Seven protesters involved in the armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest the federal government’s land use earlier this year went on trial Tuesday. All seven are accused of conspiring to impede Interior Department employees from doing their jobs, while five face the additional charge of possession of a firearm in a federal facility.
Prosecutor Geoffrey Barrow is expected to form his case around how the occupiers were trained and drilled to establish patrols that prevented federal employees from going to work. While attorneys for the defendants have not yet made his opening statements, protesters have argued that their occupation was a legal expression of First Amendment rights on an issue that has affected many Western states for years.
“Everyone in this great nation has a right to his or her beliefs,” Mr. Barrow told jurors in his opening statement. “We are not prosecuting the defendants because we don’t like what they think or said. We are prosecuting them because of what they did.” READ MORE.