BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) — LaVoy Finicum, the Arizona rancher who often speaks on behalf of the militia occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, called on the FBI to leave the area because they are “stirring up fear.”
At their daily press update, Finicum said there will be no meeting on Friday between members of the militia and Harney County community members.
“Today was supposed to be an important day,” Finicum told members of the media on Friday. “Unfortunately, Judge (Steven) Grasty has been most active in squashing that and making sure we have no access to facilities to talk to residents.”
He called out the judge and asked him his reasoning for stopping the meeting. “So I ask, judge, what are you afraid of? Are you hiding something?”
On Thursday, Judge Grasty told KOIN 6 News he’s not limiting the militia from meeting with community members.
“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 Thursday.
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.”
Finicum said the group is hoping the meeting with community will still happen, possibly as soon as Sunday or Monday. They are exploring other options of where to hold the meeting, possibly in private residences.
Finicum said the group is eager to meet with the community. “We have a PowerPoint presentation we want to show them,” he said.
The Arizona rancher also called on the FBI to leave the area, saying that they are the ones who are carrying guns and “stirring up fear.”
Harney County Coyote Classic
The annual Harney County coyote hunt, which begins Friday, will go on as planned, despite the occupation. Finicum said hunters are welcome to hunt near the refuge.
“We don’t want that to be disrupted, we want them to feel welcome. They are free to access public land, we aren’t worried by them and they shouldn’t be worried by us,” Finicum said.
Some locals support the hunt, which has been planned for months, while others say it should’ve been postponed.
“The timing couldn’t be worse. This is a powder keg ready to explode,” said Brooks Fahy, Executive Director of Predator Defense. “It’s a very volatile situation right now and the last thing that county needs is a bunch of gun shots going off.”
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 support for Dwight and Steve Hammond, the Oregon ranchers serving a prison sentence for setting fires on federal land.