As darkness fell on Thursday, the number of occupiers inside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, had dwindled to four. The death of LaVoy Finicum, shot by law enforcement at a road block on Tuesday afternoon, and the arrest of Ammon Bundy (shown) and other leaders at the same time, took out the leadership of the protesters, who had occupied the refuge since January 2. Those arrested with Ammon Bundy were: Ryan Bundy (who was wounded in the shoulder), Shawna Cox, Ryan Page, Brian Cavalier, Mark McConnell, and Victoria Sharp. McConnell and Sharp were subsequently released, while the others were booked on various charges.
Throughout the day on Wednesday and into the night, and into early Thursday morning, several more occupiers left the refuge. On Wednesday afternoon, Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Mike Arnold, appeared on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Portland and read a statement purporting to be from Bundy, calling on the remaining occupiers to “stand down.” The statement reads:
First I want to address my beloved friend Lavoy Finnicum. Lavoy is one of the greatest men and greatest patriots I have ever seen. His love for this country ran deep through the blood he gave yesterday. And I mourn for him and his family. I’m praying for you fervently in every prayer.
We will have more to say later but right now I am asking the federal government to allow the people at the refuge to go home without being prosecuted.
To those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.
Being in the system, we are going to take this opportunity to answer the questions on Art. 1, Section 8, Cause 17 of the United States Constitution regarding rights of statehood and the limits on federal property ownership. Thank you and god bless America.
Ammon Bundy’s appeal to stand down was sharply at odds with other call-outs from various activists who were telling patriots nationwide to flock to Oregon. This one, purportedly from Gary Hunt/Outpost of Freedom, appeared on a number of Facebook pages and websites:
From Gary Hunt, Outpost of Freedom in Burns, Oregon.
Attention all Oathkeepers, Idaho Three Percenters, Pacific Patriots Network, especially Brandon Curtis, Joe Rice, Eric Parker, and Stewart Rhodes.
This is a call-out to the membership of Operational Mutual Defense (OMD) and friends.
You have an obligation to proceed to the Harney County Resource Center (the wildlife refuge) immediately, in order to protect the patriots still there. If you fail to arrive, you will demonstrate by your own actions that your previous statements to defend life, liberty, and property were false.
To members of Operation Mutual Defense, this is an emergency. The purpose of Operation Mutual Defense is to respond to overbearing actions by the federal government that has become threatening to life, liberty, or property. Lavoy Finicum has been murdered by the FBI, and Ryan Payne has been shot.
They were en route to a meeting where [they] had been invited by the Grant County sheriff to address the citizens in Grant County, a peaceful mission.The time for all good men to come to the aid of their country has come to the Harvey County Resource Center, which is 30 miles south of Burns Oregon.
Other Internet messages said convoys of armed supporters were organizing in Arizona and Nevada to head to Oregon. The message read by Mike Arnold was said to be a fake and not a real message from Ammon Bundy. Even Bundy’s wife, Lisa, believed the message was false. “She said, ‘That’s not our lawyer, those aren’t Ammon’s words, and he wouldn’t say that,'” a close friend of the Bundy’s told The New American, after talking with Lisa Bundy. “She sent out a message to friends and supporters telling them not to believe the lawyer’s statement, that he was a government plant,” said the friend, who asked not to be named. “But then,” the friend said, “she got a call from Ammon, who told her that, yes, that is his lawyer and that is his statement. It’s time to stand down before there’s any more bloodshed.”
After this assurance from Ammon, Lisa Bundy sent out a message on Wednesday reversing her earlier call-out. It stated:
Friends! Please listen to me. I just got off the phone with Ammon and his lawyers. We can trust them. I heard his voice and his concern. He recorded a statement saying that he would like you to stand down and go home. It's hard to understand, but that is what he's asking. Please be obedient to him. Many of people were educated along this road and we are so grateful for everyone's love, support, service and dedication to the constitution ... that part is not over. We will always fight for our constitution. Love Lisa and Ammon
On Thursday, January 28, Ammon Bundy issued another stand-down call, saying:
My message still remains. Turn yourselves in and do not use physical force. Use the national platform we have to continue to defend liberty through our constitutional rights in an Article 3 Court with an Article 3 judge.
America must understand where we are at. We must make a choice now between freedom or force. Are we going to live free?
I will not abandon all that we have accomplished in the name of liberty for the sake of my own personal freedom. We must choose the path of liberty which comes with freedom of choice. People must not be okay with what is going on.
I am committed to freedom not force. Freedom not force. We are done with the culture of force. We are done with the government pointing guns at us to enforce their will upon the people. This is not liberty. This is not America....
We only had guns for our protection and never once pointed them at another individual or had any desire to do so. The people have a right to bear arms for their own protection. We never wanted bloodshed. We verbalized this many, many times and we continue to do so....
The choice is ours. Are we going to stand for freedom or are we going to fall by force.
On Thursday, Lisa also issued another statement (audio available here) saying: “This is Lisa Bundy, Ammon Bundy’s wife. I spoke with Ammon’s lawyers yesterday and heard from his voice that those were instructions his: he wants people to go home; to go to their families."
At this time, there are many Internet rumors floating about claiming that various “militia” groups are on the way to Burns, Oregon. However, there is already a very large presence of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that have converged on the area, with dozens (over 100 by some counts) of vehicles, including armored vehicles and helicopters, so many of those who have supported aims (if not the methods) of the occupiers are hoping Ammon Bundy’s advice to stand down will be heeded.
“I just don’t want to see any more of these good people get killed,” says Barbara Berg of Winnemucca, Nevada, who has been an important force behind the scenes defusing the tense standoff and convincing occupiers to leave. Berg, who has been one of the very few people inside the FBI/police perimeter who has been able to go into the refuge, is one of the sources who has kept The New American updated on developments there.
A friend of the Bundys and many of the other ranchers who support them, Berg has been tirelessly going back and forth to the refuge, all hours of the day and night. She has walked a couple of the occupiers out, but as we talked with her about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, she said several dozen police/military vehicles drove past her position, moving the police perimeter up closer to the refuge. “I don’t know whether they’ll let me through,” she told The New American. “I hope so, because I think we can still end this peacefully.” To her knowledge, at that time, four people still remained inside the refuge: Sean and Sandy Anderson (husband and wife from Riggins, Idaho), David Fry of Ohio, and another man identified as Jeff. She was especially hopeful that Sean and Sandy Anderson could be convinced to come out.
Photo of Ammon Bundy: AP Images