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Harney County Sheriff Calls For Dialogue Following Oregon Occupation's End

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward addresses the public at the County Chamber of Commerce in Burns, Ore., on Thursday.
Rob Kerr
AFP/Getty Images
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward addresses the public at the County Chamber of Commerce in Burns, Ore., on Thursday.

When 27-year-old David Fry, the last remaining militant occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., surrendered to the FBI on Thursday after hours of intense negotiations, the 41-day illegal armed occupation of federal land finally came to an end.

People all over the country who were watching Fry's live stream of the negotiations — in which he at times expressed suicidal intentions — heaved sighs of relief when law enforcement took him into custody peacefully.

Now, the FBI, along with a number of other local and federal agencies will comb the property, checking for explosives, gathering evidence, evaluating damage to Burns Paiute tribal grounds and removing the occupiers' campsites, FBI Special Agent In Charge Greg Bretzing said in a press conference.

"There is a significant amount of cleanup that will have to happen after we process the crime scene," Bretzing said.

But the wildlife refuge isn't the only place that needs to be put back in order.

As Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said, the community has been torn apart by the unrest and disagreements sown by the occupiers. He urged residents to talk to each other and work out their differences.

Apologizing at times for being emotional, Ward said, "I'm proud of this community and I'm proud of my friends and neighbors. I'm proud of the way they stood up to this stuff."

"I've seen division in this community, division in friends and families," he said. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Ward called on residents to "get off Facebook" and sit down with each other over a cup of coffee to talk about their disagreements. He reiterated his love for both his community and the country.

"We can work through these things," he said of the divisions in Harney County. "If we can't work through the differences that we found in our little community right here, how can we expect the rest of the nation to work through the division that we face."

Meanwhile, Bretzing said the four militants cleared from the refuge today will likely go before an Oregon judge tomorrow. The full list of people charged in the occupation is here.

As The Two-Way reported earlier today, the surrender was negotiated with the help of Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and evangelical leader Franklin Graham. NPR's Camila Domonoske wrote:

"The deal was arranged in a series of calls that were live-streamed online Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with tens of thousands of people tuning in.

"On the calls, Fiore expressed support for the occupiers but urged calm and called for peace. She also checked in to make sure the militants had eaten breakfast, had coffee and water, used the bathroom. 'It could be a long day today,' she said early Thursday.

"The occupiers repeatedly indicated they thought they might be killed by the FBI. At times, they indicated it would be the best thing that could happen for their cause. 'Kill me. Get it over with,' Fry said on Wednesday night.

"On Thursday morning, Fiore exhorted them to lead by example and said they needed to stay alive to tell their stories.

"'A dead man can't talk and a dead man can't write,' Fiore said. 'We have to stay together and stay alive.'"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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