A group of approximately 20 armed anti-government protesters have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, since January 2. Led by Ammon Bundy – a rancher who has confronted the federal government in the past in his native Nevada – the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom has held press conferences and captured national attention with its messages condemning what it considers government over-reach.
The group has vowed to remain at the refuge headquarters and an associated firefighters bunkhouse until their demands are met. They had come expressly in support of two Oregon ranchers, demanding clemency for Dwight and Steve Hammond. The father-and-son pair seach spent time in prison on federal arson charges, but recently were returned to prison to serve a five year sentence each and thus sparking state-wide outrage. However, the pair disavowed any relationship with Bundy and the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.
One of the protesters, Joe Oshaugnessy of Arizona, used social media to solicit volunteers to join the movement. But his associates have since announced that Oshaugnessy (a.ka. Capt. O) had left the refuge where members of the movement are staying at government facilities there. Oshaughnessy has been seen eating at restaurants in Burns, and staying at an area motel as have other persons associated with the movement.
According to Raw Story, Jon Ritzheimer – a fundraiser for so-called “militia” causes – found Oshaughnessy on a drinking binge at a motel, having allegedly used donations for liquor.
In related cases, the credibility of two members of the movement - Brian Cavalier and Blaine Cooper– has been called into question. Both of them claim to have served as Marines. In the case of Cavalier, he once boasted to media that he had been with fellow Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq. A check with the U.S. Navy has revealed that neither of them have any record of service in the Marine Corps.
Media reports suggest that food and supplies may be running low at the wildlife refuge. So far, there has been little visible response to the protesters from law enforcement, even while officers have been seen coming from multiple jurisdictions to the town nearby.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.