Harney County, Oregon after almost 7 weeks of illegal occupation, can finally take a breath. The Malheir National Wildlife Refuge was taken by force by an armed militia on January 2, 2016, making a statement about the imprisonment of fellow anti-government protestors. After weeks of attempts by the FBI to keep this occupation from escalating into violence, the last four members of the anti-government militia surrendered, and the refuge returned to the FBI.
The history and context behind this occupation is long and detailed, but in a nutshell, it’s about a family of cattle ranchers, the Hammonds, who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law many times over the past two decades. The militants claim to have acted under the direction of God, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon church, which the Hammonds and occupation leaders are a part of, immediately and strongly condemned the occupation.
During the first three weeks of the occupation, the militants were allowed to leave and reenter the refuge as they pleased. At one point, the occupation leader, Ammon Bundy, attended a community meeting with other militia members, where they were told to leave the refuge by the community members.
On the fourth week, law enforcement arrested Ammon Bundy and other militia leaders as they traveled to a speaking engagement. At this point, the occupation began to fall apart. Bundy urged the remaining militia to leave the refuge and go home. Most of the militia members left, but four remained. Through a standoff livestreamed on YouTube, the FBI negotiated with the remaining occupiers. They were peacefully arrested the following morning, February 11.
Following the peaceful resolution, the FBI named the refuge as a crime scene. Bombs were scanned for, hiding members searched for, and the hunt for evidence began. The refuge is expected to be under FBI control for several weeks, but at this point, residents around the refuge can relax knowing the occupation has ended.