Refuge occupier to jurors: ‘Stand for freedom’

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — National wildlife refuge occupier Ryan Bundy twice referenced the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during his closing argument Wednesday, and he told jurors to “stand for freedom” and find him not guilty.

Bundy, 43, is among seven defendants being tried on a charge of conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs during last winter’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Thursday, capping a six-week trial.

Acting as his own attorney, Bundy quoted the civil rights leader at the beginning and toward the end of his hourlong argument, saying injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Bundy said that explains why he joined the protest in support of two ranchers he believes were wrongly imprisoned. He said federal government overreach not only put ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond behind bars, it imperils the economies of places such as Harney County, where the Hammond ranch and the refuge are located.

He said the county — nearly 10 times the size of Rhode Island — has gone from a jewel to “the biggest weed patch in the country,” and it’s because the federal government controls most of the land and restricts logging and ranching.

COMMENTS