Three of the last four holdouts in the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon surrendered peacefully Thursday morning, 40 days after the standoff began, but the fourth, repeatedly saying “liberty or death,” said he would not give in. He said he was feeling suicidal.
The occupation by anti-government militants appeared to be reaching its end in late January, when 11 of its most prominent members — including the leader, Ammon Bundy — were arrested while venturing out of the refuge. One protester was killed, and some of the remaining occupiers heeded calls by Bundy and others to go home.
But four refused to leave and held out for another two weeks until three gave themselves up Thursday to the FBI after lengthy negotiations by phone. The Rev. Franklin Graham and Michele Fiore, a Nevada state lawmaker and supporter of the Bundy family, helped smooth the surrender, first speaking by phone to the occupiers in a conversation that was streamed live online. They then accompanied the FBI agents who drove to the refuge and arrested the holdouts.
The end of the occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge came the day after the FBI arrested Cliven Bundy, father of Ammon Bundy and an icon to anti-government activists in the West, who was at the center of another armed standoff with government agents, in Nevada in 2014.
At 9:38 a.m., one of occupies, Sean Anderson, said he and his wife, Sandy, were walking out. David Fry, another of the holdouts, described the Andersons making their way out, hands raised, with Sean Anderson holding an American flag in one hand, until they were taken into custody.
At 9:42, Fry said another of the occupiers, Jeff Banta, was going toward the agents, hands in the air.
Then Fry, the last holdout, who had seemed calm to that point, lit a cigarette and became agitated.
“I’m actually feeling suicidal right now,” he said, adding that he was sitting alone in a tent. “I have to stand my ground. It’s liberty or death. I will not go another day as a slave to this system.”
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