FBI negotiates with defiant Oregon refugee holdouts

OREGON: The FBI negotiated with four armed occupants at a remote federal wildlife refuge in Oregon on Saturday while the holdouts in a video posted online expressed their mistrust of the government and reluctance to leave.


One of the four protesters remaining at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge said in a darkly lit video posted on Friday that he wanted to be assured he would not be arrested if he left. Others with him expressed similar resolve.

Tensions in the standoff remained high four days after Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, 54, a spokesperson for the group that seized buildings at the refuge on Jan 2, was killed by police during the arrests of occupation leader Ammon Bundy and several other protesters as they traveled on a highway.

Supporters of the group staged a rally in the nearby ranching community of Burns on Saturday night. About 30 pick-up trucks and other vehicles drove around, honking horns and waving flags – mostly US but also Confederate and Gadsden.

As the protesters passed the courthouse, they yelled “murderer” and “FBI go home.”

Mayor Craig LaFollette said the protesters were mostly outsiders who had disrupted the community.

“We don’t want them here,” said LaFollette.

The FBI said Finicum reached for a gun during the confrontation, which was recorded on grainy video, but his family disputes that account.

In taking over the refuge, the protesters criticized federal control of vast tracts of land in a flare-up of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres in the West.

“Negotiations are ongoing,” FBI spokesperson Beth Anne Steele said, declining to give details on the talks or comment on the video.

Bundy has issued messages through his attorney urging those remaining at the refuge to stand down and saying they would continue to fight through the courts.

But the holdouts at the refuge in the video, which they streamed live on YouTube, said they did not want to leave the site, which is 30 miles (48 km) from Burns in the state’s rural southeast, and they expressed mistrust of the US government.

“I don’t believe that they have any authority over me because they’re illegal and I can’t bow down to that,” one man said on the video.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward earlier this week said the protesters went too far in their armed occupation of the refuge in his county.