The ringleader of an armed protest movement in the US state of Oregon has asked his remaining fellows to go home following his arrest. Local law enforcement has said the holdouts have unreasonable demands.
Ammon Bundy, the leader of an armed anti-government occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge, called on the protestors to abandon their siege late on Wednesday. He then urged authorities to let his comrades leave the compound without fear of prosecution.
"I am asking the federal government to allow the people at the refuge to go home without being prosecuted," he said according to a statement read by his lawyer, Michael Arnold. "To those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families."
Bundy was arrested on Tuesday following the month-long occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon. The group of about 30 demonstrators originally took over the compound on January 2 in protest over the jailing of two local ranchers in an area where disputes about control of land between private owners and the government go back decades.
In the aftermath of Bundy's arrest, the FBI confirmed that one of the occupiers had died when a group of them were surrounded at a traffic stop north of the wildlife refuge, but did not offer further details on how Robert "LaVoy" Finicum died.
Paying tribute to the deceased, an Arizona rancher who had attacked as a kind of spokesman for the group, Bundy called his "beloved friend" one of the "one of the greatest men and greatest patriots I have ever seen."
"I mourn for him and his family."
At the wildlife center, Harney County Sheriff David Ward urged the remaining protestors to give up their fight and avoid any more bloodshed.
"It's time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on," he said to the press, adding that some of the occupiers had come to office with "ultimatums that [he] couldn't meet," and reaffirmed his belief that the matter could be ended peacefully.
At least some of the occupiers were defiant, however, uploading a YouTube video on Wednesday showing men in camouflage holding firearms under the page name "DefendYourBase."
Bundy and his brother Ryan, a fellow occupier, are the sons of well-known anti-government activisit Clive Bundy
Despite the display of provocation, the FBI announced following Bundy's statement that three more of his comrades had been arrested, on top of the two detained shortly after Bundy and a third apprehended in Arizona.
Most local residents have agreed that the protestors had taken legitimate concerns to unnecessary extremes, but many anti-government activists across the country have expressed their outrage at the outcome of the protest, particularly the death of Finicum.
es/jil (AFP, Reuters)