The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended today with the arrests of the last four militants as well as the man whose showdown with the Bureau of Land Management first ignited a new ‘Sagebrush Rebellion’ over public lands in the American west.
FBI agents moved in to surround the final holdouts yesterday, sparking panic in ‘patriot’ militia circles that law enforcement would massacre the remaining acolytes of the Bundy uprising. But instead of rushing them, agents negotiated a peaceful resolution for the next morning.
Meanwhile, the federal government took advantage of scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy’s attempt to insert himself in the situation by arresting the miscreant as he got off a plane at Portland International Airport late last night.
As promised, Jeff Banta, Sean Anderson, and Sandy Anderson surrendered without incident today. David Fry, the 27 year-old avowed neo-Nazi and anti-Semite who acted as the group’s ‘tech guru,’ was the last to turn himself in.
Fry needed plenty of coaching, however, as he repeatedly discussed his desire to die or commit suicide rather than give himself up.
Citing fear of being raped in prison, Fry remained on the phone with Nevada State Representative Michele Fiore and open carry activist Gavin Seim until he was handcuffed by federal agents. As the last condition for his peaceful surrender, Fry demanded that the FBI shout “hallelujah.”
Incoherent at times, Fry’s final diatribe meandered from President Barack Obama to Trayvon Martin to flying saucers to his love of marijuana.
Seim and Fiore held a conference call with Fry, Banta, and the Andersons last night. Livestreamed on YouTube, at one point they had over 60,000 listeners.
Whenever she was not promoting her Coalition of Western States, an organization created to lobby for privatization of federal lands through the bait-and-switch scheme of turning them over to state control, Fiore repeatedly emphasized the size of their audience as an incentive for the holdouts to surrender.
“The whole world is watching,” she said more than once, indicating that the ‘uprising’ would simply move on to a new phase as trials begin.
But in fact much of their audience consisted of tens of thousands of ‘snacktivists’ who have spent the last five weeks gathering on Facebook, Reddit, and other sites to poke fun at the Malheur militants. Inspired by the occupiers’ call for people to send snacks, one of their schemes involved sending bags of plastic dildos and sex lubricant in the mail instead, causing seditionist Jon Ritzheimer to express indignant outrage in an unforgettable video rant.
The land privatization cause remains unpopular in the American west, where much of the economy depends on tourism and other, more ecologically-sound uses than mining and fossil fuel extraction.
The situation at Malheur had intensified in recent days after Oregon State Police shot and killed Bundy friend LaVoy Finicum during an operation to arrest the militant leadership. Cliven Bundy appeared at Finicum’s funeral last Friday to call on more ranchers to tear up their grazing permits.
Bundy, whose sons Ammon and Ryan were the key leaders of the Malheur occupation, has been charged with conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction of justice, and interference with commerce by extortion. A copy of the charging document is embedded below.
In all likelihood, the Bureau of Land Management will now move to put Cliven Bundy’s property in a court-supervised trust and recoup more than 20 years of unpaid grazing fees, ending a dispute which Bundy had turned into a rallying cry for ‘patriot’ militias, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenter groups.
Reports indicate that the Malheur refuge is also trashed, requiring expensive cleanup and restoration efforts. Militants have used earth-moving equipment to carve roads through sensitive ecological sites and build defenses, while buildings on the refuge were reportedly left in total disarray.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has proposed legislation which would allow the US Attorney General to recover the costs of the siege and cleanup from those who perpetrated the standoff.