Truck blocks entrance to militia standoff site in Oregon

BURNS, Ore. -- A pickup truck blocked the entrance Tuesday to a national wildlife preserve where a small armed group upset over federal land policy has occupied the frozen swath of remote Oregon since the weekend.

See Full Article

From a watchtower, a member of the group looked out over the snowy grounds. The activists who came to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were bundled in camouflage, ear muffs and cowboy hats in the bleak, high desert of eastern Oregon where they seemed more likely to encounter wildlife than people.

That may be a key reason why law enforcement has not taken action against the group of about two dozen activists opposing the imprisonment of father-and-son ranchers who set fire to federal land.

"These guys are out in the middle of nowhere, and they haven't threatened anybody that I know of," said Jim Glennon, a longtime police commander who now owns the Illinois-based law enforcement training organization Calibre Press. "There's no hurry. If there's not an immediate threat to anyone's life, why create a situation where there would be?"

No one had been hurt and no one was being held hostage. The takeover puts federal officials in a delicate position of deciding whether to confront the occupiers, risking bloodshed, or stand back and possibly embolden others to directly confront the government.

Many observers complained, suggesting the government's response would have been swifter and more severe had the occupants been Muslim or other minorities.

"There seems to be somewhat of a reluctance to think white people are as dangerous as people of colour," said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

The activists seized the refuge about 300 miles from Portland on Saturday night as part of a decades-long fight over public lands in the West.

They said they want an inquiry into whether the government is forcing ranchers off their land after Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, reported back to prison Monday.

The Hammonds were convicted of arson three years ago for fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006, one of which was set to cover up deer poaching, according to prosecutors. The men served no more than a year until an appeals court judge ruled the terms fell short of minimum sentences that require them to serve about four more years.

Their sentences were a rallying cry for the group calling itself Citizens for constitutional Freedom, whose mostly male members said they want federal lands turned over to local authorities so people can use them free of U.S. oversight.

The group is led by two of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights. The activists sent a demand for "redress for grievances" to local, state and federal officials.

"We have exhausted all prudent measures and have been ignored," Ammon Bundy said.

The group, which included a couple of women and some boys and girls Monday, did not release a copy of its demands, and Ammon Bundy would not say what the group would do if it got no response.

President Barack Obama said federal authorities were monitoring the situation, but agents made no apparent moves to surround the property or confront the group -- an approach that reflected lessons learned from bloody standoffs at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, in the early 1990s.

The group was emboldened by the government's failure to hold Cliven Bundy or his supporters accountable in 2014 after hundreds of armed anti-government activists rallied to his defence when federal authorities started seizing his cattle over more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees, according to Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Michael Barkun, an emeritus professor at Syracuse University who has studied extremist groups, said not confronting the Oregon group could embolden others.

"You can say, well, a negotiated settlement emboldens them," he said. "But by the same token, it deprives them of a confrontation that some of them want."

The Hammonds have distanced themselves from the protest group. Many locals, including people who want to see federal lands made more accessible, don't want the activists here, fearing they may bring trouble.

Seeds of the dispute date back decades in the West, where the federal government owns about half of all land.

In the 1970s, Nevada and other states pushed for local control in what was known as the Sagebrush Rebellion.

Supporters wanted more land for cattle grazing, mining and timber harvesting, and opponents wanted the federal government to administer lands for the widest possible uses, including environmental and recreational.

The refuge established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect birds from hunters selling plumes to the hat industry has expanded to 300 square miles over the years.

The valley rimmed by distant mountains contains lakes and marshland and now surrounds the ranch Dwight Hammond bought with his father in 1964.

Hammond said his family resisted pressure to sell the ranch as the federal government chipped away at his grazing allotments and increased fees on other lands.

Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press writer Brian Melley contributed from Los Angeles.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Report: 2 women claim Franken touched them inappropriately

    World News CTV News
    MINNEAPOLIS - Two women are alleging that Minnesota Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken touched their buttocks during events for his first campaign for Senate. The women spoke to Huffington Post on condition of anonymity. Source
  • 12 of 14 Hurricane Irma nursing home deaths ruled homicides

    World News CBC News
    Authorities say the deaths of 12 of the 14 Florida nursing home patients who died after Hurricane Irma have been ruled homicides. The Sun Sentinel reports that autopsy results from the Broward County medical examiner's office were released Wednesday. Source
  • Daily public transit use could pose hearing loss risk: study

    Canada News CTV News
    Daily use of public transit might cause hearing loss. It’s a conclusion anyone who’s taken Toronto rail transit might reach after one ride, but researchers from the University of Toronto now have data to suggest it may be true. Source
  • Russia says expert body on Syria chemical attacks 'is dead'

    World News CTV News
    Russia's U.N. ambassador said Wednesday the expert body that has determined responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria "is dead" -- but Moscow is ready to discuss "a new mechanism." Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after a closed Security Council discussion that the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM, "has discredited itself completely. Source
  • B.C. man charged after cat allegedly drugged, bleached and shaved

    Canada News CTV News
    The RCMP has arrested a 20-year-old man after a disturbing incident involving an animal was posted on social media in which a cat was allegedly drugged, shaved, bleached and thrown out a window in B.C. Source
  • Witness testifies he sold Dellen Millard a gun days before Laura Babcock vanished

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A witness at a murder trial says he sold one of the accused a gun days before a young Toronto woman vanished. Matthew Ward-Jackson says he pleaded guilty to the gun transaction with Dellen Millard that took place in early July 2012. Source
  • Sessions orders review of background check system for guns

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday ordered a far-ranging review of the FBI database containing information for use in background checks on prospective gun buyers. The move comes after the Air Force acknowledged that a man who killed more than two dozen people in a south Texas church this month should have had his name and domestic violence conviction submitted to the database. Source
  • 'A really important discussion': Trudeau weighs in on name of Edmonton's CFL team

    Canada News CBC News
    Edmonton needs to talk about the name of its football team, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley both said in Ottawa on Wednesday. Trudeau was asked about the name Edmonton Eskimos at a news conference. Source
  • Asylum seekers say police have entered abandoned Australian-run detention camp in Papua New Guinea

    World News CBC News
    Papua New Guinea (PNG) police have entered an abandoned Australian-run detention camp seeking to get some 380 asylum-seekers who have barricaded themselves in there to leave, two of the men told Reuters on Thursday. One said the men felt threatened and scared and some climbed onto roofs for safety. Source
  • Former IWK CEO removed from 100 most powerful women list

    Canada News CBC News
    The former CEO of the IWK Health Centre has been removed from a list of Canada's most powerful women, an award created by the Women's Executive Network. A spokesperson for the organization that says it is dedicated to the advancement and recognition of professional women confirmed Tracy Kitch was named to the top 100 list before she became the subject of an investigation for charging personal expenses to the IWK Health Centre, a women and children's hospital in Halifax. Source