The three sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, along with “about 150” militiamen, have seized control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters to protest the forthcoming imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers accused of arson, on the basis that the federal government has no authority in local crimes.

The supposed leader of the group, Ammon Bundy, stated in a Facebook video that they will free up the land “where they could do it under the protection of the people and not be afraid of this tyranny that’s been set upon them.” He further explains how Harney County was once the richest in the state, and is now the poorest. His idea to fix the issue is to have armed “patriots” live in a self-ruled zone, free from government control.

One of the members of the militia has high hopes that this will become a nationwide movement.

“It doesn’t have to stop here. This could be a hope that spreads through the whole country, the whole United States. Everybody’s looking for this hope because the government has beat us, and oppressed us, and took everything from us; they will not stop until we tell them no,” Blane Cooper states in a Facebook video.

The militiamen told an Oregon newscaster that there were 150 of them, but when a couple went to deliver food to them, they said that there were 15 men in the refuge.

The Bundys and their supporters took over the federal property after leaving a protest in Burns, Oregon Saturday morning. Approximately 300 people marched through the town to protest the action taken against Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who are scheduled to report to prison today.

Both men were charged with setting fire to federal land, which gained the attention of local military and sparked debate about federal jurisdiction. The two men, residents of Diamond, Oregon in Harney County have been given jail time of five years by the Chief US District Judge Ann Aiken.

Since 1993, Cliven Bundy, who was known as the “last rancher in Clark County, Nevada” refused to pay fees to the federal government for the right to nurture cattle on land that his family had ranched on since the 1870s.

That argument started five years later when the Bureau of Land Management sectioned off 186,909 acres of the Gold Butte area as “critical” for the survival of the desert tortoise population. Bundy lost his grazing permit in 1993, even though his family has used the land for at least a century.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, Bundy owes about $1 million to the government, but his family says that the money adds up to about $300,000.


Photo credit: David Becker/Getty Images