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Oregon militiamen wanted to ‘take back federal land’ for ranchers, loggers

January 3, 2016 at 6:11 PM EDT
A group of protesters and purported militiamen occupied a federal building at an Oregon wildlife refuge late Saturday and vowed to stay there indefinitely to highlight rancher rights. Amelia Templeton, a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting, joins Hari Sreenivasan on the phone from Burns, Oregon, for more details.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: For more on the occupation of a federal building in Southeastern Oregon, we’re joined now by Amelia Templeton, a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s news division. She is in Burns, Oregon, now.

What can you tell us about what is happening there?

AMELIA TEMPLETON, Oregon Public Broadcasting: I met briefly with some of the militiamen who are occupying the site.

It was dark, and I couldn’t actually tell if they had made it inside the building or were just gathered outside at a small bonfire.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. What has been happening this morning?

AMELIA TEMPLETON: Well, this morning, Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, has — has held a press conference. He’s the group’s spokesperson.

We have heard that, so far, there really hasn’t been any law enforcement presence at the site. Last night, I saw Oregon State Police cars actually driving away from the area.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Have you heard from local authorities on why they’re not present at the site?

AMELIA TEMPLETON: Well, it’s a very remote site.

It’s about half-an-hour south of Burns in the middle of bunch of fields in the wildlife refuge. It was occupied over a weekend. There was actually nobody there at the time. And it seems like the local authorities are trying to avoid a confrontation, although they haven’t said that directly.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. In that press conference, were there a list of demands? Is there something that Ammon Bundy wanted?

AMELIA TEMPLETON: Generally, they said that they are suing support for a pair of ranchers here who are due to turn themselves in to serve a federal prison sentence Monday for arson.

They have also said that they essentially want to take back federal land, and that that land should belong to the people, that it’s been taken from ranchers and loggers, and they want to see it returned.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Amelia Templeton from Oregon Public Broadcasting, thanks so much for joining us from Burns, Oregon.

AMELIA TEMPLETON: You’re welcome.

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