BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) — The proposed Friday night meeting between militia members occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and residents of Harney County might not happen, Ammon Bundy told the media Thursday.
During a daily press conference from the refuge, Bundy said the county will not allow them to use any buildings, so there is nowhere for the meeting to happen.
Militia spokesperson LaVoy Finicum said Tuesday they planned to meet with the community at 7 p.m. Friday to discuss the goals of the occupation and when the militia plans on leaving the refuge.
But Thursday morning, Bundy said he was uncertain about the meeting “because the county is not allowing us to use any buildings.”
He blamed Judge Steven Grasty for “arbitrarily” blocking people from talking to each other. Grasty is a Harney County Court judge. He responded to those allegations when asked by KOIN 6 News.
“Daily, Mr. Bundy is having a public press conference. Have the meeting at the same time. We are doing nothing to restrict him from having a public meeting,” Grasty said. Grasty said public safety is the biggest concern. And as for the Hammonds, Grasty said Bundy is using that as an excuse.
“It’s not about the Hammonds. We are working on the Hammonds’ issue and we are going to keep working on the Hammonds’ issue, we cannot do that while Mr. Bundy is here.”
The sheriff and the FBI
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward on Thursday said the FBI is overseeing what’s going on at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, while he and other law enforcement are policing the community.
“What’s going down at the federal refuge is being handled by the FBI,” Ward said in the statement. “On the other side of the coin, we have our community: our streets, our highways and our neighborhoods, which we’ve brought in numerous agencies to assist us in maintaining order and peace within our community.”
The sheriff said the large number of police is there to make sure the community feels safe and aren’t bullied or intimidated.
Ammon Bundy and the armed occupiers overtook the federal facility on Jan. 2 after a peaceful demonstration through the streets of Burns in a show of suppport for Dwight and Steve Hammond, the Oregon ranchers serving a prison sentence for setting fires on federal land. The Hammonds have publicly distanced themselves from Bundy and his followers.
Embedded with militia
Since before the occupation began, right-wing online talk show host Pete Santilli has been with the militia. He remains at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and spoke for about 25 minutes before Bundy arrived for the press briefing.
“I’m Pete Santilli and I’m in one of the top 5 positions on the domestic terrorist list,” he told his online audience and the media covering the briefing.
He also described himself as “your regular organ-grinder monkey.”
Among the statements Santilli made before Ammon Bundy arrived was his claim the “FBI supplied bomb-making material used in the (1993) World Trade Center” tower bombing.
CNN reports say: On Feb. 26, 1993, a 1,200-pound bomb was in a Ryder truck parked in a parking garage beneath the World Trade Center. Investigators determined Ramzi Yousef directed the organization and execution of the bombing.
Yousef was arrested abroad by the FBI and the State Department in February 1995. By that point 4 other people had been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
Yousef was sentenced to 240 years in prison in January 1998.
In April 2005, the US State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Abdul Rahman Yasin, who is still at large.