More than a week into an armed standoff at a wildlife refuge in his state, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) wants the Justice Department to more aggressively go after the protesters.
“Well, the lights and the heat are on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge illegally occupied by ultra right-wing, anti-government extremists,” DeFazio said on the House floor Wednesday. “But you gotta wonder if the lights are on or anybody’s home down at the Justice Department.”
The FBI, which is housed within the Justice Department, is already working with local law enforcement to monitor the situation that began Jan. 2. But DeFazio argued that the Justice Department isn’t doing enough to deter people from staging armed protests against the federal government.
DeFazio suggested that Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who clashed with authorities over unpaid grazing fees on federal land in 2014, had encouraged his sons, who are currently leading the Oregon standoff.
“He stood down the government at the point of a gun and he’s still illegally grazing and nobody — nobody — at the Justice Department has seen fit to lift a finger against him. There’s no ongoing prosecution,” DeFazio said.
“It’s time for the Justice Department to take some action. Wake up down there!” he added.
Ammon Bundy, the protesters’ leader, has said they will not end the occupation until the local community has control of the land.
Multiple Republicans have condemned the armed occupation, which began over anger toward what the protesters see as unfair prison sentences for a pair of ranchers convicted of arson on federal land. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents the district where the conflict is taking place, said last week that the protesters should “go home.”
Leading presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have also said the protesters should stand down.