Malheur Refuge Occupiers Go Silent
After 30 days of near-continuous digital broadcasts on YouTube, Periscope and Facebook, the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has gone offline.
David Fry, one of the four remaining militants who has frequently posted videos of the group on YouTube, said Sunday morning that they had lost access to the Internet.
Fry's videos have been the only visual public record of the final stage of the occupation, after the FBI erected checkpoints and the press withdrew Wednesday morning.
One of the last videos showed the group inhabiting a makeshift tent, sitting in folding chairs, with a fire burning in one corner. One of the men, Jeff Banta, appeared to have a handgun tucked in the pocket of his parka. A white truck was parked in the background.
Fry also told OPB Sunday morning that the FBI made it so the occupiers can’t make outgoing calls on their cellphones.
By Sunday afternoon, the four militants remaining at the refuge, who have regularly spoken with media, appeared to be unwilling or unable to answer most incoming calls as well.
Fry briefly answered a call at 1 p.m., but said only that his phone was running out of battery and hung up. In the past, Fry has used a car to keep his phone charged.
Calls placed to Fry and two others, Sean and Sandy Anderson, have gone straight to voicemail, promoting a busy signal or the message "the person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time."
In one of the last videos Fry posted before the group went silent, he captured a phone call between the group and Doug Giddings, the Sheriff of Idaho County, Idaho, Saturday.
Sheriff Giddings' jurisdiction includes Riggins, Idaho, current hometown of two of the final occupiers, Sandy and Sean Anderson.
Giddings told OPB a community member from Riggins asked him to reach out to the group, and he agreed.
The Idaho sheriff said he'd met both of the Andersons in person previously, and offered to meet them at the FBI's checkpoint to secure their safety.
He said he doesn't know much about Sean Anderson, but said Sandy Anderson had attended school in Riggins, moved away when the town's mill burned down, and recently returned. He said she works at the local Chevron station.
"She's a good person, she's just upset with the government. She put herself in that situation, but I'd sure like to help her get out if it," Giddings said. "They are in fear of the federal government right now. They don't trust anything they say."
Giddings expressed sympathy for the occupiers viewpoints, and called the federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede federal officers many of them face overreach on the part of federal prosecutors.
"So you spend six years in prison, because you occupy the building. If it was a state crime it'd be a misdemeanor," he said.
But Giddings said, regardless, he encourages the Andersons to surrender and accept the possibility of facing arrest.
"I encouraged them to do that, to save their lives," he said. "They think they're kind of lost either way, so how to do you change their mindset?"
Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting