Oregon militia explainer: background to the standoff

What were the circumstances of the shooting?
The FBI said shots were fired after officers stopped a car carrying Ammon Bundy, the leader of the protests, and five others near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Activists said rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed, and one person wounded. Finicum, 55, had been one of the main spokesmen for the occupation, appearing at daily news conferences, posting regular dispatches on his YouTube page and organising some of the most high-profile actions protesting against the federal government’s regulation of public lands. Bundy and four other senior members were taken into custody following the confrontation along Highway 395 near the reserve in north-east Oregon at 4.25pm local time, the FBI said. Two others were arrested later, including Peter Santilli, a journalist who livestreamed events at the refuge.


Is the standoff over?
No. FBI agents have set up a perimeter around the wildlife refuge, where an unknown number of people are still holding out. One of the remaining occupiers, Jason Patrick, told Reuters by phone that they would stay until the “redress of grievances”. He said: “I’ve heard ‘peaceful resolution’ for weeks now and now there’s a cowboy who is my friend who is dead – so prepare for the peaceful resolution.”


How long has the occupation been going on, and why are they there?
The takeover at Malheur started on 2 January after a peaceful protest in nearby Burns, Oregon, over the conviction of two local ranchers on arson charges. Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, said they lit fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires. The two were convicted three years ago. But in October a federal judge ruled their terms were too short and ordered them back to prison for about four years each. Among the demands by the group is for the Hammonds to be released. But the militia have more deep-seated grievances over land under federal government control.


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