Militants Encouraged To End Occupation Of Wildlife Refuge
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And in Oregon, Ammon Bundy is in jail. Yesterday, the leader of the militants occupying the Federal Wildlife Refuge sent word to followers, asking them to stand down at the refuge and return home to their families. Last night, some of them agreed and left. Three more turned themselves into authorities. This comes after the arrest on Tuesday of both Bundy brothers and several others on a country road during which one of the militants was killed. NPR's Kirk Siegler is in Burns, Ore., with the latest.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: There is pressure coming from everywhere you look in Harney County for this standoff to end without any more bloodshed. After this week's arrests, the FBI is now surrounding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. At night, they announced their presence beaming two massive flood lights across Highway 205, an eerie glow over the frozen eastern Oregon desert.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm not going through.
SIEGLER: At the roadblock, it's mostly us reporters hoping to catch a militant trying to leave. Instead, William Troy Stevenson and his son Tristan are here after being turned back at the roadblock by the authorities.
WILLIAM STEVENSON: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
TRISTAN STEVENSON: Guns pointed at us.
W. STEVENSON: They were serious. They'll kill you, I think.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: What did they do?
T. STEVENSON: Pointed guns at us.
W. STEVENSON: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Pointed guns at you.
W. STEVENSON: They had a lot of machine guns.
SIEGLER: The Stevensons, who sympathize with the anti-federal lands movement, drove down from Hermiston, Ore., to try and learn more about why the remaining occupants were still here. Believe it. Things are tense. Nearby Burns, population 5,000, is equally on edge. Like a few weeks ago when the armed occupation began, this tight-knit town has again swelled with news crews and satellite TV trucks. FBI and Oregon state troopers are everywhere, too, some undercover, others in uniform. And occasionally, you'll see the self-styled militiamen coming out of hotel rooms in fatigues or shopping at the Safeway, their handguns holstered. Working at a service station, Dwight Arstead says the occupation is ripping his hometown apart.
DWIGHT ARSTEAD: I'm seeing a lot of good friends and family that are now enemies or fighting over this, unfortunately.
SIEGLER: Arstead, whose son in law is a cop, tells me the feds should've gone in there earlier and stopped this before it escalated. Now he says he just wants it to end without another death. LaVoy Finicum, the militants' de facto spokesman who is believed to have died during the arrest, has his sympathizers here, too, though.
JOYCE GOGGIN: Well, I think it's premeditated murder. That's the way I feel about it.
SIEGLER: That turn of events changed things for Joyce Goggin.
GOGGIN: I don't trust my law enforcement, and I don't trust the FBI that's here anymore.
SIEGLER: But like almost everyone else you meet, Goggin is ready for this to end. She lives by the airport, which the FBI turned into a staging area. She says there are flood lights and helicopters landing at all hours. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Burns, Ore.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.