On day seven of Freemen standoff, outsiders offer help
March 31, 1996
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EST
JORDAN, Montana (CNN) -- The FBI will not accept an offer from white separatist Randy Weaver to help end the standoff between members of a Montana anti-government group and federal agents, sources told CNN Sunday.
Weaver, whose wife and son were killed in a stand-off with federal agents four years ago in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, offered to help negotiate with the "Freemen," who have been holed up on a ranch in east-central Montana since Monday.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, who visited Jordan Sunday to survey the situation, was adamantly opposed to the idea of enlisting Weaver's help.
"I just think it's a rotten idea," said Baucus. "I think it's in part an attempt by Weaver to draw attention to himself, and I hope he resists that temptation."
Instead Baucus said the problem should be resolved locally. He suggested federal agents let friends and family members of those on the Montana ranch persuade them to give themselves up.
The FBI's week-long strategy of patience paid off Saturday with the surrender of Richard Clark, one of 10 fugitive members of the Freemen group wanted on conspiracy and fraud charges. Clark gave himself up at a friend's ranch in nearby Grass Range.
The FBI is determined to produce further peaceful surrenders of the seven fugitive Freemen still holed up on the Montana ranch.
Former FBI director William Sessions said he agrees with how federal agents are handling the standoff.
"They're trying to minimize the possibility of violence. They're trying to be respectful of what they're seeing out there with those people who disagree strongly with their government. (They're) trying to be respectful of it, and yet make sure the rule of law prevails," he said.
The Freemen do not recognize the authority of the federal government. Indictments charge 12 Freemen members with multiple offenses, including conspiracy, armed robbery, fraud and threats to kill a federal judge.
A member of the self-proclaimed North Michigan militia, Norman Olson stands behind the Freemen and says he wants to head to Montana.
"This country was born in conflict with the militia standing up against a bona-fide government that was terrifying and tyrannizing and oppressing the people," Olson said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." "These people in Montana have given the finger to the federal government and the federal government can't have that, so they must suppress them and tyrannize them and destroy them." (111K AIFF sound or 111K WAV sound)
There have been reports of a militia convoy headed from other states to Montana to deliver food, mattresses and other supplies to the Freemen. Sources told CNN Sunday the FBI will not allow any such convoy to enter the compound.
Montana militia members have asked other militia group members to stay away.
"What we had in mind was if anyone from another state wishes to come visit Montana they better do it without their guns. We don't need help from other states," said Montana Militia leader John Trochmann, speaking on ABC. "We would like to see a peaceful settlement to this, just like everyone else would."
Trochmann went on to say, "Now if we look at the federal agencies and their actions at Randy Weaver and at Waco, they have not acted like that this time. Perhaps they've learned something," he said.
The FBI has kept roads open surrounding the ranch, allowing some family members in, but only after food and weapons searches. Agents have turned away some freemen sympathizers, but Sunday agents let three young women enter the ranch. Each waved pieces of white rag apparently to show they meant no harm to anyone. It is believed they are trying to talk the Freemen into ending their stalemate.
The FBI believes the Freemen have stockpiled enough food and fuel to last two months. They are heavily armed. Accounts vary on how many people are on the 960-acre ranch which the Freemen have dubbed "Justus Township." Some federal officials report about 15, but the son of one of the Freemen claimed there was as many as 60.
People in the small farming community of Jordan near the Freemen compound agree the FBI's non-violent approach is the way to go.
"I think it's great because they could have gone in there with their guns blazing but instead, they're giving them time to think it out," said a local rancher.
Many others in the community agreed, saying the best way to solve the problem with the Freemen is without outsiders.
"People are just flat tired of these guys. We don't want more militia to come out," said Tom Cohn, a local school teacher. "We want this to end without bloodshed." (119K AIFF sound or 119K WAV sound)
From Correspondents Jennifer Auther, Susan Candiotti and wire reports.
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