As protesters dwindle, Burns residents cautiously get back to li - KPTV - FOX 12

As protesters dwindle, Burns residents cautiously get back to life

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For the second straight day, armored vehicles were seen driving past the FBI checkpoint that leads to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, then driving back out a short time later.

Wednesday night, shortly after the armored vehicles drove back toward Burns, the FBI announced three people occupying the refuge had been taken into custody, including Jason Patrick, a man who had taken over as spokesman for the group after the arrest of the group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, during a traffic stop on Tuesday.

Patrick’s friend, Brandon Curtis, said he had been negotiating with the FBI to convince Patrick to leave the refuge, on the condition that he be allowed to walk away freely. Curtis believes the FBI negotiated with he and Patrick in bad faith.

“Absolutely disingenuous,” Curtis said.  “I feel like they used the situation of my relationship with Jason as a friend, that we were able to talk him out, Jason was not going to leave today.”

Patrick, like the other people who have been arrested, faces federal charges of impeding officers.

Ranchers who live near the refuge, meanwhile, continued to be stopped and searched at the FBI checkpoints leading into the area.

“It was strange,” rancher Kurt Spencer explained. “I’ve never had a gun pointed at me before.”

Spencer, who owns property on either side of the refuge, said he sympathizes with the intentions of the occupiers, but also understands the role of law enforcement.

He was disappointed to hear Tuesday’s traffic stop that resulted in the arrests of Ammon and Ryan Bundy also ended with the death of LaVoy Finicum.

“I mean, I can't believe that it couldn't have been negotiated,” Spencer said. “I just can't believe it. I was hoping nothing like that would happen.”

The month long occupation of the wildlife refuge has divided the city of Burns, with some appreciating the stand the occupiers were taking against government overreach, and others like Brian Dooley sympathetic to law enforcement.

“I have nothing against the FBI or anything. The police department has been doing a great job, I think, in keeping us as safe as possible,” he said.

What will be left long after the occupation of the refuge is new momentum for an old debate - the use and management of public lands in Harney County and elsewhere.

“I'm on both sides. I have cattle out there and I sympathize with law enforcement,” Spencer said. “I run ranches. We want to manage these to the best of the resources for us and the American people and everybody, but you have to listen to both sides.

Those who have been arrested face federal charges, and possibly prison time. Meanwhile, there have been posts on social media calling for more armed militia members to come to burns to protest the FBI's actions here, so it's possible this whole thing isn't over just yet.

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