A few days ago, Ammon Bundy wrote a Facebook post urging people to pray for the Hammonds, two Oregon ranchers facing prison time for arson.
On Saturday, Bundy went further. He and an unknown number of other individuals, armed with guns, stormed an empty building in a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in support of the ranchers. The federal government, Bundy said, was unfairly punishing Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 43, who were convicted in 2012 of committing arson on public lands in 2001.
“We will be here as long as it takes,” Bundy said in an interview posted on the Bundy Ranch’s Facebook page late Saturday night.
Bundy and the armed protesters took over the headquarters of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, which was closed for the holiday weekend, after participating in a peaceful rally in Burns, Oregon, in support of the Hammonds. Bundy said that the property, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is “owned by the people, and it has been provided to us to be able to come together and unite to make a hard stand against [government] overreach.”
When the Hammonds were originally sentenced, they argued that the minimum mandatory sentence for arson on federal land—five years—was unconstitutional, according to the U.S. district attorney’s office in Oregon. The trial court agreed and reduced the sentence. But an appeals court eventually upheld the federal law, and a judge imposed the mandatory sentence last October, with credit for time the Hammonds already served. The father served three months, while the son, who was also found guilty of committing arson on public lands in 2006, served one year, according to the Associated Press.