UPDATE: Graham plays role in ending Oregon siege; assures protestors

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)Clint Siegner (L) and his father Monte Siegner join other demonstrators during a protest outside the Harney County Court House in Burns, Oregon, January 29, 2016. Four armed anti-government protesters are still holding their ground at a remote U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon. The protestors' signs reference the death of LaVoy Finicum, shot by police at a checkpoint during the standoff. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

UPDATE: The standoff between armed protestors at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is over. The last four protestors left the compound and walked down the road to a green FBI armored car where evangelist Franklin Graham and Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore were waiting. Fiore told the protestors "America is watching" so they need not fear personal injury in surrenduring. Graham reportedly told the protestors, "We are proud of you and love you and look forward to giving you guys a big hug."

BURNS, Ore. (Christian Examiner) – Evangelist Franklin Graham is reportedly talking with the last of the occupiers of the federal land management office at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., six weeks after the group took control of the vacant federal office.

Graham posted to his Facebook page that he had been "talking with the last four holdouts" in the Oregon standoff "every day by phone for the last week at their request and at the request of the FBI."

"Last night I was on the phone with them for several hours, was able to have prayer with them, and they have said they would come out today. I am on my way there and hope to be there by 7:00 AM their time. Please keep them, law enforcement officials, and all involved in your prayers, that everyone will be safe," Graham said.

Earlier, however, the holdouts in the standoff over citizens' land rights and federal land management claimed there would be no peaceful end to the controversy. A phone call between a third party identified as Gavin Seim and the occupiers, livestreamed on the web for four-and-a-half hours, contained profanity-laced tirades from the occupiers and shouts for the FBI agents to go away.

Protestors said on the phone call they feared they would "never see the light of day again" after they were arrested and would likely be killed on the way to jail. "They killed LaVoy," several of the protestors could be heard saying.

The protestors were referring to Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, spokesman for the protest group who was shot and killed when his vehicle was stopped at a road block near Burns Jan. 27. Finicum's vehicle very nearly hit a police officer as it skidded into the snow. Police shot him when they said he reached for a gun at his waste, but video shot from a plane above stoked conspiracy theories that Finicum had no gun and was executed. 

David Fry, 27, Jeff Banta, 46, Sean Anderson, 47, and his wife Sandy, 48, remain at the site. Banta is from Elko, Nevada, and has requested Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore participate in the surrender as well.

On Wednesday, FBI tactical units and armored vehicles moved in on the occupiers, telling them to put down their weapons and surrender. The units also reportedly infiltrated the compound at night and were already in buildings near where the holdouts were sheltered.

The increasing tension led Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a hero to land rights advocates and the leader of an armed standoff two years ago over grazing rights, to make his way to Oregon. Bundy, however, was arrested by federal authorities as soon as he stepped off the plane in Portland.

Sandy Anderson told FBI negotiators as they tightened the ring of security around the compound, "You promised Franklin Graham you wouldn't do this."

Graham called into the compound, reaching Sean Anderson, who is from Idaho. He offered to come to the refuge to facilitate the surrender, but the FBI has not said if such an action is even possible.

"If they double cross us, all bets are off," Anderson said via the live stream call.