Armed protesters who have occupied a building in a Oregon federal wildlife reserve in Burns, Oregon, said Sunday night that they were carrying out “truly a peaceful protest.” Acting spokesman Ammon Bundy tweeted late Sunday that protesters had not destroyed any property or harmed any citizens. The group seized control of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after a protest in support of two ranchers who were given longer prison sentences for burning federal land in 2001. Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who staged a standoff with authorities over a Bureau of Land Management dispute in 2014. Bundy’s brother Ryan Bundy told the AP the group’s aim is to have the land turned over to local authorities so people can use it free of federal oversight. Oregon state police told Oregon Public Broadcasting that FBI and local and state authorities were planning to set up a joint command center nearby on Monday.
The Harney County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Sunday claiming the protesters were occupying the refuge under false pretenses.“These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when 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,” Sheriff David Ward wrote.