The armed occupiers of a wildlife refuge in Oregon say they will turn themselves in Thursday morning, hours after federal agents arrested Cliven Bundy, the father of protest leader Ammon Bundy.
A Facebook page for his ranch announced that Cliven Bundy — who came to the national spotlight in a fight with the federal Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights for his cattle in 2014 — was heading to Oregon earlier Wednesday.
“It’s time,” the post said. “Cliven Bundy is headed to the Harney County Resource Center in Burns Oregon.”
Bundy was taken into federal custody in Portland, Oregon, after landing there early Thursday morning, the FBI said.
The same Facebook page posted a statement that Bundy was arrested for charges “related to his standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2014.” The post continued, “The charges include a conspiracy charge to interfere with a federal officer … and a weapons charge.”
Bundy’s son, Ammon, was one of the leaders of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge’s headquarters. He was arrested last month.
During a purported live stream of a conference call between protesters, activists and conservative Nevada lawmaker Michele Fiore, the refuge’s current occupiers said they were prepared to leave Thursday morning.
The audio was live-streamed on YouTube.
Fiore told those on the call that Mike Arnold — Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, who Fiore said was in the car with her — spoke with the FBI. She said the agency promised it would stand down Wednesday night and allow her to be at an FBI checkpoint Thursday morning when the occupiers turn themselves in.
CNN affiliates based in Portland are reporting that Fiore is on her way to the refuge.
One man who plans to be there is Franklin Graham, the nationally known evangelist and son of legendary preacher Billy Graham, who said he’s been talking with “the last four holdouts … every day by phone for the last week at their request and at the request of the FBI.”
He wrote Thursday morning on Facebook that he hopes to be at the refuge at 7 a.m. (10 a.m. ET), in time for those inside to come out.
“Please keep them, law enforcement officials, and all involved in your prayers, that everyone will be safe,” Graham said.
The live stream started after the FBI surrounded those occupying the refuge.
According to the agency, one of the remaining occupiers rode outside barricades at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. When agents tried to approach him, he sped back to the refuge.
After that, the FBI said agents “moved to contain the remaining occupiers by placing agents at barricades both immediately ahead of and behind the area where the occupiers are camping.”
The FBI said no shots were fired, and it is continuing to negotiate with those inside the refuge.
“The FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” said Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland office.
“However, we reached a point where it became necessary to take action in a way that best ensured the safety of those on the refuge, the law enforcement officers who are on scene, and the people of Harney County who live and work in this area.”
‘God has put us on this path’
Earlier on the call, the occupiers sounded concerned that the FBI planned to move in Wednesday night and that it would lead to their deaths. At times, they seemed to fatalistically embrace that outcome.
When one woman — presumed to be Fiore — asked two of them about their families, a man responded, “God has put us on this path. Our families are already taken care of; they weren’t in our lives much before all this because God made sure we didn’t have that to weigh us down so that we could do this.”
The people on the phone could be heard debating conditions for which they’d be willing to leave the refuge.
At one point late Wednesday, more than 66,000 people were listening.
Protest leads to armed occupation
Thursday marks day 41 of the occupation.
Ammon Bundy and others started out demonstrating against the sentencing of Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, ranchers who were convicted of arson on federal lands in Oregon.
But a January 2 march supporting the Hammonds led to the armed occupation of the refuge building, with protesters decrying what they call government overreach when it comes to federal lands.
Bundy and other members of his group were arrested during an incident along a highway last month.
At the same time, law enforcement officers shot and killed LaVoy Finicum, one of the protest group’s most prominent members.