BURNS, Ore. (KOIN) – The armed group occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge will leave “when the community can stand on its own,” Ammon Bundy, the group leader, said during a press conference on Friday morning.
Bundy spoke after Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum addressed the crowd for the second day in a row. Bundy said the group will stay “until the people can stand without the chains of intimidation.”
He and Harney County Sheriff David Ward had planned to speak again on Friday, but the sheriff announced in a statement Friday afternoon “there are no planned meetings or calls at this time.”
In his statement, Ward said that was because Bundy and his group made it clear they have no intention of honoring his request to leave. However, the sheriff said, he is keeping all options open.
On Thursday, the two met briefly but came to no resolution. Bundy told the crowd Friday he is not hopeful anything will come of the talk and said he did not agree to be escorted out.
“I have empathy for the sheriff, he is not in an easy position,” Bundy said. He added that he is hopeful that they will eventually “come together for the good of the people.”
He said that the group believes it is their responsibility to help the Hammonds despite admitting that since being imprisoned they have distanced themselves from the group.
Dwight and Steven Hammond turned themselves over to federal authorities on Monday to serve their 5 year prison sentences. The Hammond family has publicly stated they do not want help from the Bundy’s.
“There’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ and I have learned not to answer ‘what ifs.'” – Ammon Bundy
“Every hour they spend in prison is a great unjustice,” Bundy said. Referring to what he had said in previous days about new witnesses that could help exonerate the Hammonds, Bundy said “We are confirming certain things but can’t share them yet.”
Bundy declined to answer questions about what would have happened if Sheriff Ward tried to arrest him. “There’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ and I have learned not to answer ‘what ifs,'” he said.
A man with the Center for Western Priorities stormed the podium after Bundy stepped down, saying that the militia deserves to be jailed for hijacking the community.
The Thursday meeting between Bundy and Ward was very brief. Ammon Bundy said to Ward, “We pose no threat to the community whatsoever now. It’s time to get the schools open, let your community get back to living. We do not pose a threat.”
“And that’s what I’m asking for,” Ward responded.
“But that can be done without us leaving,” said Bundy.
During the meeting, the Sheriff asked Bundy to please leave and respect the wishes of Harney County residents.