BURNS, OR -- A militia is in a standoff with the federal government, outside of Burns. As part of the demonstration, they've taken control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. Militia leader Ammon Bundy of Nevada says the feds are out of control. "When government steps outside of its bounds that the people have given it, that it’s the duty of the people to put that government back in its place."
They're protesting the five-year sentence handed down to Dwight and Steve Hammond, two ranchers convicted of setting fire to BLM land in 2012. The Hammonds were released after about a year, but were later ordered to return to prison. The militia has armed guards around the refuge headquarters facility and on a watch tower. Bundy says they're prepared to defend themselves if law enforcement tries to remove them. "If they did, they would be putting lives at risk because we’re not putting anybody at risk right now; we’re not endangering anybody, we’re not harming anybody."
Harney County schools are closed for the week, and many residents are worried about violence. Pastor Brian Bowman says many support the Hammonds, but not the anti-government tactics. "Did they pay their price? In my opinion, and for many others, yes they did. And, for them to be given a more severe sentence, a lot of people think that doesn’t seem right. However, there are proper channels to go through."
Read more on the use of Bend as a rallying place for militia members.
The FBI is the lead agency for the situation, but officials say they will not release information on their response, citing safety concerns. The Harney County Sheriff issued a statement Sunday
, encouraging everyone to stay away from the area.