Tonight, at roughly 4:30pm PT the FBI surrounded and laid siege to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon. The initial standoff began on January 2, when well over 100 ranchers and militia supporters arrived at the refuge to protest various infractions by the federal government Bureau of Land Management concerning property rights and ranchers who use land in Nevada and Oregon. Additional live updates were made by OPB.
Soon after the siege began, liberty activist and social media entrepreneur Gavin Seim set up a conference call with the protesters still holed up in the refuge and put it live on the air through Youtube HERE. Protesters on the phone included David Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio; Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47 of Riggins, Idaho.
The live feed quickly caught fire through twitter via the hashtag #OregonStandoff, and on Facebook. By 9:30pm over 67,000 people were tuned in at one time, averaging over 50,000 most of the night. Besides the angry outbursts of the protesters you could hear the bullhorn of the FBI outside. At one point, it seemed things might boil over and end badly. The audio was breathtaking.
Reality TV, eat your heart out.
OJ BRONCO CHASE 2.0?
The parallel between this and the OJ Simpson/Bronco chase down the 405 freeway in 1995 is unmistakable. We were presented with reality radio, as it happened and Seim attempting to maintain a connection between the protesters and Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, Atty Mike Arnold and others in one call. America listened in and was part of the action in a way never heard before.
Having just landed at Portland International Airport, Fiore was in a car on her way through the Cascade mountains for a 5 hour drive to Burns, OR, with the goal to mediate a peaceful end to the standoff. Upon arriving in the conference, she took the role of negotiator, speaking words of wisdom and peace, navigating loud and occasionally profane bursts of anger from the protesters taking turns on the phone. At one point of levity she offered to stop at McDonalds to bring them food. They assured everyone they had “a thousand granola bars, but we’re really sick of granola bars now.”
CONVERSATION ABOUT LIBERTY, CONSTITUTION, LAVOY FINICUM
Listeners were treated to various tirades by protesters over several hours, voicing frustration about local law enforcement, the preceding protest, the death of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum last month and current tensions. Fiore and Seim engaged them with oddly gripping conversation about land management, government overreach, the role of the FBI, the constitution, God’s grace, the revolution of 1776, and other political topics, interspersed with several moments of prayer for peace and strength.
Seim’s phone number somehow leaked to the public and began receiving a barrage of prank calls. One such caller, naming himself “Pedro” interrupted the feed for a brief moment, telling everyone he was going to take care of them and fix it all.
They connected with Victoria Sharp, 18 who was one of those in the vehicle when fellow protester LaVoy Finicum was killed in an incident outside of Burns last month. She recorded a spiritual sung in harmony with her family and sent it to Gavin Seim for play on the air for the protesters. The lyrics included the refrain, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is our strength, the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? Of whom shall I be afraid? Even when my enemies and foes came against me they fell.”
THEY AGREE TO STAND DOWN
After persistent calls for peaceful resolution by Rep. Fiore and Seim, Sean Anderson said he spoke with “Bill” from the FBI at the perimeter and negotiated their concession.
Although initially refusing any kind of surrender, the group acquiesced, agreeing to a stand down in the morning. The protesters had insisted that any surrender include Rev. Franklin Graham, fearing that any other condition would end in their murder at the hands of FBI agents. Over the course of the conversation, it was determined that Fiore and Rev. Graham would join together at 8am, Thursday morning, February 11 to mediate the surrender on peaceful terms.
“We’re going to take our own weapons and put them in the vehicles, leave our keys, inventory our stuff and get them at a later time,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get them back. But we’re going to walk to them with hands raised. No weapons. We’ll be walking with the American flag.”
But he warned everyone on the call, “if they grab my wife by her hair or throw her down when they take us, I’ll come unglued. I don’t know.”
Toward the end of the call, he reiterated, “it goes against everything we believe in but we’re going to do it.” He repeatedly thanked Seim and Rep. Fiore for helping them do everything on their terms, and insuring their safety.
Rep. Fiore assured them that she would be there, with Rev. Graham to walk with them and assure that the process of surrender is peaceful. Before hanging up she credited Seim for helping to keep the protesters alive by putting together the technology for this event. And she encouraged the protesters in their pending surrender: “you have elected officials now that are listening. America is listening. You have to know what you’ve done. You guys are making history tonight. You need to know that… good night.”
Protester Sandy Anderson ended the call with an affirmation, “Thank you, America for sticking with us and making it happen.”