The two agencies that regulate Oregon’s marijuana industry approved rules to allow retailers to keep products on their store shelves that don’t meet new testing, packaging and labeling standards that take effect Saturday, the first day recreational marijuana stores can open for business.
The armed militia occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge came to a dramatic and extraordinary end on Thursday when the final four holdouts abandoned their weapons and turned themselves in to the FBI, in a surrender that was broadcast live on YouTube.
The 41-day occupation of the federal complex in rural Harney County built to an intense crescendo when the last remaining protester, David Fry, a 27-year-old from Ohio, was persuaded to abandon talk of violence and suicide to emerge from the refuge and hand himself over amid shouts of “hallelujah”.
“I declare war against the federal government!” Fry shouted before he put down his gun and surrendered. “I’m taking a stand. A stand means you’re willing to risk your life.”
Around the same time, federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint in neighboring Nevada against Cliven Bundy, the cattle rancher whose defiant standoff in 2014 inspired the occupation in Oregon. The indictment of 69-year-old Bundy, a spiritual grandfather for the ultra-conservative federal lands movement, signaled a determination to clamp down on the wider anti-government militia movement.
He was arrested in Portland late Wednesday evening, shortly after the FBI announced a changed in tactic, moving in on the last remaining occupiers of the Malheur national wildlife refuge.
Prosecutors have accused Bundy – who has for years refused to pay grazing fees to the government – of conspiracy against the federal government, assault on an officer, interference with commerce by extortion and several other serious offenses.
His two sons, Ammon and Ryan, are among 12 people recently arrested in connection with the Oregon standoff. They will now be joined by Fry and the three other holdouts who left the refuge an hour earlier on Thursday – Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada, and Idaho residents Sean Anderson, 47, and his wife Sandy, 48.
Federal prosecutors have filed conspiracy charges against five additional men involved in the standoff, according to court filings that were unsealed on Thursday afternoon. The men named in the indictment are Blaine Cooper, Corey Lequieu, Neil Wampler, Jason Charles Blomgren and Darryl William Thorn.
A continual YouTube live-stream of phone calls with the last four occupants provided an unprecedented window into the occupiers’ deliberations, amid fraught and sometimes panicked discussions over the final 18 hours of the standoff.
Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a Republican lawmaker and vocal supporter of the Bundys, emerged as a key figure in the negotiations – traveling to the refuge to encourage the last occupiers to leave, and offering them advice and prayers via live-streamed phone calls.
When Fry’s final surrender was heard over the audio stream, Fiore, a supporter for Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, could be heard saying she needed “a hot tub and a massage”.
News of the occupation’s conclusion came two weeks after law enforcement officials first arrested Ammon, the leader of the standoff, and fatally shot militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum, setting in train the downfall of the rightwing militia that for weeks had refused to surrender.
A group of armed activists, mostly from outside of Oregon, first took over the federally protected wildlife sanctuary on 2 January – claiming they were protesting government land-use regulations and the imprisonment of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven.
From the start, the heavily armed militia said the occupation could last for “several years”, with some saying they were willing to die for the cause.
But within days local officials and residents of Harney County and the nearby town of Burns were urging the Bundys and their crew of militiamen to go home, many saying they opposed the armed takeover even if they supported the idea of protesting government overreach.
The opposition continued to increase over the following weeks as local officials and commentators from across the country called on the FBI to arrest and prosecute the militia occupying government buildings.
With law enforcement taking a deliberately cautious approach to avoid a violent confrontation, the activists’ protest tactics escalated. They destroyed a government fence, removed cameras from the area, rifled through artifacts of the local Native American tribe and left the refuge to recruit new supporters outside of Harney County.
But the militia’s free passage in and out of the federal compound came to an end on 26 January when FBI agents and state troopers stopped Ammon and Ryan Bundy, Finicum and others driving on a remote highway outside of Burns.
Finicum, who police say was armed, was shot and killed after he reached his hands toward his pocket, according to the account of the FBI, which also released aerial footage of the confrontation. Finicum’s supporters have insisted that he was targeted and would never have fired at officers.
At the highway, the Bundy brothers and three others were arrested and charged with federal felony offenses of impeding officers.
Within two days of Finicum’s death, only four people remained at the refuge. Some had left the occupation without facing charges, while others tried to leave and were arrested by the FBI at strategic checkpoints.
Prosecutors have alleged that the 16 jailed activists impeded the government from conducting official duties through the use of “force, intimidation and threats”. They could face up to six years behind bars – meaning they could be in prison for more years than the Hammond ranchers whose prosecution inspired the standoff.
Cliven, however, defied his son and encouraged the four holdouts to stand their ground. He told the Guardian on Wednesday night that he was traveling to Oregon to help ensure that the FBI didn’t kill the protesters.
By Thursday afternoon, federal officials were expressing relief that the occupation was over and said they were ready to begin investigating the “crime scene” and restore the wildlife sanctuary.
“The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and the members of the Burns Paiute [Native American] tribe,” Billy Williams, US attorney for the district of Oregon, said in a statement. “It is a time for healing, reconciliation amongst neighbors and friends, and allowing for life to get back to normal.”
The armed standoff between anti-government militants and law enforcement in Oregon has lasted more than four weeks. After the arrest of 11 people last week, it was expected that the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge would come to an end, but the killing of the group’s spokesman in an encounter with police has re-energized protesters.
We have been here before. Back in the 1990s, there were several showdowns between armed anti-government extremists and the federal government.
One of the longest standoffs involved the Freemen of Montana in 1996, who held out for 81 days before surrendering peacefully to law enforcement. It was a different story in 1993, when the standoff with the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas, ended with the deaths of at least 75 people — many of whom were children — in a fire.
But it was the events at Ruby Ridge in Idaho that would become the symbol of government overreach. This week on For the Record: the lessons of Ruby Ridge.
“Ruby Ridge is a complex case,” says Jess Walter, author of the book Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family. In 1992 he was a cub reporter for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. “It’s one of the reasons when it first unfolded in 1992, it slipped beneath the radar of the national media and the public.”
As he tells NPR’s Rachel Martin, the story begins with Randy Weaver and his family.
“He lost his job at a tractor farm in Iowa, and they made their way west,” Walter says. “They were apocalyptic Christians who believed the world was about to end. And they began practicing a form of religion called Christian identity, which is the religion of skinheads and white supremacists.”
One summer, Weaver took his family to a camp run by the Aryan Nations. He sold two sawed-off shotguns to a man he met at that gathering, but that man turned out to be a federal informant. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms planned to use the illegal weapons sale to recruit Weaver as an informant, as well.
Ammon Bundy speaks to the media in front of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters on Jan. 6 near Burns, Ore. Bundy was arrested on Tuesday. — Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
In a sign the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge may be winding down, the FBI announced late Wednesday that eight people had left the compound. Five were released and three arrested.
The FBI said in a statement:
“All (three) were in contact with the FBI, and each chose to turn himself into (sic)agents at a checkpoint outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The arrests were without incident.
“Each man faces one federal felony count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats…
“The FBI and our partners continue to work around the clock to empty the refuge of the armed occupiers in the safest way possible.”
Earlier Wednesday, rancher Ammon Bundy, who had led the weeks-long armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge near Burns, Ore., released a statement calling for the remaining militants to “stand down.” Bundy was arrested Tuesday.
In his statement, Bundy praised LaVoy Finicum, an occupier who was shot and killed during a confrontation with police on Tuesday. He called Finicum “one of the greatest men and greatest patriots I have ever seen.”
Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin has lived in Oregon for more than half a century, and has regularly visited the region surrounding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 45 years. Ever since armed militants took over the refuge in a dispute over ranching fees on public lands, Le Guin has “been following the situation very closely,” she said in an email to ThinkProgress.
So when she saw an article titled “Effort to free federal lands” in the Sunday Oregonian, she did what any self-respecting, world-renowned author would do.
She wrote an epic Letter to the Editor that was a spirited defense of American public lands:
The Oregonian’s A1 headline on Sunday, Jan. 17, “Effort to free federal lands,” is inaccurate and irresponsible. The article that follows it is a mere mouthpiece for the scofflaws illegally occupying public buildings and land, repeating their lies and distortions of history and law.
Ammon Bundy and his bullyboys aren’t trying to free federal lands, but to hold them hostage. I can’t go to the Malheur refuge now, though as a citizen of the United States, I own it and have the freedom of it. That’s what public land is: land that belongs to the public — me, you, every law-abiding American. The people it doesn’t belong to and who don’t belong there are those who grabbed it by force of arms, flaunting their contempt for the local citizens.
Those citizens of Harney County have carefully hammered out agreements to manage the refuge in the best interest of landowners, scientists, visitors, tourists, livestock and wildlife. They’re suffering more every day, economically and otherwise, from this invasion by outsiders.
Instead of parroting the meaningless rants of a flock of Right-Winged Loonybirds infesting the refuge, why doesn’t The Oregonian talk to the people who live there?
Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin told ThinkProgress that the letter was printed unchanged, and she “got a pleasant note informing me it was to be published,” but nothing more from the paper or the author. A request for comment to the Oregonian’s public editor went unanswered as of publication.
The science fiction author is not alone in wanting the ranchers to return Malhuer to the public. Most Western voters, according to a recent poll, disagree with Bundy and do not want the states to take over public lands.
As the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon reaches its sixth day, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and Ammon Bundy, leader of the armed protestors, hold a surprise meeting in a remote wilderness area.
Members of an anti-government militia have occupied the headquarters of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in a remote region of eastern Oregon for over a week, protesting what they claim is an overreaching federal government. The occupation is being led by Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, two sons of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher best known for an armed standoff with the federal government in 2014 over a cattle grazing dispute.
Read “Militia Leader Ammon Bundy Met With a Local Sheriff to Discuss Ending the Oregon Standoff” – http://bit.ly/1kYVwrB