BURNS, Ore. (CN) – Self-identified militia members headed by the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy held their ground Wednesday and speculated about a potential showdown with federal agents suspected to be in the area.
Ammon Bundy told reporters in an emotional speech Tuesday night that a county commissioner had informed him that the FBI had warrants for the group, which is estimated to have two dozen members.
Bundy and his group took over empty offices at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon after a rally on Saturday protesting the five-year sentence for arson handed to local ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son Steven.
The group wants the government to hand the refuge over to locals.
“I hope you understand that it is important that we as people stand when our government is out of control,” Bundy told reporters.
“We refuse to pass this on to our children,” Bundy said with a quivering voice as his eyes filled with tears. “This is not what America is made of and it needs to end here.”
The Hammonds were convicted of starting two fires – one in 2001 that the government said was meant to cover up illegal poaching and another in 2006 during a burn ban that spread to adjacent public land and could have harmed firefighters there.
Federal prosecutors charged the Hammonds under the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act – a law that carries mandatory five-year minimum sentences. But U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan deemed that punishment to be too harsh.
In 2012, Dwight Hammond served three months in prison and his son served one year.
The government appealed the sentences and last month U.S. Chief District Judge Ann Aiken ordered the men to finish out the five-year minimum sentence. The Hammonds turned themselves in on Monday to Terminal Island in San Pedro, California.
Bundy claims the government appealed the Hammonds’ sentence to punish them for refusing to sell their ranch.
On a Twitter account called @Ammon_Bundy – Bundy says he doesn’t have a “Tweet” account – the group’s efforts were compared to those of Rosa Parks, the black woman from Alabama who refused to give up her seat in the “colored” section of a city bus to a white passenger and sparked the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
“We are doing the same thing as Rosa Parks did,” the tweet said. “We are standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom.”
Another tweet warned Bundy’s group is unafraid of death.
“Death is softer by far than tyranny,” the author wrote, quoting the Greek writer Aeschylus.
Although Bundy said – and media outlets have confirmed – he doesn’t use Twitter, he told reporters whoever was running the Twitter account bearing his name was “doing a good job.”
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