Militia seizes federal building


Photo by Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard/Zuma Press/TNS

Occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters walk around the grounds of the facility on Jan. 6, 2016 near Burns, Ore.

On Jan. 2, a group of citizens, referred to by others in the community as a militia, seized control of a federal building near Burns, Oregon in part of a protest over land rights, according to CNN.

The protest began with a large group of citizens protesting the five-year sentences of Steven and Clive Hammond, a pair of local ranchers who committed arson. Shortly after this rally a small portion of the protesters broke off and seized the federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a protected wildlife area.

The father and son pair were sentenced last October, and reported to prison the afternoon of Jan. 4.

The state of Oregon claimed that the Hammonds started the fire, which occurred in 2001, and burned over 130 miles of public land, yet the Hammonds claimed that they started the fire to clear out invasive plants from their land and get rid of any brush that could start a wildfire.

Locator map of Burns, Oregon where armed protesters take over national wildlife refuge.
Locator map of Burns, Oregon where armed protesters take over national wildlife refuge.


The militia is led by Ammon Bundy, who is following the example set by his father, Cliven Bundy. Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff with federal agents over land rights in 2014.

The protesters claim that the refuge has seized ranchers’ land in order to add to the refuge, therefore cheating ranchers of their constitutional rights.

The group posted a video explaining their actions on Jan. 3, and Bundy talked to the media on Jan. 5 via telephone. He told CNN that the group has now named themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.

The Citizens for Constitutional Freedom have two requests: for the federal government to reduce the Hammonds’ sentences and to give up control to the wildlife refuge. They believe the people should have access to the resources in the refuge.

According to Bundy, the protest has been in the making for a long time, and the militia has enough supplies to occupy the reserve until their requests are met, even if it takes years.

The protesters claim they are armed, but have said that they don’t plan to use force unless the government does.

There has been no violence as of yet, and no federal employees were in the building when the militia seized the refuge. However, an official report of their exact supplies and the number militiamen inside the building is uncertain.

According to CNN, there is no police presence at the refuge building, but the FBI is now leading an investigation into the militia. The FBI announced in a press statement that they are “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.”

Kelly Foulk and Grace Mottley are News Editors for The Patriot and