More than five weeks after armed men seized an wildlife refuge in Oregon, leading to a deadly standoff and a dozen arrests, the occupation continues.
And it’s getting weird.
In a video posted online Sunday, one of the four remaining occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge films himself doing doughnuts in a U.S. government vehicle and challenges authorities to charge him for it.
“I want the FBI to see this,” says David Fry, a 27-year-old dental assistant from Cincinnati who has been running the occupation’s YouTube account.
“You see this? It’s a U.S. government vehicle,” he adds, filming himself climb into a pickup truck with federal plates. “I think I want to take it on a little joy ride. You know? Yeah. Let’s start this baby up. Now you’ve got another charge on me, FBI. I am driving your vehicle.”
The stunt illustrated how far the occupation has fallen. The defiant videos, nearly a dozen of which have been posted by Fry and two of his fellow holdouts in the past two days, also betray signs of the occupiers’ increasing isolation and aimlessness.
In one, Fry suggests he has nothing better to do than to ride a four-wheeler around the refuge and troll federal officials. In another, Sean and Sandy Anderson, a married couple from Riggins, Idaho, bemoan the fact that they missed a deadline to leave the refuge.
“Here we sit as hostages because we didn’t hear about a deal that everyone else got to leave,” Sean Anderson says in the video. “They either let us go, drop all charges because we’re good people, or they come in and kill us. How’s that going to sit with America?”
The answer to that question, however, remains very much unclear.
In their videos, Fry and the Andersons all refer to the refuge as “Camp Finicum,” a reference to LaVoy Finicum, the Arizona rancher fatally shot by authorities Jan. 26. Finicum’s truck was pulled over as he and other occupation leaders drove to a meeting several hours away from the refuge. But Finicum drove away from state and federal officials, nearly killing one when he plowed his truck into a snowbank in an effort to escape. A video released by the FBI showed authorities fatally shooting Finicum after he reached toward his pocket, where he had a gun.
The holdouts left at the refuge claimed that Finicum had been “murdered” and renamed Malheur in his honor. (They also call the refuge the Harney County Resource Center, a reference to local, rather than federal, rights.)
But Finicum’s own legacy is fiercely disputed, both in the nearby town of Burns, Ore., and across the United States.
On Friday, Finicum was buried in Kanab, Utah, near the Arizona border. About 1,000 people attended the memorial service, which featured Finicum dressed in white with an American flag across his chest, according to the Oregonian. Barbed wire rimmed the casket, which had horseshoes for handles and was emblazoned with Finicum’s cattle brand as well as the title of his blog, “One Cowboy’s Stand for Freedom.”
In Oregon, though, where the occupation angered many locals, a roadside memorial to Finicum was destroyed Friday night, according to KATU2. It was rebuilt a day later, but there are other signs that the occupiers long ago wore out their welcome, from billboards supporting local officials to posters telling the occupiers to “go home.”
It was never clear how much support the occupiers had. Even when their protest was young and unsullied, only 6 percent of Americans said they thought the occupiers represented people like themselves, according to a Huffington Post-YouGov poll.
Now, the last holdouts appear to be desperately trying to remind America — and perhaps themselves — what they are doing at a wildlife refuge in the middle of nowhere during the bitter winter. An already narcissistic occupation has turned even more inward.
In a video titled “Shove your charges where the sun don’t shine!” Fry, who has said he is prepared to die during the standoff, shows off fortifications he and a fourth occupier, Jeff Banta, built recently at the wildlife refuge.
“Good afternoon again, America,” he says. “As you can see, we’ve got Camp Finicum going. And we just got done talking to the FBI. And they said they are going to press more charges on me, David Fry, and Jeff because we are fortifying, and they consider fortifying a crime. So if you put up little barracks, things like that, it’s called fortifying.
But, he said, “I think you have every right to try to defend yourself against the oncoming onslaught of people with fully automatic machine guns, armored vehicles, and we can’t fortify against that? That’s a crime? To fortify against that? I think that’s ridiculous.”
In the video, Fry jumps into the government-owned pickup truck and takes off down the barren road.
“You want to put another charge on me?” he says. “Here’s another charge: driving a U.S. vehicle without permission.”
“I’m gonna do what I got to protect myself,” he says in the video. “Fortify or what. Anything. I’m gonna do it. Because why? Because we’re patriots, we’re Americans, we’re constitutionalists. We defend and uphold freedom. You understand that? We uphold the Constitution and you guys murdered my boy Finicum and we’re pissed.”
Arepresentative for the FBI told the AP that the agency had no comment on the taunting video.
In another video posted Monday, Fry trolls not only the FBI but also his Internet critics.
“They are probably scratching their heads, wondering how the hell I’m doing this,” he says of the FBI in reference to his videos, which are uploaded in batches to YouTube despite federal attempts to cut the occupiers’ Internet access. “But I’m going to keep them wondering, because it’s funny.
“They call me the tech guy for nothing,” he then says, laughing despite his misuse of the idiom. “So I’m just enjoying my time, enjoying this four-wheeler. It’s pretty fun, cruising around on this a little bit.”
He also dismisses Internet critics who accuse him of being a “crisis actor.”
“Nah. I’m pretty real,” he says. “I came from Ohio. Just your average Joe. Tired of this corruption going on and trying to do something to make a change. A lot of people might not agree with how I’m doing it, but at least I am trying. And I think I deserve credit for trying.”
Few, however, appeared to agree online. Many turned Fry’s mocking tone back on him, pointing out that he and his fellow occupiers face felony conspiracy charges that could land them in prison for up to six years, according to the Oregonian.
“What part of the Constitution allows these yahoos to steal vehicles?” asked one YouTube commenter. “Patriots, really?”
“While Davey is having a temper tantrum, the FBI is having beers & pizza and watching the Super Bowl,” mocked another commenter.
“You’re deluded,” added a third. “Go home and get some sleep.”
The occupiers still at the refuge have been blockaded there since late January, when Ammon Bundy and the group’s other leaders were arrested in the same stop that ended with Finicum’s death. A federal grand jury has indicted 16 people — including the four still at the refuge — for the occupation. Ammon Bundy’s father, Cliven, a Nevada rancher who has faced off with the government for decades, is reportedly planning to travel to Oregon later this week, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
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