House conservatives went out of their way Wednesday to avoid criticizing the group of armed protesters who have taken over a building in a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, saying their motivations—if not their tactics—are widely shared.
“All that frustration happening with the takeover of the land by the federal government, with an unjust sentence, and you have just a frustration that the federal government is not listening to them anymore,” said Rep. Raul Labrador. “And that’s what leads to what so far has been a peaceful takeover of an abandoned building, by the way. The media is so quick to cast aspersions on that group of people.”
Labrador added that many fail to understand the perspective of those in the West who see much of their states’ land controlled by the federal government. Members addressed the issue during a monthly "Conversations With Conservatives" event on Capitol Hill.
On Saturday, a group seized a building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, calling their actions a response to land grabs by the federal government and the five-year sentences handed down to two local ranchers the government has accused of arson. The pair, Dwight and Steven Hammond, say they were merely staging a controlled burn to prevent forest fires, but have turned themselves in and distanced themselves from the protest groups’ actions.