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Support for Harney County Residents Sweeps Across State

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016   

ROSEBURG, Ore. - About 350 people gathered in Burns, Ore., on Monday for a local rally to tell the last few armed anti-government occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and their supporters, to go home.

Protests and pickets are a daily occurrence now in Burns, and they're spreading across the state. Over the weekend, the Rural Organizing Project coordinated actions in a half-dozen communities, to show support for life getting back to normal for residents of Harney County.

Dancer Davis went to the Roseburg event, and said she was a little unnerved by people on a freeway overpass on the way into town, waving guns in support of the refuge occupiers.

"These forces come into our community and they pretend to offer us security and hope," Davis said. "The hope in our rural communities is not taking up arms against the government. The hope in our rural communities is diversifying our economies so that we can survive."

Davis noted some of the same armed out-of-state groups also showed up in Oregon after the Umpqua Community College shootings in October, and in a standoff in April with the Bureau of Land Management about gold mining on public land in Josephine County.

Ken Kestner is a county commissioner in Lake County, Harney County's neighbor to the west. He said Lake County sheriff's deputies were sent as backup after last week's shooting incident on Highway 395, but they have mostly stuck close to home in case the armed occupiers decided to expand their range.

Kestner said he doesn't presume to speak for all Lake County residents, but has discussed the standoff with quite a few.

"Most of the folks around here think it's an unfortunate scenario," he said. "Some of 'em may believe in the message that this group is trying to carry, but they do not believe in the method."

A nonprofit coalition calling itself GO HOME Malheur has raised more than $100,000 in pledges from people who want the standoff to end and chip in small amounts every day it continues.

The group says the funds will be donated to several organizations, including Friends of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and social-service programs of the Burns-Paiute tribe.


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