The group notes they are not a terrorist group, but would not go into specifics other than wanting to keep their land. The two men who are in prison have distanced themselves from the group.
BURNS, Ore.– Two days after taking over a federal building, armed protesters in Oregon are refusing to budge until they get what they want.
The problem is, they haven’t specified what it would take to get them to leave.
What started Saturday as a rally supporting two local ranchers led to a broader anti-government protest and now the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building near Burns.
“We will be here as long as it takes,” protest spokesman Ammon Bundy told CNN by phone from inside the refuge.
“We have no intentions of using force upon anyone, (but) if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves.”
Bundy is the 40-year-old son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who drew national attention last year after staging a standoff with federal authorities.
And like his father, Bundy said he is standing up to the federal government over land rights.
“This is about taking the correct stand without harming anybody to restore the land and resources to the people so people across the country can begin thriving again,” he said.
Here’s what led up to occupation, and what may happen next:
It started with a march for ranchers
Protesters gathered in Burns on Saturday to denounce the five-year sentencing of Dwight and Steven Hammond — father-and-son ranchers who were convicted of arson.
The Hammonds have said they started a fire in 2001 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and to protect their property from wildfires, CNN affiliate KTVZ reported, but that the fire got out of hand.
The father and son are scheduled to turn themselves in to prison Monday afternoon to serve their sentences.
Bundy said officials are unfairly punishing the Hammonds for refusing to sell their land. He said it’s an example of the government’s overreach, especially when it comes to land rights.
But according to Billy J. Williams, the acting U.S. attorney in Oregon, the Hammonds were rightfully convicted after setting fire to about 130 acres of public land in an attempt to cover up poaching.
In an opinion piece for the Burns Times Herald, Williams wrote that the five-year sentences are actually the minimum for the crimes the Hammonds committed.
Then came the occupation
After the rally supporting Hammonds, some of the protesters broke into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building near Burns.
“This refuge — it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area,” Bundy said.
He said the refuge has taken over the space of 100 ranches since the early 1900s.
“They are continuing to expand the refuge at the expense of the ranchers and miners,” Bundy said.
He also said Harney County, in southeastern Oregon, went from one of the state’s wealthiest counties to one of the poorest.
CNN has not independently corroborated Bundy’s claims.
No employees were inside the building when protesters broke in, officials said.
Bundy said his group is armed, but said he would not describe it as a militia. He declined to say how many people were with him, saying that information might jeopardize “operational security.”
READ MORE: Fox8.com
Article and Picture Courtesy of CNN and WJW Fox 8 News Cleveland