Grants Pass, Ore. — Grants Pass man Joseph Rice visited the Malheur Federal Wildlife Refuge Sunday and met with leaders of the movement. Rice is the coordinator for Josephine County Oath Keepers and and a founder of the Pacific Patriot Network or PPN, a group that claims to address unconstitutional action by the government.
Armed protesters are occupying buildings near Burns while law enforcement officials said they’re trying to end the standoff quickly and peacefully. At issue is a decades long fight over the use of public land use.
Rice said he, the PPN, and the Josephine County Oath Keepers all support the message the protesters are sending out, but they don’t condone the way they’ve gone about it.
He said the PPN helped organize a march Saturday to support the Hammonds, two ranchers who began prison sentences Monday for setting fire to public land. Rice said after the march a small group of protesters broke off to occupy the refuge and that their actions took away from why the community came together in the first place.
“The message that they’re delivering we do support. The method that they chose to try and deliver it we don’t support. We think there are better avenues for that. But it has happened, it’s here, it’s now and so the message should not be discounted, ” Rice said.
Rice said while he was at the refuge local ranchers came by to show their support by bringing supplies to the protesters. Rice couldn’t say how many people were occupying the refuge, but said despite multiple reports of the group being armed he didn’t see any weapons while he was there.