After lasting 40 days in the armed standoff against the government, the last four militants occupying a national wildlife refuge in Oregon say they will turn themselves in Thursday morning.
By Wednesday night, the four antigovernment protesters were surrounded by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who did not fire any shots and instead engaged in verbal negotiations. In securing the peaceful resolution, a large role was filled by Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a Republican sympathetic to the protesters.
A vocal proponent of the Second Amendment, the lawmaker and grandmother of three reached out to the occupiers Wednesday evening to help calm their nerves. Assemblywoman Fiore sympathized with their cause and told them that it’s critical they stay alive.
"I need you guys alive," she said, her voice broadcast in an Internet livestream produced by "Revolution Radio.” Ms. Fiore told them that she was coming to the refuge to try to help negotiate their exit.
Over the course of the phone call, the protesters also prayed with supporters who dialed in. In the background, the occupiers could be heard yelling at the FBI agents, who called out to them using a bullhorn.
"You're going to hell. Kill me. Get it over with," one of the occupiers could be heard yelling. "We're innocent people camping at a public facility, and you're going to murder us."
Fiore, who owns a healthcare company and has experience in trauma intervention, was in Portland earlier in the day to show support for Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation arrested Jan. 26. It was to Fiore that one of the occupiers, Sean Anderson, revealed that he, his wife Sandy, and the other holdouts planned to turn themselves in at 8 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday.
"We're not surrendering, we're turning ourselves in. It's going against everything we believe in," he said.
Greg Bretzing, head of the FBI in Oregon, told Reuters that the situation had escalated to a point where action may have been necessary. The occupiers reported seeing snipers on a hill and a drone, a marked shift following weeks of being allowed to come and go freely from the remote refuge.
"It has never been the FBI's desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue,” Mr. Bretzing said in a statement, “and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully.”
Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy, father of Ammon and the leader of a Nevada standoff with the government in 2014, was arrested late Wednesday night in Portland. He faces a charge of conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer related to that standoff.
The more recent standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge began Jan. 2 as a protest against the incarceration of two local ranchers. Ammon Bundy and 10 others were arrested last month in a confrontation with the FBI that ended in the death of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, a spokesman for the group.
This report contains material from Reuters and The Associated Press.