By Denis C. Theriault
Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday offered her strongest remarks yet on armed militants' six-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, calling the action "unlawful" and demanding the group "decamp immediately."
Brown's poke at "outsiders," in a statement issued by her office, came about the same time as Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward parleyed with protest leader Ammon Bundy about how to end the occupation without bloodshed.
But Brown's office said the governor's stance was moved by two events Wednesday.
Early in the day, members of the Burns Paiute Tribe held a news conference asking the militants "to get the hell" off refuge land the tribe has traditionally seen as its own.
Then, Wednesday night, hundreds of Oregonians who live near the refuge gathered for a community meeting where they expressed sympathy for the militants' message criticizing federal land management but nonetheless said the group had worn out its welcome in Harney County.
"To members of the Burns-Paiute Tribe and residents of Harney County who seek a return to normal life: I hear you, and I agree that what started as a peaceful and legal protest has become unlawful," Brown said in her statement. "It was instigated by outsiders whose tactics we Oregonians don't agree with. Those individuals illegally occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge need to decamp immediately and be held accountable."
Brown had urged a "swift resolution" to the incident in a statement on Tuesday. But she'd stopped short of commenting on the militants' tactics or message. It's unclear whether she'll get her wish.
Ward, after his meeting with Bundy, said he'd check on the group Friday to see what they decided.
(c)2016 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)