- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2016

More arrests and indictments came Thursday after the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended with the dramatic surrender of the four remaining protesters, including one who threatened to commit suicide rather than go to prison.

Federal authorities sought or arrested another nine occupiers in six states, bringing to 25 the number indicted in connection with the protest. Also taken into custody was Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, father of Oregon standoff leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy.

David Lee Fry, 27, shouted “Hallelujah” as he left the makeshift camp at the refuge near Burns, Oregon, and turned himself in at an FBI checkpoint about a half-hour after telling facilitators on livestream that, “I’m actually holding a gun to my head.”

He joined the three other holdouts — Sean Anderson, 47, his wife Sandy Anderson, 48, and Jeff Banta, 46 — who surrendered shortly beforehand following the arrival of two requested witnesses, Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and the Rev. Franklin Graham.

Their departures marked the end of the armed occupation that started Jan. 2, when several dozen people took over the refuge headquarters as a protest of federal public-lands policy. One occupier, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, 54, was fatally shot at an FBI roadblock.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon with the FBI, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward was clearly relieved to have the ordeal over.

“I apologize, I’ve been feeling a little emotional today,” Sheriff Ward said. “I’m proud of this community, I’m proud of my friends and neighbors. I’m proud of the way that you stood up to this stuff. I love this country. And a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Greg Bretzing, FBI special agent in charge, said local residents “have lived through an experience that is both highly emotional and physically exhausting.”

“We have seen the occupiers and their outside supporters try to drive deep divisions between those who live and work here,” Mr. Bretzing said. “We have seen some residents leave their homes, fearing violence against their families. We have seen the confusion, concern and trouble that the occupiers’ actions have caused for this community.”

The press conference capped another round of arrests in connection with the occupation. A federal grand jury indicted nine more occupiers on one count each of felony conspiracy.

Seven of those nine were arrested in six states and two remained at large, according to the U.S. attorney in Oregon. They were scheduled to appear in court Thursday or Friday.

In an unexpected twist, federal authorities also arrested Cliven Bundy on Wednesday night at Portland International Airport.

Cliven Bundy, 69, was charged with conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction, and weapon and other offenses stemming from his role as the leader of an April 2014 clash with federal officials at his ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada.

The 32-page criminal complaint cites Mr. Bundy’s role in recruiting about 200 armed supporters to face off with federal agents who had come to remove his cattle from Bureau of Land Management property in a dispute over grazing fees.

“Bundy and his confederates recruited, organized and led hundreds of others in using armed force against law enforcement officers in order to achieve their criminal objectives,” the charging document said.

Mr. Bundy, who was arraigned Thursday, is slated to appear in court Tuesday for a detention hearing. The four occupiers who surrendered Thursday are scheduled to go Friday before a federal magistrate judge in Portland.

Lawyer Mike Arnold, who represents Ammon Bundy, characterized the occupation as a form of civil disobedience, which he described as “phase one” of the protest, and that “phase two” is the upcoming legal battle.

A grand jury indicted 16 of the protesters on federal conspiracy charges, but Mr. Arnold said at a televised roadside press conference Thursday that “the First Amendment and the Second Amendment aren’t mutually exclusive.”

“You can peacefully assemble … and possess a firearm,” he said. “Some people say open carry is a form of free speech, saying, ‘Hey, I support the Second Amendment.’”

Mr. Bretzing said the agency will now treat the refuge as a crime scene, sweeping for explosives, gathering evidence and working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify damage to the area, a process expected to take months.

He said the FBI Art Crime Team will work with the service and the Burns Paiute Tribe “to identify and document damage to the tribe’s artifacts and sacred burial grounds.”

A number of locals provided supplies to the occupiers, but Mr. Bretzing said those people would not be prosecuted.

“I want to reassure those Harney County residents who simply visited the refuge or provided food to the occupiers — we are not looking into those events,” Mr. Bretzing said. “We are concerned about those who have criminal, violent intent.”

At the same time, “anyone who chooses to travel to Oregon with the intent of engaging in illegal activity will be arrested,” he said.

The occupation began as a protest on behalf of Harney County father-son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond after each was resentenced to five years in prison for a prescribed burn on their land that spread to federal property.

Given that the Hammonds had already served time and paid $400,000 in fines, a number of local residents and others decried as unfair the additional punishment sought by federal prosecutors under an anti-terrorism statute.

The Hammonds surrendered to federal authorities last month and are now appealing the sentences.

“There’s good that can come out of this,” Sheriff Ward said. “Friends and neighbors can get off social media and sit down over a cup of coffee and talk out their differences. We can work through these things.”

He asked, “If we can’t work through the differences that we’ve found in our little community right here, how can we expect the rest of the nation to work through the division that we face?”

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