As their standoff enters its second week, Ammon Bundy and his followers have faced a loss of support and rising opposition from locals, other militia groups, and the ranchers for whose livelihoods they are nominally taking a stand.
Residents of Burns, Oregon, a town near to the wildlife refuge the militia continues to occupy, have become more vocal in their opposition to Bundy’s seizure, having never been entirely comfortable with the idea of taking over a government building in the first place.
“We’re gonna figure some way to get him out,” Travis Williams, a 46-year-old rancher from Harney County, Oregon, told The Guardian over the weekend. Williams had worked with Bundy in December to address the prosecution and imprisonment of Dwight and Steven Hammond. The Hammonds’ sentencing, which mandated that they return to jail and serve the minimum term of five years for arson, brought 300 protestors to the town of 2,800 people, and was the catalyst for Bundy’s takeover of the wildlife refuge.
Williams was surprised by Bundy’s actions after the march, and has since asked him to leave. “I’d like to be able to send him home in the right way that would help us keep this energy that he created,” he told The Guardian. “If he goes home the wrong way – in handcuffs or a casket – I’m afraid that’s going to be bad.” Williams said the standoff brought attention to the administration of public lands, but that it was time for local residents to take up the fight for greater local control of those lands.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward was also hoping for a peaceful resolution to the standoff. “I’m here to offer safe escort out,” the sheriff told Bundy when they met on Jan. 7. “Go back and kick it around with your folks.” Bundy, who rose to national notoriety during a similar standoff last year with his father, Cliven Bundy, said he would take the sheriff’s offer — “but not yet.” According to The Oregonian, Ward did warn Bundy though, that “at some point, this is all going to have to be resolved.”
Ward’s decision not to arrest the occupiers, as well as the hesitancy of the federal government to intervene, has angered Americans who accused law enforcement of employing double standards. The standoff began shortly after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who killed Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African American boy who was killed in Cleveland last year while playing with a toy gun.
The standoff has taken a series of strange twists, with the arrival of another militia group, the Pacific Patriots Network, who said they would establish a buffer zone between the militia currently holed up in the wildlife refuge. Numerous militias, from the Oathkeepers to the Three Percenters, have not voiced their support for Bundy’s cause. Even the Hammonds have said, through their attorney, that they want nothing to do with Bundy.
“Here you have a guy who believes he’s on a mission from God. What the Hammonds want and what the community wants is immaterial,” said Mike Vanderboegh, a founder of the Three Percent Movement, to Reuters.
Vanderboegh and other leaders said they worried Bundy would provoke a violent response from the U.S. government similar to the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, that ended in the deaths of 76 people.