A Friday meeting between Ammon Bundy and FBI agents lasted only a few minutes and did not appear to make progress toward ending the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
BURNS, Ore. — A Friday meeting between Ammon Bundy and FBI agents lasted only a few minutes and did not appear to make progress toward ending the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Bundy, a leader in the occupation that began Jan. 2, wants to hold public negotiations with the FBI, and said he was disappointed that the agency’s designated negotiator — based 130 miles away in Bend — did not show up to talk with him Friday at a site next to the Burns Municipal Airport.
“I kind of feel that if he doesn’t have the authority to come here without a bunch of permissions … he’s probably not the one we need to talk to,” Bundy told other FBI agents.
The FBI is under increasing pressure from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and others to end the refuge takeover. So far Bundy and other anti-government protesters have been able to come and go freely from the refuge headquarters complex they’ve occupied.
The FBI, in a statement released Thursday, said its response “has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution.”
Out at the refuge, those occupying the headquarters complex report an increase in surveillance.
On Friday evening after dark, a plane buzzed low over a watchtower and then repeatedly circled the perimeter of the headquarters area, according to Nikaoli Thornton, a militia supporter from Montana who stands at an entrance road.
“We waved at it as it went by,” Thornton said.
Also Friday, two FBI agents were spotted driving on a refuge road. They were approached by one of the occupiers, who had a polite conversation with them before they resumed their drive.
Though FBI negotiations are typically held out of public view, Bundy on Thursday went to the FBI command post at the Burns airport. There, flanked by reporters, he met with agents and talked via cellphone with the Bend-based negotiator.
On Friday, before going back to the airport, Bundy talked privately with the negotiator by phone and later said he asked the FBI official to meet face-to-face. Once Bundy reached the airport, he quickly ended the meeting when the FBI negotiator was not there.
“I really don’t think at this point having a phone conversation here … would be beneficial,” Bundy said. “He of course wanted to do it in private, and I think the people have a right to hear that.”
Bundy is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who has refused for years to pay federal grazing fees. During the refuge takeover, Ammon Bundy has emerged as a leader in a movement that seeks to transfer federal land to local control.
Throughout the refuge occupation, Bundy has been allowed to come and go freely. On his Friday visit to the Burns airport, he also drove downtown to try and meet with Harney County Sheriff David Ward.
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He was met at the county courthouse by armed law enforcement officers wearing bullet proof vests. Ward was not available, so Bundy spoke with Lt. Deputy Sheriff Brian Needham.
Once again, Bundy did most of the talking, asking again and again if the sheriff had given the FBI permission to be in the county.
“The FBI is here working in conjunction with the sheriff’s office,” Needham said.
Once that meeting ended, Bundy returned to the refuge.