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Remaining Occupiers Expected To Leave Wildlife Refuge Shortly


In a surprise move last night, federal authorities arrested Cliven Bundy. He's the Nevada rancher whose two sons have served as leaders of those militants. Cliven Bundy was taken into federal custody as he flew into Oregon to try to rally support for the last four holdouts at the refuge. NPR's Martin Kaste has been following this story, and he joins us now. Good morning, Martin.


KELLY: All right, quickly remind everybody exactly who Cliven Bundy is and why he's being arrested now.

KASTE: Well, you'll recall he's that rancher in Nevada who had something of a standoff with the feds two years ago over grazing fees for his cattle. He refused to pay those fees. He has some political theories about federal overreach. And the people of his line of thinking think the feds own control too much land in the West. He and his sons have spoken out against this. He has not been part of the situation in Oregon until now. His sons were doing that. But apparently, as they are now in jail along with other leaders of that occupation, and only four people were left at the refuge in eastern Oregon, he was flying in to show his support.

KELLY: OK, so that brings us up to last night. Do we know what exactly happened as his plane was landing in Portland?

KASTE: Well, what we know is that the feds say that the charges against him will come out of Las Vegas, which indicates that this may be a consequence of that standoff two years ago. A lot of people wondered whether Cliven Bundy was just going to be ignored by the federal government and get away with, in some people's mind, this idea that he doesn't have to pay for grazing. The fact that he's now possibly facing charges in Las Vegas indicates that perhaps the feds have a plan for him.

KELLY: OK, we mentioned that there are four final holdouts at the refuge. And it was looking as though they were preparing to turn themselves in to the FBI, possibly today. What do we know about their situation?

KASTE: Well, things got pretty surreal last night at the refuge. As the feds apparently were closing in around them, they started to panic. And they were on the air on an Internet radio show run by a sympathetic-minded political figure. They were on the Internet narrating what was going on. And they sounded pretty convinced that they were about to get killed by the federal government.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: ...Helicopters are coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The blackhawks are here, and they're going to kill us.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: They're going to kill us.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Listen, they cannot kill you.


KASTE: Now, it was a very odd situation there because an assemblywoman, a legislator from the state of Nevada, had just arrived in Oregon too. And she was on the phone with them - and this is all being broadcast on the Internet - trying to calm them down and convince them to find a peaceful way to surrender to the federal government. And eventually, they did come to some kind of an agreement where the feds would wait at least overnight. But you got a real sense of disappointment from these four holdouts that there hadn't been a big upsurge of support from the American people to come to their aid.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: They're hearing you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Well then where is America? Why isn't America here in force? Because they're afraid.

KASTE: Even though thousands of people did not rally to their side physically, tens of thousands of people listen to this entire exchange last night on the Internet. So quite a few people spent hours listening to a lot of their political ideas, a lot of their fears about the federal government. And that might be some consolation.

KELLY: Do we know anything more about whether negotiations with the FBI are ongoing - whether there may be some sort of surrender today?

KASTE: Well, there's this fundamental lack of trust. These last four don't think of themselves as leaders of this movement. They sort of came later. They keep saying, we are the good guys here. They even made a point of camping away from the buildings at the refuge to sort of point out that they weren't occupiers in the pure sense of that word. And they were really looking for a way out of this without having to go to jail. It now looks as though that option is not on the table for them.

KELLY: OK, Martin, thank you.

KASTE: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Martin Kaste, updating us on the very fluid situation unfolding at a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.