The last holdouts at Malheur NWR in southeast Oregon have given up and the protest is over, and in the aftermath of the 41-day drama, there may be some serious reflection on how this event has split the community in Harney County, and beyond even the Pacific Northwest.
The protesters are in custody, and thanks to some occasionally desperate pleading by a couple of activists via telephone – a discussion that went on for a couple of hours and was live-streamed to thousands of listeners Thursday morning – it ended without gunfire. There were times, however, when it seemed that the last holdout, 27-year-old David Fry, was not going to let it end well.
Sheriff Dave Ward appealed to the citizens of his county to lower the decibel level of their disagreements and come back together as neighbors and friends. The ordeal has been tough on him and his department, the residents of Burns, and a lot of people across the Beaver State on both sides of the issue.
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The protest began Jan. 2, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy. They have issues with federal land managers. They were arrested Jan. 26 moments before Robert LaVoy Finicum was fatally shot at a roadblock about a mile away after crashing his truck into a snowbank.
The protest brought national attention, not just to the incident, but to alleged problems that western ranchers have with federal land managers.
The Bundy brothers are the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. On Wednesday night, the elder Bundy was arrested by federal authorities as he got off a plan in Portland, about 300 miles from the refuge.
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and Rev. Franklin Graham played a key role in the finale, traveling to the refuge to witness the surrender and assure the four protesters that they would come to no harm.
Fry and the other three holdouts – Jeff Banta and Sean and Sandy Anderson – have been holed up since the Jan. 26 incident. The Andersons and Banta walked out first, but Fry suddenly stayed put. At one point, those pleading with him on the telephone argued that he was reneging on the agreement.
Fry expressed concerns about being arrested, about how he might face mistreatment in jail, and about unmet demands that he would not face criminal charges. In the end, his final condition that people should “Hallelujah” was met.
Credit will likely go to activists Gavin Seim and KrisAnne Hall, as well as Graham and Fiore, for bringing a peaceful end to the standoff. It was Seim who live-streamed the four-hour-plus situation Wednesday night, and the surrender drama Thursday morning.
- Cliven Bundy arrested in Portland on charges stemming from 2014 ranch standoff
- Former sheriff’s deputy to Steve Quayle: LaVoy Finicum was murdered ‘for sure’
- Video: Second eyewitness details shooting death of LaVoy Finicum, says he never had gun in jacket pocket
- Audio: Blaine Cooper says LaVoy Finicum left all weapons at refuge, was unarmed when shot
- Cliven Bundy on Oregon standoff: Authorities killed LaVoy Finicum in cold blood