Anti-government occupiers of Oregon refuge meeting with locals

By REUTERS
January 8, 2016 00:20
1 minute read.

 
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BURNS, Oregon - The anti-government occupiers of a US wildlife refuge in rural southeastern Oregon met with several local ranchers on Thursday and said they intended to remain peaceful the morning after a loud confrontation on the remote property.

The takeover that began on Saturday at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles (48 km) south of the small town of Burns, is the latest incident in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal control of land and resources in the US West.

The occupation followed a demonstration in support of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven, who were returned to prison earlier this week for setting fires that spread to federal land. The Hammonds have disavowed support for the occupiers.

Residents of the area in a series of public meetings over the past few days have expressed a mixture of sympathy for the Hammond family, suspicion of the federal government's motives and frustration with the occupation. The leaders of the occupiers are Ammon and Ryan Bundy, whose father, Cliven, along with a band of armed men, stared down federal agents trying to seize his livestock in Nevada in 2014. Many of the other occupiers also are from outside Oregon.

Overnight, the Bundys' group said, a group of three men entered the refuge unexpectedly and engaged in a brief confrontation with the occupiers. Reuters journalists present at the time saw men running with firearms and heard angry shouting but no shots were fired.

The situation was more calm on Thursday when a series of area ranchers visited for chats with the Bundys, who discussed their beliefs that the federal government had overreached its authority, often pausing to read from a pocket-sized copy of the US Constitution.

The Bundys say they want the federal government to turn over its land holdings in Anti-government occupiers of Oregon refuge meeting with locals.

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