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Michele Fiore, a Nevada Assemblywoman, Finds Unlikely Role at Oregon Standoff’s End

by MIKE McPHATEFEB. 11, 2016, New York Times 2/12/16

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore of Nevada in 2013. Credit Cathleen Allison/Associated Press

A Nevada state lawmaker whose political life has been largely animated by concerns over individual liberty and gun rights emerged as an unlikely figure in negotiating the final stage of the standoff in eastern Oregon on Thursday.

Panicked talks between the federal authorities and four holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge seemed headed toward a dire, perhaps violent, end, when the lawmaker, Michele Fiore, got involved the night before.

The authorities were struggling to persuade the group to surrender during a tense negotiation that was broadcast live online for tens of thousands of listeners and derailed over and over by screams of despair and recrimination from the occupiers.

The holdouts wondered if the agents circling them were planning to gun them down.

“They’re here to kill us,” one said on the phone.

Oregon Standoff Ends as Last Militant Surrenders FEB. 11, 2016

Then a new voice piped in — Ms. Fiore, 45, had been patched into the conversation from the Portland airport. She had just landed as part of a trip intended to show support for the protesters.

The Oregon Protest and the Battle Over Western Lands

An armed protest at a remote federal wildlife refuge was the latest flare-up in a decades-long struggle over control of federal land.

She seemed to speak their language. Stay calm, she told them. “The world is watching.”

Before long, the occupiers agreed to turn themselves over to agents of the F.B.I. on Thursday — accompanied by Ms. Fiore and the evangelist Franklin Graham.

Shortly after 11 a.m. on Thursday, she tweeted the news:

Ms. Fiore is a second-term assemblywoman representing Nevada’s fourth district. But she might be best known nationally for a Christmas card.

On Dec. 1 she posted a picture of her family on Facebook that showed each member, donned in matching red and blue, with a firearm. Ms. Fiore held a 12-gauge shotgun.

“It’s up to Americans to protect America,” the accompanying text read. “We’re just your ordinary American family.

“-With love & liberty, Michele.”

Ms. Fiore first made her foray onto the political stage in 2010, as the Tea Party was rising to prominence, by running for Congress. She lost badly, but won an open Assembly seat in 2012. She was re-elected two years later.

In December, she announced her candidacy for a seat in Congress.

What Is Her Link to the Standoff in Burns?

Ms. Fiore has been a well-known supporter of the family of Cliven Bundy, the rancher who had a standoff with the federal government in 2014 over cattle grazing in Nevada. The F.B.I. arrested Mr. Bundy late Wednesday in Portland.

Last March, as the stalemate stretched on, she introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from owning or managing land in Nevada without the state’s permission.

Later, she debated MSNBC’s Chris Hayes live from the Bundy family ranch, where she said she had been for nearly a week.

Asked by Mr. Hayes whether she recognized the authority of the federal government, she said: “I recognize the authority that they believe that they have. I just question it.”

Since the antigovernment action began in Oregon on Jan. 2, she has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the land-use stances that have radicalized the group, led in part by two of Mr. Bundy’s sons, Ammon and Ryan.

After a member of the group was shot dead by police officers during a traffic stop on Jan. 26, Ms. Fiore expressed condolences for the family of the dead man, LaVoy Finicum, on Twitter.

She has since portrayed Mr. Finicum’s killing as an unprovoked murder by the police, claiming he had his hands in the air when he was shot.

“The grainy footage with no audio — it looks like an ambush of tactical guys. It looks like it might have been hired out,” she told The Las Vegas Sun. “We have questions.”

There have been conflicting accounts of the shooting, and it is still under investigation. Greg Bretzing, the special agent in charge for the F.B.I in Oregon, has said that Mr. Finicum had reached for a weapon.

In recent weeks, Ms. Fiore has communicated with members of the armed occupation in Oregon, her executive assistant, Cassidy McGowan, said Thursday.

Ms. McGowan said the assemblywoman was able to change the tenor of the standoff because of her unique connection with the occupiers.

“Part of their concern was if they got arrested they’d just be forgotten about,” Ms. McGowan said. “And she was able to reassure them that will not happen. ‘I will fight for you. I will fight to make sure that this ends safe. We are here. We care.’ ”

HERE for rest of the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/us/michele-fiore-returns-to-spotlight-during-oregon-standoff.html?_r=0


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