Hundreds attend community meeting in Burns

Community reacts to armed occupation.

BURNS, Ore. - Hundreds of people showed up for a town hall meeting in Burns, Ore., on Wednesday as armed militiamen continued their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Harney County Sheriff David Ward stood in front of that large group to talk about safety and the disruption the occupation has caused.

Earlier this week he told Ammon Bundy and his men to pack up and go home, but Bundy has said the group won't leave until federal land is returned to the locals.

The town meeting began with a standing ovation for the sheriff and a prayer for peace.

People who live in Harney County have a lot of questions, and many are frustrated.

"So it's about time people start standing up and stop this thing that's going on," one local resident said.

One after another, people from Harney County stood in front of a microphone and voiced their opinions about the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Some spoke out in support of the takeover.

"I wish that it had been done differently, but I'm glad that those guys did it," another resident said.

Others are fired up about it.

"Let's not get caught up. Like I'm pissed as hell right now and my boots are shakin'. But I'm proud of who I am. I'm proud to be a rancher and I'm not gonna let some other people be my face!" said someone else who lives there.

On Saturday, the armed militiamen led by Bundy and his brother Ryan took over the wildlife refuge after breaking off from a peaceful protest 30 miles away in Burns.

The protest was in support of Dwight and Steven Hammond, two ranchers from the area serving prison time for setting fire to federal land.

Many in the area know the Hammonds well.

Gary Hannaford says there's a lot of tension in town.

"This is a good community, a tight community," he said. "This thing is ripping our community to pieces."

Bundy says the group called Citizens for Constitutional Freedom is standing up against government overreach.

At Wednesday's meeting, Ward again told the protesters to go home and let Harney County take care of itself.

"This community is a united family unit and you don't get to come here from elsewhere and tell us how to live our lives," Ward said.

So far, law enforcement hasn't taken action against the group.

The FBI is the lead investigative agency.

Bundy has said this is a peaceful protest, but if there is a raid on the wildlife refuge, he and others occupying the buildings are prepared to defend themselves.

People we talked to hope it doesn't come to that.

"I pray daily that there will be no bloodshed," Hannaford said.


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