Around noon Arizona time, the last of the four holdouts at the Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge surrendered to the FBI, with no shots fired. It was a little tense for a while, with David Fry—the last holdout—threatening to shoot himself after his three comrades surrendered.
I started following the story when it first broke—which I mentioned in my last blog post. Over the last few weeks I got hooked on Twitter, following hashtag “OregonStandOff.” While there wasn’t much about it on the national news, on Twitter there were tweets and links to videos posted—by the occupiers and others involved closely in the story.
It all came to a head last night, when FBI surrounded the camp occupied by the remaining four. Instead of negotiating directly with the FBI, the occupiers had self-proclaimed “liberty speaker” Gavin Seim on the phone. Seim live streamed the conversation for over four hours.
Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore jumped into the phone conversation and appointed herself as negotiator. Fiore is an interesting character—worth a quick Google. (As a three-times cancer survivor I tend to bristle at how she hawked her cancer cure which involved flushing the body with some salt water and sodium carbonate concoction.)
Afraid the FBI was going to gun them down upon surrender, they asked for Fiore and Franklin Graham to be present. (Graham had been negotiating for a peaceful solution for some time.) The FBI agreed.
The surrender was slated for this morning, and the first three went out as promised—but David Fry announced at the last minute he was not coming out. This did not come as any great surprise to many Twitter followers.
All of this was on live stream—as was the fiasco last night. There were a few times this morning, while the holdouts waited for Fiore and Graham to arrive, that I thought the folks on the live stream were going to get the group to do something stupid, resulting in deaths. At one point, Victoria Sharp—the young woman present during the arrests of the leaders of the group, when LaVoy Finicum was killed—called in with her mother. The women told the four holdouts not to trust the FBI and urged them to defy FBI orders. I think Seim realized their words could inflame the situation, and he eventually got them off the phone.
The first three left without incident, but when David Fry decided not to leave, self proclaimed Constitutional expert and teacher, Kriss Ann Hall, got on the phone and tried to talk him into surrendering.
By the comments on Twitter, most seemed to agree with me—Hall and Seim were not helping the situation, if anything, they were agitating poor David. After several tense hours, they finally stepped aside and let the FBI do their job—and within minutes, the FBI diffused the potentially lethal situation and convinced David to surrender peacefully.
People like to blame main stream media for misinformation. In this case, supporters of the group were upset that main stream media barely—if ever—mentioned the occupation. I doubt this was some great conspiracy to hush up the story, as some claimed. I think it had more to do with poor timing regarding news cycles. After all, with the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, and more important stories, like the Flint water crisis, there wasn’t much time left for other stories.
One thing I found interesting—the GOP candidates did not once mention the occupation during their debates. If they supported the cause, they all kept mum. It doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t come out against the group, after all, that would mean alienating some of their base. I know that at least one GOP candidate—Ted Cruz—has appeared in photo opts with several members of the group. Of course, this was before the occupation.
Bottom line, I didn’t form my opinions by listening to the news—main stream media or online news sources. I formed my opinions by listening to what the occupiers themselves had to say on the videos and live feeds they put out—and by reading their statements and written demands.
To say I didn’t support the occupation—which many (including myself) see as domestic terrorism—is an understatement.
If you ask me what they were fighting for, that would be difficult to nail down, as the message got muddled along the way. Initially, they claimed to be protesting on behalf of two ranchers who were called back to prison to serve out the remaining term of their sentence for arson on federal lands. As it turned out those ranchers didn’t welcome their “help.”
The cause then shifted to turning federal land over to the state. After the leaders were arrested, one of their wives claimed they were simply there to teach the people of Burns about their Constitutional rights.
At this point, I had a visual of a political cartoon—a classroom of nervous students listening to a cowboy—who stood by the blackboard—lecturing them on the Constitution, while armed cowboys stood guard around the room—making sure the students stayed in their seats.
By the time it all ended, it was impossible to pin down their actual grievance. Poor troubled David Fry had rambled on about how the FBI let Hillary run for president, how he didn’t want his tax dollars used to pay for abortion (no one bothered to tell him tax dollars that go to Planned Parenthood to NOT pay for abortions), he resented the fact pot wasn’t legal in his state, and then he sort of lost me when he started talking about aliens and DNA.
While David Fry vented—which went out to whoever bothered listening to the live stream—he explained how he used his phone to educate himself and had learned all about these injustices. It was pretty obvious to many listening, what David had been sucked into were the numerous tinfoil websites—those that promote conspiracies like Sandy Hook being faked and the Feds taking over Texas.
While Kriss Ann Hall’s efforts almost got David to put a bullet into his head, in my opinion (listen to the tape yourself)—it was the FBI negotiator that David finally listened to (after he’d had enough of Gavin and Kriss) who diffused the situation. In a matter of minutes, the FBI negotiator convinced David to peacefully surrender.
Listening to the spin now going on by the supporters of the takeover—I can only shake my head. I wonder, is their failure to address David’s bizarre ramblings an indication they are hoping they can re-spin the story in their favor—or do they see nothing wrong with David’s comments?
I do find one thing comforting—the majority of Twitter comments occurring during the live feeds—from others listening along with me—expressed what I was thinking.
For those who want to hear the audio for yourself, here are the links: