Ammon Bundy said Wednesday the time had not yet come for his group of armed protesters to leave a remote Oregon wildlife refuge.
He did signal, however, that the occupation, which began Saturday night, may be nearing an end.
Bundy said he and his fellow activists had collected “evidence” and “information” that would “exonerate” Steven and Dwight Hammond, father-son ranchers who were sentenced to five years in prison for burning federal land.
“There is a time to go home and we recognize that,” Bundy said. “We don’t feel like it’s that time yet. We need to make sure the Hammonds are out of prison or are on their way, there are teeth in land transfers and those who committed crimes are exposed as well.”
He added: “Enough is enough when there’s actual action that’s happening and when things are actually transpiring.”
The Hammonds were convicted of “maliciously” destroying U.S. property for a 2001 fire and also when they set an August 2006 “back burn,” that is, a fire set in order to stop the progress of an approaching fire. The Hammonds allegedly believed the approaching fire had been caused by a lightning strike.
But Bundy said he had new information provided by “multiple eyewitnesses” who saw two Bureau of Land Management agents light the approaching fire with a drip torch on the south and north ends of the Hammond’s property.
“There is information that is coming in by the hour about more and more instances of corruption,” Bundy said.
Authorities have largely given Bundy and his group plenty of space during the standoff. Though the group is armed, Bundy stressed that the takeover of the empty property had been done “peacefully” and “without violence.”
That comes as little comfort, however, to a leader of the Oregon Indian tribe whose ancestral property is being occupied by Bundy’s crew. Charlotte Rodrique told reporters that the group is not welcome and needs to leave.
"The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here," Rodrique said.
She added the tribe is concerned cultural artifacts could be damaged and accused the group of "desecrating one of our sacred sites."
"Armed protesters don't belong here," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.