Ammon Bundy is finally speaking with the FBI – sort of. Bundy, the leader of an armed anti-government militia that has forcibly occupied a national wildlife refuge in Oregon for nearly three weeks, picked up the phone to talk with federal officials this week. Bundy allayed fears that their occupation would eventually turn violent, and told the FBI they are “not going to escalate” the situation. Bundy then agreed to talk to authorities again before the week’s end.
Writes CBS News on Jan. 21: “Ammon Bundy went to the airport Thursday in Burns, Oregon, close to where federal officials have set up a staging area. With reporters watching, he spoke on the phone, apparently with an FBI negotiator. The conversation was streamed online by another member of Bundy’s group.”
In early January, the armed militia members, self-styled patriots, conducted a takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, located approximately 30 miles south of Burns. The group’s initial protest centered on a federal judge’s ruling that a father and son be remanded back to jail for a charge of arson on federal lands. Since then, the group has been drawing attention to federal land use policies.
According to CBS, the militants believe their cause is not only just, but an act of divine intervention. “God wants us here, there’s a sense that’s beckoning and it comes from heaven,” commented militiaman Kelly Gneiting. “We’re doing what’s right, we’re doing what the founding fathers would do because we’re inspired by God, also.”
While the patriots holed up at the refuge may believe they are divinely backed, many of the local townsfolk, as well as Oregon’s mayor, have grown tired of the occupation.
In a statement Thursday, the FBI said the ongoing presence of heavily armed militia on public land has caused “tremendous disruption and hardship” for residents. As a result, the FBI said its “response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution.”
Gov. Kate Brown was far more direct, calling the situation “absolutely intolerable” and sending letters to both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging federal action to end the standoff.
According to Oregon’s KOIN6 News, Brown’s letter read, in part:
“For more than two weeks now, these radicals have been allowed to stay unlawfully in the refuge approximately 30 miles to the south of Burns… The unlawful seizure of the refuge by criminals seeking to advance a misguided agenda is in of itself a strain… The residents of Harny County are being intimidated in their own hometown by armed criminals who appear to be seeing occasions for confrontation… I request on behalf of my fellow Oregonians that you instruct your agencies to end the unlawful occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as safely and quickly as possible.”
According to KOIN, most of the residents interviewed by local media have expressed impatience over the situation and are anxious for the occupation, which has garnered national attention, to be over.
As far as what the group is actually doing, Bundy said: “We’re still in the process of unwinding the title and unconstitutional transactions and adjudicating or outlining the rights’ that the individuals have here. And so we’re going to continue to do that.”
Bundy’s group streamed the contact with the FBI. Bundy reportedly scolded the federal negotiator, known only as “Chris,” for not meeting him in person. “I’m a face-to-face kind of guy,” Bundy said. “You reached out to me… I’m not sure exactly what you wanted to talk about.”
The FBI and Ammon Bundy are expected to talk again today.