A group of armed protesters have took over a federal wildlife refuge in a small Oregon town on Saturday and vowed to remain there in objection of the way the government has treated ranchers, outlets are reporting.
What began as a march and rally with hundreds of protesters in the town of Burns turned into a smaller group seizing the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge about 60 miles away, Oregon's KTVZ reports. The organizers are protesting two ranchers jailed for arson, NBC News points out.
One of the protesters is Ammon Bundy, the son of a rancher who faced off with the government in 2014. He spoke to CNN on Sunday morning (Jan. 3).
"This refuge -- it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area," Bundy told CNN. "People need to be aware that we've become a system where government is actually claiming and using and defending people's rights, and they are doing that against the people."
Dwight and Steven Hammond, the two ranchers convicted of arson, apparently started a 130-acre fire in 2001 to cover up poaching, according to prosecutors. They were sentenced to five years in prison.
At this time, it's unclear exactly what the protesters want, aside from recognition of their cause. Bundy told reporters they are prepared to remain at the refuge "as long as necessary."
"It is the people's facility, owned by the people, and it has been provided for us to be able to come together and unite in making a hard stand against this overreach, this taking of the people's land and resources," Bundy told KTVZ.
"We are not terrorists," Bundy has said. "We are concerned citizens and realize we have to act if we want to pass along anything to our children."