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Oregon Governor: Feds Told Us To Keep Quiet About Occupation

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday that the federal government urged state officials to keep quiet about the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge.

In her first lengthy public comments on the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown said Wednesday that the federal government had urged state officials to "limit" their public comments about the standoff.

"To avoid escalating the situation, I have complied," Brown said at the end of a roughly four-minute speech to introduce her 2016 policy agenda. "I would not want to say anything to compromise their efforts to resolve the situation."

But the situation in Burns, a town close to the refuge, is "absolutely intolerable," she said.

"The very fabric of this community is being ripped apart," Brown said, adding that she had "conveyed these very grave concerns directly" to the Department of Justice and the White House.

"Federal authorities must move quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrongdoers accountable," she said.

Brown also plans to seek funding during next month's legislative session to "offset" the cost of the response to the occupiers — about $100,000 per week, she said.

Kate Brown
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.Don Ryan / AP, file

Brown has weighed in on the armed protest once before on Jan. 7, with a brief statement that called on the group to "decamp immediately."

So far, they have not.

The occupiers took over a federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 with a stated goal of reversing the prison sentences of two men who were convicted of committing arson on federal land.

Two days later, the FBI announced that it was working with local and state officials to "bring a peaceful resolution to the situation" at the refuge.

"Due to safety considerations," the agency said in a Twitter post, "we will not be releasing any specifics with regard to the law enforcement response."

The Harney County sheriff has accused the protesters of intimidating and harassing local residents and federal employees, and two men were arrested last week for stealing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife vehicle and possessing a firearm as a felon.

At a Tuesday community meeting, with protest leader Ammon Bundy in attendance, residents tussled over the occupation. At one point, the crowd broke into applause and chanted for the group to go home.

But this comment became another applause line, NBC affiliate KTVZ reported: "Until changes come about, I'd rather see the Bundy's stay here."