BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) – Militia spokesperson LaVoy Finicum said Tuesday they plan to meet with the community at 7 p.m. Friday to discuss the goals of the occupation and when the militia plans on leaving the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
A location for the meeting is yet to be determined.
Ammon Bundy and the armed occupiers overtook the federal facility on Jan. 2 after a peaceful demonstration through the streets of Burns in a show of suppport for Dwight and Steve Hammond, the Oregon ranchers serving a prison sentence for setting fires on federal land. The Hammonds have publicly distanced themselves from Bundy and his followers.
Finicum says this is now bigger than the Hammonds.
“This is about abuse in our healthcare, abuse of fed regulators at every level of our lives, we are losing our freedoms and it’s close to being gone,” said Finicum.
Occupiers also began cleaning the refuge on Tuesday, saying they want to leave it cleaner than they found it. Occupiers said the building was messy and unorganized when they arrived and they’re concerned how federal taxpayer money is being spent.
On Monday, the group started removing fences from refuge property, saying a nearby ranching family – The Pucketts – should be allowed to graze their cattle on the land. The US Fish and Wildlife Service tells KOIN 6 News that is illegal and would be considered trespassing.
“The Pucketts have now been contacted by FBI, by other agencies, by the BLM, putting pressure upon them, intimidating them, this has to stop,” says Finicum.
But Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward says it’s the militia that is doing the intimidating, saying at a community meeting Monday night that reports of vandalism, harassment and intimidation have gone up since the militia came to town.