At the first news of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, some of us wondered if it could happen here. The way it played out, that’s not likely.
It began with Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven being convicted by a jury of arson, but the sentences jumped from months to five years because of a federal anti-terrorism law passed in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. The sentences sparked a protest by ranchers and militiamen in Burns, Oregon, and a few armed protesters led by Ammon Bundy took over the nearby refuge.
We’ve learned more about the players. In interviews, current and former employees of the wildlife refuge describe decades of hostility and death threats from the Hammonds.
“They said they were going to wrap my son in barbed wire and throw him down a well. They said they knew exactly which rooms my kids slept in,” said a former director.