As the armed takeover of a remote Oregon wildlife refuge stretches into its sixth day this week, many are still wondering, what, exactly, do they want?
And, why hasn’t law enforcement kicked them out yet?
Wednesday night, the Harney County sheriff held a town meeting publically asking the group to leave.
Ammon Bundy said they aren’t leaving until Dwight and Steven Hammond are freed from federal prison, and federally owned land is returned to the people of the county.
However, with demands that seem unlikely to happen, people across the country have wondered why the federal government has not gone into the wildlife refuge, where the men are holed up, and forced them out.
Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI hostage negotiator. He was part of the FBI operation in Waco, Texas, one of the most controversial and deadly confrontations the agency has ever been involved with.
Van Zandt told KNPR’s State of Nevada the same type of violence that happened in Waco is exactly what federal agents are trying to avoid in Oregon.
“The last thing we want to do, like we saw at Ruby Ridge, like we saw at Waco, is anything that can be seen as a provocation, in this case, by the FBI that would then bring a response,” Van Zandt said.
Support comes from
He said the federal government could always win the situation, but the cost of that ‘win’ would need to be counted.
“Are we setting a negative precedent?” he said, “So be it. Let’s deal with this situation. Let’s get everybody on both sides out alive, which we will do through negotiations.”
Stan Olsen, a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer and former Nevada state senator, agreed with Van Zant.
“When you have a contained situation, time is on your side” he said, “But they’re embarrassing that community there, same as what happened in Mesquite. That community was harmed financially. They were embarrassed.”
Olsen is referring to the standoff between Ammon Bundy’s father Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and federal agents in April 2014.
The standoff was sparked when federal agents attempted to seize Bundy's cattle. The cattle were going to be sold to pay a debt a federal judge ordered Bundy to pay for grazing fees.
For his part, Bundy said he did not need to pay grazing fees because the land was his, not the federal governments. Armed militia members and anti-government groups from around the country poured into the Bundy ranch, blocking federal agents from taking the cattle.
Eventually, former Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie brokered a deal where the cattle were released, the federal agents were allowed to leave the area safely and the militia members put their guns down.
Steven Horsford is the former congressional representative for the area where the Bundy ranch is located. He told KNPR’s State of Nevada what the Bundys are asking for in Oregon is “unreasonable.” He also believes they’ve broken the law in Oregon and in Nevada -- something for which they have yet to be prosecuted.
“The fact that Cliven Bundy has gotten away and has not been arrested after turning guns on federal law enforcement officials -- that’s a crime” Horsford said, “It’s domestic terrorism and he should be held accountable.”
He also thinks elected officials who have shown support for the Bundy family are partially to blame for the recent activities in Oregon.
“I’m also calling on elected officials, those who are in office today or those who want to be in office, to understand how their rhetoric and their defense of Cliven Bundy and those who he associates with has now caused this issue to expand.” Horsford said.
Horsford believes the situation does point to a double standard when compared to the case of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy in Cleveland who was shot and killed by police as he held an air gun in a park.
“He can’t walk in park and have the police roll up on him and start firing on him yet we have these individuals, domestic terrorists, who seize federal property, take guns out and harm federal agents and yet there is no action against them?”
However, Olsen doesn’t believe the two incidents can be compared.
“You can’t compare what happened with civil unrest when people were walking down the street, burning buildings and smashing windows out of cars to what’s going up here,” he said. “What we have here is a situation that is contained right now.”
Clint Van Zandt, former FBI chief hostage negotiator; Steven Horsford, former congressional representative; Stan Olsen, former Las Vegas Metropolitian Police Dept. and State Senator
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