Monday, February 1, 2016

Burns, Oregon, Stays Warm and Welcoming as Circus of Outsiders Swarms Residents

Following-up on earlier entries, "LATEST: #Malheur Occupier David Fry Remains at Wildlife Refuge Along with Last Three Holdouts," and "'Hand Up Don't Shoot'! — Dueling LaVoy Finicum Protests at Harney County Courthouse in Burns, Oregon."

And now, at the New York Times, "An Unwanted Circus Descends, and an Oregon Town Strives to Stay Kind":

BURNS, Ore. — Remote Western towns, in midwinter’s grip, definitely have some romance to them. But this one has become a circus tent: A giddy but tense crush of humanity has descended here in rural eastern Oregon, benefiting businesses and swamping them, filling bars, and making motel rooms unattainable amid a bizarre tide of guns, police, reporters and ideologues quoting (at length) from the United States Constitution.

That’s Burns.

There is no question things have been rough here. The armed occupation that began on Jan. 2 at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside town has dragged on, and tensions heightened last week with the fatal shooting of one of the most visible occupiers, LaVoy Finicum, by Oregon State Police troopers in an arrest that went bad.

The place is just crazily overrun. Every motel room within 70 miles is taken. Barstools are packed at the Central Pastime Tavern, with journalists and armed antigovernment protesters elbow to elbow, tucking down I.P.A.s and perhaps — for braver souls — the bull testicles on the bar menu. Hard to know, but there are probably also undercover F.B.I. agents now and then playing pool in the back, trying to appear like locals in boots and jeans under the mounted bighorn sheep and buffalo heads.

Residents have argued with each other over what to think about the occupiers and their goals, and they have wounded one another in the process.

Anxieties could ratchet up again this week, with a protest planned for Monday at the Harney County courthouse by self-styled patriot groups angry about Mr. Finicum’s death. The United States Marshals Office also said Sunday that one of the 11 people arrested in the standoff — Shawna Cox — had been released, though the authorities would not provide other details. A judge had previously said Ms. Cox could not leave custody until the occupation had ended.

But here’s the thing: For the most part, Burns has not stopped being warm and welcoming to outsiders, even as that has become harder to do. If you were going to spend nearly the entire month of January in a town of about 2,000 people — isolated by distance in the high eastern Oregon desert, and often with bad weather to boot — you could do a lot worse.

“We just decided to be kind,” said Leah Planinz, who owns Glory Days Pizza with her husband, Nick. She was perhaps talking partly about her philosophy, but more specifically about the restaurant’s overstuffed brown leather couch in the back near the arcade room...
Keep reading.

PREVIOUSLY: "Burns, Oregon: Torn Apart by the Malheur Occupation," and "'Ambushed and Assassinated' — Residents in Burns, Oregon, React to Shooting Death of LaVoy Finicum."