PORTLAND, Ore. — A federal judge on Friday ordered the continued detention of five men who were key players in the nearly month-long armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, rejecting arguments that the occupation was similar to the Boston Tea Party or civil rights era protests.
“From Day One they were breaking the law – they made no secret they were breaking the law,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman. “I reject the argument that this was a peaceful operation based on freedom of speech.”
Beckerman denied release to Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Jason Patrick, Ryan Payne and Dylan Anderson, all of whom were central players in the occupation of the wildlife refuge that began on Jan. 2.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, were the leaders of the occupation, which started as a defense of two jailed ranchers but turned into a larger protest over the role of the federal government in people’s lives.
They were both arrested on Tuesday in an operation that also resulted in the death of LaVoy Finicum, one of the occupation’s chief spokesmen, who was shot to death by an Oregon State Trooper.
Prosecutors argued that Bundy and the other people arrested should not be released because they had shown “a remarkable inability” to obey the law. They “deliberately and publicly disregarded repeated orders, requests, and pressure to obey the law over a sustained period of time,” according to a filing from the office of Billy J. Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the district of Oregon.
In court Friday, Ammon Bundy described himself as a “federalist.”
“I believe federal government has a role and it is to protect people from the outside world,” he said. “I do love this country very much. … This was never about an armed standoff – this is about protecting individual rights.”
Lisa Hay, an attorney for Ryan Payne, told the court that “This country has a long and revered history of political protest … there is a history of civil disobedience … some forms of political protest require a law to be broken. … There are times when radical notions gain acceptance in a courtroom.”
She drew comparisons between the occupation to lunch-counter protests during the civil rights movement and and the Boston Tea Party.
“I take issues with lunch counter sit-ins or the Boston Tea Party,” Beckerman said. “Those were peaceful protests … this was so far beyond a peaceful protest.”
This story, first published on Friday, has been updated.