Ammon Bundy took out a $530,000 loan from Small Business Administration in 2010
Former FBI agent: There is no real reason to confront the armed protesters
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to remove references to tweets that were said to be from Ammon Bundy. Bundy told CNN on Wednesday he does not have a Twitter account.
Ammon Bundy, a leader of the armed protesters who took over a federal building in Oregon, and his family are known for battling the federal government.
But Bundy told CNN on Tuesday that he’s not opposed to government and said that taking a six-figure loan from the Small Business Administration doesn’t conflict with his political philosophy.
“I am not anti-government,” he said when asked about the loan while standing outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, adding that he thinks “there is a role for government and that the federal government’s role is to protect the states from the outside world.”
“And the state’s role is to protect the counties from the federal government – and the county’s role is to protect the people from the state so the people can go about freely using their lands and resources and their rights. … So there’s a role, but all government’s role is to serve the people. Whenever those governments step out, then that’s when we step in.”
Bundy denied he was being hypocritical about the loan because it “was an effort in assisting the people in using their rights.”
’We’re in it for the long haul’
The protesters call themselves the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.
And they say they’re not budging anytime soon from the refuge facility near Burns.
“We came very well-prepared. We’re in it for the long haul,” said protester Jon Ritzheimer, who has previously attracted attention for organizing anti-Islam rallies in Arizona.
Late Tuesday, Bundy told reporters that protesters had received information that the FBI had obtained arrest warrants for some of the armed occupiers, and that authorities were planning to raid the refuge.
CNN reached out to the FBI to ask about the possible existence of such warrants and the FBI referred all questions to the local authorities.
The Harney County Joint Information Center said that it had no information on arrests warrants, and that it was still working for a peaceful resolution to the occupation.
There have been no police at the snowy, desolate wildlife refuge since the occupiers took over the main building Saturday.
And that’s a smart decision by authorities, analysts say.
What could happen next
Law enforcement should just wait the protesters out, experts say.
“There is no real reason, at this point, to go in. And the FBI knows that,” said Steve Moore, a retired supervisory special agent for the FBI.
He said federal authorities have learned that lesson the hard way. Take, for example, the deadly confrontation at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993.
“A hundred people died in that,” Moore said. “It was a suicide; however, it was provoked by the FBI intervention.”
So how long should authorities wait, and what would force that tactic to change?
“I think they will wait a long, long time,” Moore said. “The only thing that would force them to change that would be if these people posed a life-and-death threat to someone.”
The FBI, which is leading the investigation, hasn’t specified what it will do.
“The FBI is working with the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and other local and state law enforcement agencies to bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” the agency’s Portland office said in a statement.
“Due to safety considerations for both those inside the refuge as well as the law enforcement officers involved, we will not be releasing any specifics with regards to the law enforcement response.”
The protesters are complaining about the amount of land controlled by the federal government as well as the sentencing of two local ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond.
Who the protesters are
Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who drew national attention in 2014 after staging a standoff with federal authorities. The government said the rancher owed more than $1 million for using federal land for cattle grazing. Hundreds of armed militiamen rallied behind him.
The elder Bundy also made headlines for openly speculating whether African-Americans were better off as slaves.
Ammon Bundy has refused to say how many armed protesters are inside the refuge, saying that information might jeopardize “operational security.”
Sheriff: You’re not helping
The armed protesters have said they are trying to help the Hammonds, who were convicted of arson and sentenced to five years in prison.
The Hammonds have said they started a fire in 2001 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and to protect their property from wildfires, CNN affiliate KTVZ-TV reported.
But prosecutors said the Hammonds torched about 130 acres of public land in an attempt to cover up the poaching of deer on federal property.
Throughout the siege, Bundy has claimed the two ranchers were targeted for not selling land to the government.
But the father-and-son ranchers have distanced themselves from the group.
“Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family,” the Hammonds’ attorney, W. Alan Schroeder, wrote to Harney County Sheriff David Ward.
On Monday, the Hammonds turned themselves in to prison to serve their five-year sentences.
Now, it’s time for the protesters to end the siege, the sheriff said.
“You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed occupation,” Ward said.
“The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It’s time for you to leave our community, go home to your families and end this peacefully.”
CNN’s Sara Sidner reported from Oregon. Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta, and Ralph Ellis wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Paul Vercammen, John Vause, Tina Burnside and Ashley Fantz also contributed to this report.