only the arrival of Fiore and Graham. Given the nature of the standoff and the strange back-and-forth reported on the internet broadcast last night (which my colleague Bob Owens of Bearing Arms live-tweeted for a while), it may not be over for a while. At this point, it might be good to pray that everyone gets out alive.
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