The militia members who have taken over a federal building in an Oregon national wildlife refuge have begun to bring their children into the area to join them.
Maureen Peltier, a disabled veteran and staff sergeant with the Washington Army National Guard, is a member of the Patriot movement. She traveled to the demonstration outside of Burns, Oregon, from her home in Bonny Lake.
She told The Oregonian she met with several protesters and said the group is doing “very well.”
“They did have a good security team and bonfires to keep warm,” she wrote. “They want Americans with rational, cool heads to join them.”
She said they are not engaged in a “hostile takeover” and that the group hasn’t damaged property.
“There is absolutely no armed standoff,” she wrote. “They want us to know: They are simply occupying land and a building owned by ‘We The People.’ Our tax dollars. And that for them, this is a civil peaceful protest.”
Law enforcement has so far not engaged protesters.
Peltier elaborated on her encounters in a phone interview Sunday, saying some in the group are armed and others are not. She said protesters are moving freely in and out of the facility and are bringing children onto the grounds Sunday.
“They are calling for other American patriots to take this stand with them,” she said. “You don’t have to be armed. They want everything to be very peaceful. They want the government to hear their grievances.”
The militia members said they’re demanding control of their grazing lands be returned to them and that the federal government stop the systematic oppression of local people with regard to land rights.
Meanwhile, local authorities have kept a low profile. Law enforcement was not present or visible at the rally Saturday and the FBI has not approached the refuge where the militia members are held up. The FBI is the lead agency in charge of the situation because the building is on federal land.
Other militia members have released statements denouncing the occupation.
In the community, residents appeared upset that this is happening in their town. Burns-area schools will be closed tomorrow, when they normally would re-open from Christmas break. Militia members have tried to reassure the community they intend no violence.
Because the refuge is so remote and no government employees are at risk, law enforcement isn’t likely to immediately confront the militia. But law enforcement will be under great pressure to act because of the Bundys’ confrontation in Nevada. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management retreated from that confrontation and has yet to publicly act against the Bundys to collect $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. That retreat has emboldened militia members as they now face the prospect of another standoff.