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By Tim Stelloh

Local law enforcement is accusing armed protesters who seized an Oregon wildlife refuge of harassment and intimidation.

In a statement Monday, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward described an “uptick” in reports of “law enforcement officers and community members being followed home; of people sitting in cars outside their homes, observing their movements and those of their families; and of people following them and their families as they move around the community.”

Ward added, “While not direct physical threats, these activities are clearly designed to try to intimidate.”

Federal employees of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the site occupied by the protestors, also reported “a number of uncomfortable instances” of “unknown” outsiders idling outside their homes, watching them and initiating debates about their employment.

“Many of these confrontations are taking place as their employees are grocery shopping, running errands with their families and trying to lead their day-to day lives,” Ward said.

Shortly after the protestors occupied the refuge on January 2, Ward called on them to go home. They have refused to leave, and the authorities have not forced them to heed Ward’s demand.

During a meeting last week between Ward and one of the protest leaders, Ammon Bundy, the sheriff even promised a “safe escort” out if they promised to leave peacefully.

Bundy refused, saying he and fellow protesters were being ignored, and that the government had to “acknowledge a redress of grievances by citizens," he said.

In the statement, Ward encouraged residents to report suspicious activities and to take “prudent” safety measures at home, such as locking doors, turning on alarms, keeping curtains closed and outdoor lighting on, and watching for “unusual” vehicles.

Bundy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier Monday, he told reporters that he and other occupiers were examining government documents stored at refuge buildings to “expose” discrimination practices against ranchers, the Associated Press reported.

A video posted on the “Bundy Ranch” Facebook also showed the group removing fencing from the property.