Town watches warily as armed protesters take over refuge

Published 10:16 am Monday, January 4, 2016

BURNS, Ore. — People in this rural eastern Oregon town are used to worrying about friction between the federal government and locals, but the armed takeover of a nearby national wildlife refuge is raising concerns to a new high.

Keith Landon, a longtime resident of Burns and employee at the Reid Country Store, said he knows local law enforcement officials who fear their kids will be targeted by angry militia members.

The mother of one of his kids is now involved with an officer, and they decided to send their children to another town after feeling threatened by an angry protester, Landon said.

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“I’m hoping most of it’s just muscle, trying to push,” he said. “But it’s a scary thing.”

Armed protesters, who authorities say are coming from outside the area, took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns on Saturday after participating in a peaceful rally over the prison sentences of local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.