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Central Oregon Constitutional Guard is growing


Nearly four months after the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation came to an end, the issues surrounding the takeover are still swirling on the High Desert.

B.J. Soper of Redmond began the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard after watching the 2014 standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government in Nevada.

“That was a turning point for me,” Soper said Thursday. “There were issues where a group like this was needed, where someone is needed to step out and work in the community and bring some awareness to the issues we’re facing as a nation.”

Soper said his group is concerned with government overreach, the Constitution and Second Amendment rights, and the issues touched a nerve in the community.

“I just noticed a lot of things that were wrong that good people were not standing up to,” said Alex McNeely, a group member from Bend. “I finally found somebody online who was like-minded and was standing up, so I joined.”

Soper said the group is not a militia, but he said he would gladly give his life to defend his country.

“We want to fight for our republic,” Soper said.

The COCG wants to accomplish this not through violence, but they are strong believers in the Second Amendment right.

“We do all sorts of different things,” Soper said. “We go out and shoot. We bring other people out and teach them how to shoot.”

Soper was one of two people who organized the rally for the Hammonds in Burns on Jan. 2, which was the starting point of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Soper said his group had nothing to do with the occupation.

“I didn’t really think taking a building was the proper course,” Soper said. “But the American people needed to hear the message.”

Many other group members agree.

“I wasn’t a fan of the occupation at all,” McNeely said.

Since the occupation, his group of around 30 has drawn a lot more interest, and more members.

“The response we’ve gotten is unbelievable,” Soper said. “I’ve received thousands upon thousands of messages on social media. It’s a really good feeling to know that what we’re doing is not just isolated to here. It’s a feeling that’s growing across the country.”

Although the occupation is over, the issues behind it remain.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Soper said.

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