An estimated 300 peaceful marchers demonstrated Saturday on behalf of two Oregon ranchers set to report to prison this week and, soon thereafter, a militia group took control of a federal wildlife building.
The occupation was staged without violence, but the militia said it plans to stay at the facility to protest "overreach" by the federal government for years to come.
Gathered below are 12 things the media won't tell you about the occupation.
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1. Two ranchers were convicted of arson
— Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and his son, 46-year-old Steven Hammond, are to report to prison on Monday for arson. The pair said they lit fires on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2001 and 2006 to protect it from invasive plants and wildfires. They were convicted in 2012.
2. The Hammonds had grazing rights on the land
— According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, "the Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them for their cattle operation." Nonetheless, it was illegal to light fires on the land. "We all know the devastating effects that are caused by wildfires," acting U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said, according to Yahoo News
. "Fires intentionally and illegally set on public lands, even those in a remote area, threaten property and residents and endanger firefighters called to battle the blaze."
3. The Hammonds have already served some time
— Dwight served three months in prison and his son served one year, but a judge said the sentences were too short under federal law and ordered them back to prison for four years each, USA Today reported
4. The Hammonds will report to prison as ordered
— Dwight Hammond said he and his son plan to follow the judge's orders, and peaceably report to prison on Monday. They left eastern Oregon on Sunday to report to Terminal Island in San Pedro, California, to serve their sentences.
5. A march was held to peaceably protest the new prison terms
— On Saturday, roughly 300 people protested on behalf of the Hammonds in the town of Burns. Those marching were reported as a mix of locals and out-of-staters, according to The Oregonian
6. A militia took over a federal building after the march
— Hours after Saturday's march, some marchers joined militia members in taking over the unoccupied headquarter building of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns. Property was not damaged. Some militiamen were armed, while others weren't. Children were reportedly brought to the facility. The group said it was composed of roughly 100 people.
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7. There is not a standoff
— The FBI said it is aware of the occupation, and actively "working with the Harney County Sheriff's Office, Oregon State Police, and other local and state law enforcement agencies to bring a peaceful resolution to the situation," it said in a statement.
8. The militia is led by a member of the Bundy family
— The occupation is being led by Ammon Bundy, 40, and two of his brothers. Bundy is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who made headlines in 2014 for staging a standoff with federal agents over grazing rights. "We're planning on staying here for years, absolutely," Ammon Bundy told The Oregonian. "This is not a decision we've made at the last minute . . . The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds."
9. Bundy said he is willing to use violence to maintain the occupation
— "The only violence that, if it comes our way, will be because government is wanting their building back, and that’s what it is," Bundy said in an interview with NBC’s "Today" show
on Monday. "We’re putting nobody in harm’s way. We are not threatening anybody. We’re 30 miles out of the closest town."
10. The Hammonds distanced themselves from the Bundys
— "Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond Family," lawyer W. Alan Schroeder wrote to Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward.
11. A local representative distanced the community from the Bundys
— Rep. Cliff Bentz, of the Oregon House of Representatives, condemned the occupation of the federal building, saying, "They’re trying to use the misfortune of the Hammonds to further the interests of the Bundys," according to USA Today.
12. The sheriff distanced the community from the Bundys
— Sheriff David Ward said that the occupiers were only "claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers." In reality, "these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States."
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