The best holidays are the ones you get to work and play. That is, if you love your work. On my winter vacation, I had the opportunity to explore the Sugar Pine mining claims where militias protected and stood ground for miners who were given notice to file a plan of operations. I met with the coordinator of the Josephine County Oath Keepers, Joseph Rice, who gave me lessons on the constitution and more background as to why the Hammonds were in court again. Photographing this story for High Country News eventually led me to a peaceful protest in Burns, Oregon on January 2.
That’s where it got interesting. I was photographing a “town hall” meeting for the self-described Patriots who attended the Burns protest and people started getting angry. Ammon Bundy had not joined their meeting. Instead, he was with a few other armed men, taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. So off I went to stand around a fire with men with big guns, and report whatever happened.
Robert LaVoy Finicum, who was killed at a roadblock set up by the FBI and Oregon State Police on Jan. 26. Brooke Warren/High Country News
The Oregon occupation has been in the news now for over a month. You may have read how the debacle is affecting birding and scientific research. Or maybe you’re following the play by play and know the last of the occupiers still haven’t left town, even after Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed. There are still tons of people from out of town flooding the restaurants and hotels around Burns, which may be good for business, but it has created division and stress for the community.
I didn’t stay at Malheur for long – I came back to Colorado to design and create infographics for a larger package – but I did witness the beginning of the protest over public lands. It’s been wonderful seeing other photographers, such as Jim Urquhart and Matt M. McKnight covering the event after it became a media madhouse.
Also, High Country News just launched its “Sagebrush Insurgency” package, which provides background to the movement that paints the beliefs of those who began the occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. You’ll find an interactive graphic that connects politicians and militia groups as well as some robust stories about constitutional sheriffs, Sugar Pine mine, and how well-armed the BLM really is.
Here are some of my favorite pictures I took while in Oregon, both on another assignment before, and during the Malheur occupation. You can also check out this gallery of the day the occupation began.
Allyn Belangie of Phoenix, Arizona an Airforce veteran, drove 15 hours to attend the protest for the Hammonds. He said he was also at the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014. Brooke Warren/High Country News
Brandon Curtiss, of the Idaho Three Percent, hugs Dwight Hammond while Brooke Agresta of the Three Percent hugs Hammond’s wife, Susie. Dwight was reported to Terminal Island, a low-security prison in California, on Jan. 4 for arson charges. Brooke Warren/High Country News
KP Presta, 15, left, and Samantha Young, 24, pick up change in front of the Harney County sheriff’s office that was thrown by protesters earlier in the day. “They said this was going to be a peaceful protest,” Young said. “Throwing pennies at the sheriff’s office is not peaceful.” Brooke Warren/High Country News
Rosella Talbot drapes an American flag over the sign for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. She brought supplies to the refuge headquarters, where militia had occupied U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service buildings. Brooke Warren/High Country News
Armed men stand guard at the entrance to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, the buildings the Bundy brothers and other armed individuals occupied in early January to protest federal management of public lands. Brooke Warren/High Country News
Mel Bundy fills his plate with rice, beef, and chili on the first night of the Malheur occupation. The armed protestors were reusing paper plates and plastic utensils because, as one man said, “ We thought this place would be stocked, and it ain’t.” Brooke Warren/High Country News
Deputy Jim Geiger gestures at the leftover in the empty part of the Josephine County Courthouse where the Sheriff’s department used to be. In 2012 they moved to one small room in the back of he county jail and reduced the patrol staff from more than 30 to three or four at a time, due to budget cuts. Brooke Warren/High Country News
Miners Rick Barclay and George Backes, who were offered three options after the Bureau of Land Management discovered unapproved surface activity on their mining claims:: Cease mining; file a plan of operations to account for the level of surface activity; or file an appeal. Brooke Warren/High Country News
George Backes pushes an ore bucket into the lower adit of Sugar Pine Mine in Josephine County, Oregon, where Oath Keepers set up camp last April to support the miners in their dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. Brooke Warren/High Country News
Miner George Backes stands near a chopping block on the Black Jack mining claim land, part of the Sugar Pine mines. Brooke Warren/High Country News
Josephine County Oath Keepers Joseph Rice and Rob Lee install a wheelchair ramp for a paralyzed man, one of eight such projects the group completed last year. Brooke Warren/High Country News
An elk head peers out from behind a refridgerator in the Adel Store off Hwy 140 in Adel, Oregon. The small store has about forty mounted heads decorating the walls. Brooke Warren/High Country News