With the arrest of three more protesters holed up at a federal wildlife sanctuary in Oregon, the anti-government demonstration appears to have lost its momentum. The armed occupation turned violent Tuesday when authorities arrested the ringleaders of the protest, brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, during a traffic stop.
Another protester, LaVoy Finicum, was shot dead during the incident after he jumped out of the car and brandished a firearm, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News. Ryan Bundy, 43, was also wounded.
Besides the Bundys, three others were arrested during the stop and two others were taken into custody in separate but related incidents, the FBI said. Another occupier who had fled home to Arizona was also arrested.
With at least 11 people now facing charges, Ammon Bundy, 40, had a simple message Wednesday for any followers still hunkered down at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: Go home.
How many people remain at the refuge?
Since the site’s buildings were seized on Jan. 2, the occupation has been made up of people aligned with various “patriot” movements. Some members have come from outside the state — such as Arizona, Nevada and Georgia — but say they are supporting the rights of local ranchers over the federal government.
The occupiers who remained at the site Wednesday were described by local media as a small group — perhaps no more than 10 people. And early Thursday, The Oregonian reported about five people were still at the refuge. The newspaper said that those stragglers all agreed to leave as long as none are arrested.
How long can they stay?
An FBI official said Wednesday that people could remain there “for now,” without elaborating on a timeline or how they might eventually be drawn out. But this much is clear: Authorities don’t want anyone new coming in. Barricades and checkpoints were set up Wednesday, with anyone trying to get in or leave subject to interrogation.
Authorities have said that those who are willing to go peacefully are also free to do so. The latest three people arrested Wednesday — including Jason S. Patrick, who assumed the role of leader following the Bundys’ arrests — were apprehended after leaving the compound.
What happens to those arrested?
The Bundys and others arrested Tuesday appeared in federal court in Portland on Wednesday, each on a federal conspiracy charge of impeding federal officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.
They are expected to return to court Friday for detention hearings. After Wednesday’s initial court appearance, Ammon Bundy’s attorney read a statement urging any remaining occupiers to give up their posts. “Please stand down. Go home and hug your families,” he said.
What does Cliven Bundy have to say?
The Bundy brothers are sons of rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights in Nevada. The elder Bundy told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the killing of Finicum would be a “wake-up call to America,” and suggested a wave of protests across the country and even worldwide.
“This is a total disaster to be happening in America where we have, I’m guessing, federal people killing innocent people,” he said. “I’ll tell you one thing, my sons and those who were there were there to do good. No harm was intended. They would never threaten anybody.”