Federal agents moved early Wednesday morning to seal off a remote wildlife refuge in Oregon, hours after authorities arrested several leaders of the armed activists who had seized the land in a shootout that killed one of the group’s most prominent members.
In the weeks since the group began its occupation, local and federal law enforcement officials had called for the occupation to end peacefully. On Tuesday, after these calls and attempts at negotiations went nowhere, authorities moved to arrest several group members while they were away from the compound. A total of eight people were arrested, at the shootout and other locations.
After the exchange of gunfire on a highway, Ammon Bundy, the group’s leader, and others were arrested on federal charges. Other members of the group remained at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but before the sun rose over a remote swath of eastern Oregon previously best known for its bird-watching, authorities said they were blocking access to the federal land.
In a statement, the FBI and Oregon State Police said that they had established checkpoints along key routes to the refuge and that anyone who tries to travel inside would be arrested. Officials said people leaving the refuge would have their names confirmed and vehicles searched, but they did not say whether those people would be arrested.
Finally. I still don’t understand why they didn’t seal off the road at the beginning.
The FBI had refrained from making arrests on the refuge because it did not want to be seen as storming the compound, and officials had publicly said they sought a peaceful resolution. Up to this point, law enforcement has not impeded the travel of occupiers, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.
“But as we call for a peaceful resolution, we’re hoping that people on the refuge will now depart,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing situation.
So instead the FBI is seen as sitting on its ass while hundreds of people illegally occupy a publicly owned wildlife refuge.
The FBI and Oregon State Police have also not said yet how many shots were fired, who fired them or identified the person who was killed. The person killed was later identified as LaVoy Finicum, who was a spokesman for the group, according to occupiers as well as Nevada assembly woman familiar with the occupiers and a Facebook page for Bundy’s father’s ranch. Finicum’s daughter also told the Oregonian that he was killed.
The people at the refuge are still being defiant.
Some worried that the prolonged success of armed standoffs like those at Malheur and Cliven Bundy’s ranch in 2014 would only encourage further showdowns. Brown and local officials in Burns demanded to know why U.S. officials hadn’t taken action.
Well quite. How could that prolonged success not encourage more such armed occupations?
But an image posted on the Bundy Ranch Facebook page condemned the violent outcome.
“Tonight peaceful patriots were attacked on a remote road for supporting the constitution. One was killed,” it read. “Who are the terrorists?”
Of course. They’ll be back.