Harney County, Ore.- Tension continues to grow at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Authorities are urging the public to stay away from the building after armed protesters occupied the area.
Despite no visible police presence, the Sheriff says he’s working to bring this to an end as quickly and peacefully as possible. But protesters are responding, saying they’re prepared to stay on for years if necessary.
The armed protesters have turned the refuge into a compound. They claim to be preparing to help citizens in Harney County reclaim their land.
As frustration grows in the community, schools have cancelled classes out of a concern for safety.
The incident sparked over the weekend when activists took over the refuge which was empty at the time.
In a statement, the sheriff says the group wants to “Overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”
Protesters say they won’t get violent unless the government does.
Ammon Bundy is the group’s leader. He’s the son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher involved in a standoff with the government back in 2014 over grazing rights.
This latest protest revolves around Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond Junior and his son Steven. They are scheduled to report to prison Monday after being convicted of lighting fires on public land. Despite already serving time, a judge ruled it wasn’t enough time.
The attorney for the Hammond’s has said they do plan to report to prison Monday.