Heavily armed occupiers are still in control of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon—and for now, the government appears to be in no rush to evict the activists calling themselves "Citizens for Constitutional Freedom." Authorities have set up a nearby command center, but experts tell the Oregonian that they expect law enforcement to take a "wait and see" approach to the 20 or so activists who have been at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since Saturday night. "These guys are out in the middle of nowhere, and they haven't threatened anybody that I know of," former police commander Jim Glennon tells the AP. "There's no hurry. If there's not an immediate threat to anyone's life, why create a situation where there would be?" More:
- Former FBI agent Michael German tells the Oregonian that after deadly incidents like Waco, the federal government has adopted a more low-key approach to standoffs with extremists. He likens the Oregon occupation to the Occupy Wall Street protests. "If the only crime here that anybody is engaged in is trespassing, it doesn't really justify a response that would lead to an escalation of violence," he says.
- The failure to confront the group—which wants the government to relinquish control of federal land and has vowed to stay for years—has caused some to accuse the government of treating angry white ranchers a lot more leniently than it would treat black or Muslim protesters, the AP notes.
- The extremists are being led by Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and Southern Poverty Law Center intelligence director Heidi Beirich blames the current situation on authorities' failure to arrest the elder Bundy and his followers after a 2014 standoff. "They were emboldened by their ability to run federal officials off," she tells the New York Times. "Now, a year and half later, there have been no prosecutions whatsoever. Pointing a gun at a federal officer is a crime."
- The Bundys have cited Mormon scripture to defend their actions, though the church has distanced itself from them, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting. The occupation is "in no way justified on a scriptural basis" and church leaders "strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility," the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said in a statement.
- In Burns, the nearest town to the refuge, schools have been closed for the week and local leaders say they don't want the support of the armed group, the Oregonian reports. On Monday, Harney County Sheriff David Ward said he had a simple message for the occupiers: "Go home." He said they had claimed to be there to help, but that "help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed and unlawful protest."
(The two ranchers the militants say they are supporting reported to prison Monday
to serve sentences for setting fires that spread to federal land.)