Dwight and Steve Hammond walk into federal prison pic.twitter.com/pkgWA26KXc— Richard Winton (@LAcrimes) January 4, 2016
The sheriff’s statement described how some local community members had at first supported a peaceful protest against a ruling that the Hammonds return to jail, and were upset by the arrival of armed militiamen—notably, members of the Bundy family. Ward urged the armed men to leave the area:
I want to directly address the people at the wildlife refuge: You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed and unlawful protest.
The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It is time for you to leave our community. Go home, be with your own families and end this peacefully.
According to the Associated Press, the Hammonds were convicted of arson three years ago for setting fires on federal land in two incident in 2001 and 2006. An appeals court judge recently ruled the two should serve about four more years in jail in addition to the shorter sentences they previously served.
The Hammonds’ case was thrust into a national spotlight after protesters were joined at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by the sons of noted anti-government racist Cliven Bundy, who has long battled the government over grazing rights fees. Thus began siege carried out by armed men calling themselves “patriots” and saying that they will resort to violence if need be.