The armed militia took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January 2016 after a land dispute between ranchers and the federal government. A video showing the chaos inside the sanctuary has been released and federal prosecutors say it was used in the conspiracy trial against four defendants earlier this year.
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The video was taken by refugee occupier Jason Patrick and it shows several armed citizens convening inside a dark kitchen area of the sanctuary. The occupiers can be seen arguing over whether to stay or leave the refuge after the arrests of the occupation's leaders including Ammon and Ryan Bundy. They eventually hold a vote over whether to roll out of the sanctuary in a convoy back to Idaho or to stay and continue the occupation.
One occupier named Blaine Cooper can be seen wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt, tactical vest and holding an assault rifle as he walks through the group muttering, "If you can't solve an argument in this circle, how are you going to fight the feds?" Cooper suggests leaving the sanctuary in one of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service firetrucks with others following in personal vehicles close behind.
"If they try to (expletive) with us, lay lead down," Cooper says.
Patrick challenges Cooper saying, "You think that's more tactical than standing peacefully here?" He added that he came to the refuge to defend the Constitution, not to fight. Another man named Thorn can be seen dressed in fatigues with the word "militia" on the front of his tactical vest and an assault rifle between his legs. Thorn is obviously agitated and cuts into the conversation to urge the others to stay.
The whole standoff occurred over the organizer's views that the United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and other agencies are constitutionally required to hand over most of the federal public land they control to the individual states. The protest was sparked when
The armed standoff between the occupiers was also in protest of the treatment of two ranchers convicted of federal land arson despite the men not wanting the protesters to help. By February 11, all the militants had either surrendered, withdrawn from the occupation or were shot and killed.
In August 2017, a dozen occupiers had pleaded guilty with six of them being sentenced to 1-2 years of probation, some of them were also put on house arrest. Ammon and Ryan Bundy were eventually tried in federal court and acquitted of all federal charges.
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