By: Savin Mattozzi ~Staff Writer~
Seven members of the Bundy militia have been acquitted of charges stemming from the 41- day long siege of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon earlier this year. Charges included conspiracy to prevent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees from doing their jobs, weapons charges for carrying firearms in a federal facility and theft of government property.
According to The Los Angeles Times, upon regaining access to the refuge, authorities found dozens of guns and 15,000 rounds of ammunition in various areas of the refuge’s work areas.
The jury was unconvinced that the militia was there to cause harm, and were more convinced that they were participating in constitutionally protected protest.
Leaders of the siege were Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Cliven bundy, known for a separate standoff in 2014 against the BLM in Bunkerville, Nevada.
Ranchers are able to let their cattle graze on federal land, but for a fee.
According to The Washington Post, Cliven Bundy was asked twice to stop grazing on federal land by federal courts, as he had accrued more than $1 million in fees and fines after not paying the government for decades. When officials from the BLM and the National Parks service came in to remove the cattle, they encountered armed resistance from Bundy and his supporters.
Both the BLM and the National Parks Service left the area, concerned of an outbreak of violence, considering the decades-long tension between right-wing, anti-government militias and the the U.S. government have resulted in serious bloodshed in cases such as the Waco siege.
Ammon Bundy stressed that the goal of the siege was to bring attention to the issue of land ownership in rural America. Which would eventually lead to more local control and privatization of land.
Bundy also said a goal was to, “To get the logger back to logging, to get the rancher back to ranching, to get the miner back to mining.”
Seven more militia members are scheduled to go on trial in February of 2017.