Now in their fourth week occupying a federal facility, armed militants are digging fighting positions at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon today while the FBI and local law enforcement surround and cut them off. For the first time since it began, the ‘confrontation’ has actually begun to look like one.

Yesterday’s arrests of Ammon and Ryan Bundy along with several of their fellow ‘patriots’ have deprived the Malheur occupants of their leadership. But the death of spokesman Robert LaVoy Finicum, who was reportedly shot and killed during yesterday’s FBI operation, has also sparked outrage and prompted calls to arms in ‘patriot’ circles.

Militants inside the refuge vow to remain in place and fight to the bitter end. Today, they streamed video of themselves using an excavator to carve a trench into the ground at Malheur, presumably preparing for a tactical assault by law enforcement. Children at the refuge reportedly left last night, and one unidentified man was extremely agitated today, promising a “bloodbath” and “free-for-all Armageddon.” Arizona militiaman Blaine Cooper seems to be in charge, as the others have been overheard deferring to him.

But with power and access now cut off, it’s not clear how long they can maintain their position in the depths of winter. Meanwhile, militia enthusiasts outside of the facility are divided about whether or how to relieve them.

Gary Hunt, one of the most influential figures in the history of the so-called ‘patriot’ militia movement, is calling for for a wider uprising. Forbes journalist and expert on anti-government extremists J.J. McNabb tweeted this message that Hunt circulated on his email list.

But others are less eager to fight a war they can’t win. Angelia Balch has told members of the Pacific Patriot Network to stay away from Burns and turn around if they are already en route. So have the Oath Keepers and ‘Three Percenter’ militias. These leaders’ eminent good sense and their calls for a thorough investigation are unsatisfying to some rank-and-file ‘patriots,’ of course, creating divisions that will add further churn to their ever-changing, ever-splintering movement. And in all likelihood, Finicum’s death will serve as the catalyst for what’s to come.

According to witnesses who were at the scene, Finicum was killed after driving through the traffic stop, running off the road at the ensuing roadblock, and breaking towards law enforcement officers as he dared them to shoot. It was not a wholly-unexpected outcome given Finicum’s outspoken desire to die before accepting the dishonor of defeat. But conspiracy-mongers are more interested in creating a martyr than getting the facts straight.

Welfare rancher Cliven Bundy, whose two sons were arrested for “conspiracy to impede federal officers through the use of force, intimidation or threats” yesterday, declared on Facebook that Finicum had been “murdered in cold blood.” His shameless lie was echoed by Nevada state assemblywoman Michele Fiore, one of the most delusional politicians in America, as well as her colleague Shelley Shelton, who absurdly compared Finicum to Moses and Jesus. The ‘Coalition of Western States,’ an organization which claims to include more than fifty legislators but which may simply be Fiore’s pet project, has said they will conduct a “fact finding” mission in Burns, but any such efforts will probably only serve to fuel the fires of controversy.

It remains to be seen whether the FBI and Department of Justice will give militants the Waco-style siege that they seem to want. Law enforcement’s primary challenge now is to deter and prevent any convoys of armed ‘patriots’ from bringing food or supplies to the refuge; when they are hungry and cold enough, Cooper and his friends will have no choice but to leave. Helicopter overflights gather intelligence on the Bundy gang’s continued destruction of federal property as they prepare for battle — and exert psychological pressure on the remaining Bundy gang, who spent a sleepless night raving about their readiness to die.

This disturbing video was posted in the early morning darkness by David Fry, a white supremacist who has served as the militants’ webmaster.

Here is Mark McConnell’s video in which he pours cold water on rumors that Finicum was on his knees trying to surrender when he was shot.

I don’t care who gets mad.

Posted by Mark McConnell on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

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