It’s been 24 days since an unknown number of militiamen took a wildlife refuge in Oregon. And after three weeks, there is very little indication that the armed protesters are leaving any time soon.
If anything, they seem to be gaining some sympathies.
Over the weekend, the Oregonian reported that a local sheriff from Grant County, Oregon, said it might be time for the federal authorities to give the militiamen what they want. Sheriff Glenn Palmer said if the feds released Dwight and Steven Hammond, the father and son pair who are currently serving prison sentences for setting fires on federal lands, it “would be a start.”
The Hammond family has decried the standoff, but the Hammonds prison sentence initially inspired Ammon Bundy and his brigade to set off a protest against federal authority in the high desert of Oregon.
Palmer also told the Oregonian that maybe the FBI – the law enforcement group organizing the standoff negotiations – should go away.
“Sending the FBI home would be a start,” he told the Oregonian. “I just pray to God that cooler heads prevail and that no one gets killed.”
Other law enforcement leaders in the area told the Oregonian they were flabbergasted by the comments. Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe told the Oregonian that the comment “doesn’t help the cause.”
While many in the community have urged Bundy and his crew to pack up and head home, they have found some support among out-of-state ranchers.
Saturday afternoon, the militiamen hosted a meeting at the wildlife refuge where they encouraged ranchers to come and pledge to no longer pay federal grazing fees, which are small – about $1.69 a cow per month. According to the Oregonian, the event was peppered with pomp and circumstance. A group of children sang hymns, a horse strode around affixed with an American flag and even though just one man – Adrian C. Sewell, 36, of New Mexico signed the pledge, there was “a notary” on hand.
The Oregonian reported that Sewell had a criminal background which included a conviction for assault.
The Oregonian also reported that eight people in Utah informed the feds they too would “no longer allow the federal land bureau to manage their grazing permits.”
On Thursday, Bundy seemed open to beginning negotiations with FBI officials. He stood outside a local airport and spoke to an FBI official on the telephone. But Friday, the Seattle Times reported that Bundy again traveled to the airport yet refused to talk to the agent again after the FBI would not allow media to be present for an in-person negotiation.
Bundy also expressed skepticism that the FBI was even the proper authority to be handling such a negotiation. Under his, ummm, unique interpretation of federal power, Bundy believes the sheriff is the one who must give direction to the FBI in such a negotiation.
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