After 40 days and several hours of negotiation with the last militant, that could be heard on a YouTube livestream, the illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has peacefully ended.
The last four holdouts in the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon surrendered peacefully Thursday morning, 40 days after the standoff began.
Three of the four walked out to waiting F.B.I. agents over the course of a few minutes after 9:30 a.m., but the fourth, David Fry, at first said he would not.
In an extraordinary, hours long negotiation with supporters and F.B.I. agent, with thousands of people listening to the conversation on a live stream online, he aired a wide range of grievances, said he was suicidal, and said repeatedly that his choice was “liberty or death.” Ultimately he gave himself up without a fight.
The occupation by antigovernment militants appeared to be reaching its end in late January, when 11 of its most prominent members — including the leader, Ammon Bundy — were arrested while venturing out of the refuge. One protester was killed, and some of the remaining occupiers heeded calls by Mr. Bundy and others to go home.
For awhile, Mr. Fry seem to spiral out of control threatening to kill himself if the FBI tried to remove him from the refuge. After quiet talking by an FBI negotiator, Mr. Fry peacefully surrendered.
Neveda rancher and patriarch of the Bundy clan, Cliven Bundy, 74, was arrested in Portland at the international airport. He was on his way to Burns where the last four militants had been holding out at the refuge. He is to appear in court today to face federal charges related to the 2014 standoff at his ranch.
Bundy, 74, will appear on a federal complaint charging him with conspiracy, assault on a federal law enforcement officer, use and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, obstruction of justice, interference with commerce by extortion and aiding and abetting.
The 32-page federal complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada Thursday morning, says his offfenses stem from the 2014 standoff at his ranch in Nevada and actions elsewhere.
The complaint alleges that the Bundy patriarch and co-conspirators organized and led a massive armed assault against federal law enforcement officers in and around Bunkerville, Nevada in April 2014 to thwart officers from seizing and removing 400 cattle that were in their lawful custody.
It says Bundy and conspirators flooded the Internet with false and deceitful images – including a video broadcast titled “Range War” – that suggested officers were abusing and stealing his cattle, and hundreds of followers attempted to keep officers at bay by raising their assault rifles at them.
Meanwhile, Bundy had refused to comply with four lawful court orders since 1993 that required him to pay fees or obtain permits to the Bureau of Land Management to graze cattle on public land, the complaint says. [..]
Bundy aslo (sic) faces a federal conspiracy charge, accused of impeding federal officers in Nevada — the same charge lodged against two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan, accused of organizing the Jan. 2 armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns in Harney County. Three of the last holdouts at the refuge surrendered Thursday morning and the last surrendered just before 11 a.m.
The new federal complaint identifies the senior Bundy as the leader of the 2014 conspiracy but references four co-conspirators already in custody. Those are likely Bundy’s two sons, Ryan Payne and Brian Cavalier.
Unfortunately, under current domestic terrorism laws those who gave material support cannot be charged. The Department of Justice is examining ways to tighten the fight against domestic extremists like the Malheur militants and their supporters.
Extremist groups motivated by a range of U.S.-born philosophies present a “clear and present danger,” John Carlin, the Justice Department’s chief of national security, told Reuters in an interview. “Based on recent reports and the cases we are seeing, it seems like we’re in a heightened environment.”
Over the past year, the Justice Department has brought charges against domestic extremist suspects accused of attempting to bomb U.S. military bases, kill police officers and fire bomb a school and other buildings in a predominantly Muslim town in New York state.
But federal prosecutors tackling domestic extremists still lack an important legal tool they have used extensively in dozens of prosecutions against Islamic State-inspired suspects: a law that prohibits supporting designated terrorist groups.
Carlin and other Justice Department officials declined to say if they would ask Congress for a comparable domestic extremist statute, or comment on what other changes they might pursue to toughen the fight against anti-government extremists.
I suspect that the charges will continue pile up and the trials will be quite entertaining.